The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

Aug/07

6

The Trial of Fake Steve Jobs – how the anonymous author was identified

The Trial of Fake Steve Jobs – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog

Here is an interesting bit of detective work. An anonymous blogger was uncovered with a combination of geographic location (pulled from IP addresses), characteristic writing patterns, and some shrewd guess work. The tracking of the IP address is the first piece of evidence they mention. Now if he had used Anonymizer…….

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2 comments

  • Richard · August 7, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Lance,

    I was wondering if you could explain the limitations of privacy with Anonymizer?

    I’m not a security expert, but I’ve heard that (for example) some web forms contain code that can grab a destination IP (my actual IP) and return it to the web form sponsor.

    So, for example, if I write a letter to some politician who uses web forms, they still might be able to get my IP address?

    I’ve also noticed that while using Anonymizer (verified working correctly through IP check websites) I still get cookies in my Firefox browser cookie cache. If they can place cookies, aren’t there some kinds of cookies (web bugs for example) that can broadcast my real IP back to the source?

    If these are dumb questions, please feel free to simply state the limitations of Anonymizer anonymity that we should be careful to avoid.

    Thanks for a great blog,

    Richard

    Reply

  • Author comment by lance · August 7, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    These are excellent questions.

    You are correct, sites can pass code that can extract information, including IP address, to your computer. There is a tradeoff. To be completely safe you need to disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX. That also means you disable all Web 2.0 and Ajax sites along with a large fraction of the rest of the web. Anonymizer provides automatic screening to block access to websites we have discovered to have malware like this, but no list can ever be 100% accurate. If you use a firewall that give you a non-routable IP address (as most do now) most attacks will only reveal that IP rather than your real IP address.

    Anonymizer does not remove cookies on the fly. As before, this is because too many websites are disabled if you reject cookies. We suggest allowing them, but then deleting them all at the end of each day. That allows you to get full use of the website without allowing the site to track you over time. Cookies are not themselves active. They simply contain an identifier and get passed back to the website that created them with every hit.

    My suggestion would be: Turn off ActiveX, but Java and JavaScript are OK as long as you are not going off the beaten track. I would leave cookies enabled, but delete them nightly.

    Reply

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