A couple of thoughts before I get into this…1 – Being anonymous online is almost an oxymoron nowadays. There are ip addresses that can easily be tracked, cookies placed, toolbars to track you and tie in together cookies, websites and accounts to easily create a picture of who someone might be. With that said, there are ways you can minimize your
exposure to being found out. 2 – Marijuana is loosing its clout as a bad thing and more people are realizing that it isn't as bad as some people would like you to believe, thus the problem of being discovered isn't as much of a problem as it once
were. Its not like we're harming anybody.
my choice is what I choose to do
and if I'm causing no harm
it shouldn't bother you
– Ben Harper, Burn One Down.
Despite all that, and the fact that we live in a pretty tolerant place for this kind thing, we still want to obscure who we are to avoid repercussions that might affect our family, friends and even our careers. You see, all
four members of our group are successful contributing members of society. We all have a lot of things in our lives that we've worked hard to obtain and maintain. Be it, our families, jobs, careers, hobbies, friends or
- Create a brand new email address. The choice in here was obvious for me, I went with a gmail address because it allows you for quick setup and I love how gmail works. Having a gmail account also opens a lot of other doors, like a youtube account, blogger (if we ever moved there) and other accounts. Never, ever use this email address for anything about your normal lives. For example, don't decide to send an email "real quick" to your aunt just because you're too lazy or stoned to log off and go into your proper email address.
- Pick a first and last name. For example, here on the blog you know me as Mr. Nuggets, but gmail and Posterous and other websites that ask for a first and last name, know me as Budd Sharling. I totally made that up, I took 10 – 15 minutes to come up with names related to the topic at hand then I tried to combine them into something that sounded like a name. Budd Sharling is a play on Sharing buds.
- Don't tell people about your blogging in real life. The purpose of you blogging is to let the entire world know what you're up to. People can look you up or the topic and then read your blog, make comments, tweet about it, even blog about it themselves, but that's it. If you go around telling your real life friends about it, then guess what? they'll probably tell their friends about it and so on and so forth next thing you know you have one of the friends come by your blog and leave a comment like "Hey Joe! what's up, when are we gonna chill again, Mikey told me about your blog, its tight" And out goes your anonymous name. Its hard not to share this with your friends while you're chillin and hanging out, but avoid it at all costs. You can always anonymously approach them later via e-mail invitation, tweet, comment on their site, etc. More on this later as well.
- Sanitize your pictures before posting. A picture tells a 1000 words, but then there's more. There are hidden bits and pieces that come with pictures when you post them. For example, if you take a photo with your mobile phone, the photo could have GPS information and reveal where exactly you took the picture. If you use a program like Photoshop, special information might be embedded in the picture that lets someone see where it came from. If you take a screenshot or screencap of something, the program that takes the picture might store data about the screenshot as well. Remember, it isn't about what one single piece of information gives a potential attacker, but what the collective gathering of information can reveal about who you are. The key here is to remove all data from the image, this data is called EXIF data.
- Use a TOR system. TOR is is a way of anonymizing your online activities. This is by far, the safest most reliable way of doing this. In fact people in oppressing countries use it to get the word out about stuff they need to share. Bloggers, journalists, and even law enforcement uses it. It's not super easy to setup but guarantees the highest level of anonymitiy online. More info: http://www.torproject.org/overview.html.en – More on this later as well, I'll do a little tutorial on how to set this up.
- If you Tweet, don't follow your other friends. Don't comment on their stuff or mention them. This is one place that is really easy to tie back to someone simply by looking at the public relationships that are available. Simple process of elimination and set matching can easily reveal if you're also someone else on Twitter.
- Try to use different language style . This is the toughest thing when blogging for a few reasons. One, it is extremely hard for most people to be aware or conscious of their own writing style. Second, most people struggle to establish even one writing style. Sometimes in trying to disguise your writing, you could end up revealing more about yourself than you realize. Think forensic psychology and analysts here, writing style is a lot like handwriting. A professional could trace it and make enough conclusions and connections to determine the possible author behind a post. Use a thesaurus for common words and also try to use different phrases throughout your writing instead of the normal wording you would use.
- Don't trust at first. Don't trust later, in fact I would say that anyone online needs to be carefully considered a possible mole. Its great when people read your blog, its even better when you make connections and get regular readers and visitors and you do the same to their websites. Just always keep in the back of your mind that these people are a lot like you, they have a reason to be anonymous and as much as they want to connect with you, you need to remember YOU DON'T KNOW who they are. For discussion purposes, it could be an agent building a case against you. Maybe its an entire law enforcement office working to gain your trust. This is really a gray area because it depends on what you're blogging about, who your audience is and how much might law enforcement be interested in you as well as how good you can do background searches on people.
- Use PGP to secure email. Even though your email is accessed only by knowing your username and password, once you send an email out to someone, it needs to be passed around from one server to the next until it reaches its destination. Unfortunately, if one of those servers that passed your email around happens to be compromised, your email is there for someone to read. The best way is to lock the contents of your email, and with a special method of encryption, only the real recipient on the other end will be able to read it. More coming on this soon. In the meantime, you can read about PGP here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy
- Encrypt chats, or better, don't chat at all. Chat is great, fast and easy to use but I think the process of locking chat down and securing it well enough to be safe might not be worth it. It all depends on your take on this. My concern is always with this… fine, I can protect my chat and ensure that it doesn't get saved, recorded and sniffed, but what about the other person? Who are they? maybe they're logging all chats, trying to find out my IP address, tracing me back, etc. I think I rather not chat, it is much more vulnerable than the global stream of blog and twitter stuff because its one on one.
That's it for now, I have much more to share with you guys soon. I'd love to hear your feedback on this. If you want to comment, go for it, if you want to tweet me, please do.Let us burn one, from end to end. Mr. Nuggets