Protecting the Anonymity of the Dissident Blogger, How To Exercise Your Right to Blog Freely Outside Government Control
In the light of recent events it has become necessary for me to write a brief piece on how you can exercise your online civil rights without fear of prosecution. Whistle-blowing and free speech can be controversial at times, but are essential components to any free or fair society. There have been a growing number of acts of aggression against the Internet community and I feel the only logical response is to level the playing fields by arming the Internet user with techniques and tips that will allow them to evade detection and secure a platform on which they can speak up if they feel something is wrong.
Disappearing Into the Social Media Cloud
Although it is possible to register a domain without giving away your identity (I will cover this in later posts), it is quicker and easier to sign up with an existing blog site, which will make identifying you more difficult and will depend on the co-operation of the host of that service.
Before you begin, be sure to CREATE A NEW EMAIL ADDRESS FOR USE ONLY WITH THIS PROJECT. Do not attempt to use the email box for any other purpose connected with your personal life, as there is already technology in use that will make you much easier to detect. I recommend hushmail.com which has optional encryption, you can also use any of the free, temporary, throw-away email addresses for the purposes of registering:
Be sure to only EVER create or access your email or blog using a Proxy or VPN which will ensure your IP (or fingerprint of your machine) does not end up in the logfiles of the blogging or email services you use (remember, the company that runs these sites may be asked to turn over their records at some point in the future, so we must consider them hostile).
Techniques for Removing Your Fingerprints
There are plenty of good web proxies available for free such as : Hidemyass.com and entire lists of public proxies for you to browse (or just Google ‘public proxy’ or something similar!). (see how to configure a proxy with Internet Explorer and Firefox, I will be writing one about VPN soon!).
VPN is even more effective and impossible to detect than a proxy (and can be used with any other Internet service, not just web access!). There are some good commercial ones available such as AirVPN.org which accept bitcoins for payment, ensuring no money trail leads back to you. I can also recommend VyprVPN. I will be writing further tutorials on how to configure a VPN with your system, in the meantime: here is how to configure a VPN with Windows XP, and here is a good tutorial on how to configure a VPN with Windows 7. There is also a great free tool called TOR, which is available for anyone to use. It will hide your identity online, although it is slow and often cuts out, you can choose a new identity at the click of a button.
Using the above precautions we can now setup our blog with an acceptable level of anonymity. I recommend any of the following sites:
Blogger – http://www.blogger.com
Wordpress – http://www.wordpress.com
Tumblr – http://www.tumblr.com
Sky Blog – http://www.skyblog.com
MSN Spaces – http://www.msnspaces.com
PasteHTML – http://www.pastehtml.com (really for single posts)
Scribed http://www.scribd.com (Is really meant for single-post documents)
Six Degrees of Separation Rule
NEVER share links to your blog directly through other accounts you have, this will almost certainly give your identity away (anyone with even a dash of SEO knowledge will be able to chase these links very effectively). Create new accounts specifically to promote your blog entries with sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook Pages and so on. But if you do, be sure to create these using the Proxy / VPN or TOR methods as outlined above. Again, we want to keep your identity from the sites you use, as they may be required to turn over their logs.
Further Points of Consideration
Do not ramble unnecessarily and try to ensure there are no obvious spelling errors! There are techniques currently used by investigators both in the U.S. and Europe that include the n-gram analysis of text. If they have a large enough sample of your text content, they can build a profile of your writing style. Any subtle quirks or minor errors you repeat across sites will quickly give your identity away. Be sure to clear your browsers cookies regularly, just in case you leave yourself logged in under your personal profile on any of these sites. Remember: if the IP logs are turned over by the service provider they may be able to link your accounts, and therefore we can consider your personal profile also compromised. Better yet, use a different browser altogether! (ideally one you don’t use for anything else). Google Chrome has an incognito mode that does just this!
It goes without saying that you should use this platform you create responsibly and for the greater good. We have seen the good the Internet can do with the Arab uprising, but it can equally be used as a tool for evil. For me, the question is really one of governance. Irrespective of why particular content is controversial, just who has the right to police the Internet? These chumps? I certainly hope not! They have sought no mandate from yourselves, they have neither the moral right nor the technical ability govern you. Empower yourselves, and use this new found freedom responsibly!