Staying Anonymous in a Heavily Monitored World

  • Staying Anonymous in a Heavily Monitored World
    By BinaryShinigami
    	The world as we know it today is vastly different than it was 10 to 15 years ago.  Today no matter where we go, or what we do, we are recorded and monitored.  From traffic cameras to ATM cameras, web logs, search logs, ISP logs, no matter what we do we leave traces behind. This makes it extremely difficult to be 100% anonymous and safe when hacking.
    	When hacking in the sense of breaking into a computer system, anonymity should be placed above all else.  If you slack you get caught, and getting caught can mean anything from fines to jail time and no one wants either.  If you don't take the time to research and learn about everything that goes on when you make a request for a web page or a certain resource from the internet you could very well be asking to get caught. An example of this is when you request a web page, your computer sends out a request to your ISPs DNS server to resolve the domain name to a IP address that you can then connect to, from there your computer connects to that server, exposing your IP address to the server and leaving traces behind. This process happens millions of times a day every time you access a resource on the internet.
    	In order to stay anonymous on the internet, you have to avoid requesting any services directly from your personal IP address and exposing any information that can be tracked back to you.  This means you shouldn't post any handles or nicknames you may use, allowing any code to run on your computer that could collect information about your system, using a private web browser or any user-agent that is unique in any way.  You want to be as generic as possible while not providing any real information to the target.  The moment you relax and get sloppy is the moment you may give up more information than you want without realizing it.
    	There are numerous techniques and services that are supposedly secure and anonymous.  In my experience there is nothing that is absolutely completely anonymous today.  No matter what proxy, tunnel, WAP, or VPN you use, you leave logs behind somewhere, from the ISP that connects you to your traffic relay, the router logs from your WAP, security video from a ATM camera across the street from the WAP you are hacking from, or even patrol vehicle cameras just passing buy and picking up you for a brief second while you are accessing a WAP, you leave something behind.  The key to staying anonymous is to put enough points between you and your target that it is infeasible for the target to trace you.  By putting more points between you and your target, your target has to go through a legal process to get access to the access log of each point and work through them all to find a way back to you.
    	Now that you have an understanding of why you should stay anonymous and how your  information may be exposed without you even realizing it, it's time to discuss what measures you must take to ensure that you stay anonymous.  There are many steps and services people may use to help increase their anonymity on the internet.  The techniques that will be discussed in this article include SOCKS Proxies, Web Proxies, SSH Tunnels, VPNs and War driving.  Each technique has its own pros and cons, some are vastly safer and more anonymous than the others and each is different and unique. 
    	The first technique I wish to discuss is Web Proxies.  Web Proxies are the easiest to use and least safe method.  A web proxy is a website that you visit, enter the URL of the target site and the web proxy will go out and fetch the target site and forward your requests to it.  These are incredibly easy to use as you just have to browse to a page and then after you tell it what page you wish to access, it will automate the process for you.  But often with this type of proxy the middleman, the website that is acting as a proxy, will forward your IP address with it as well.  These types of proxies are best for the casual user who just wants to get access to myspace from school or work.  They provide very little anonymity if any and often store logs of all of the requests.  Also you have to be careful because they may log all of the information that passes between you and the target for security purposes or malicious purposes.  I don't recommend you ever use a pure web based proxy.
    	The next technique I want to discuss is SOCKS based proxies. SOCKS proxies are excellent and if used properly you can make sure that all of your traffic is forwarded through them. This means that on some browsers, Firefox for example, you have to edit the configuration to make sure that they send all requests and traffic through the SOCKS, some will not send the DNS requests through the proxies, this may or may not get you caught, if you end up connecting directly to the targets DNS servers you will leave a small trace that they can easily see, though this is rare since the DNS works through a chain and you will most likely just connect to your local ISPs DNS to get the results, it's still a possibility.  SOCKS proxies are often extremely easy to set up.  For most programs you just need to know the IP or host name of the server and the port its running on, then you just enter it in a config file or as a command line option and it will automatically forward your data through it.  There are many public SOCKS servers that you can access freely but be careful as these may be logged.  There is also the tor service which is a onion routing program suite created by the EFF which uses the SOCKS protocol to forward your data through a series of volunteers running tor nodes, the program suite will periodically change the entry node you are connected to automatically and your traffic will appear to come from the final exit node to the target.  The biggest cons with using SOCKS proxies are that many of the public proxies can easily be blacklisted, are logged and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies freely.  If you are going to use a SOCKS proxy, the best ones are privately operated proxies or those installed on hacked boxes that you can control. 
    	SSH Tunnels are just SSH servers that you have a valid user-name and password for which supports tunneling your data.  Often these will be servers that you have hacked and are using those credentials to utilize.  They are easy to use and any decent SSH client will support a tunnel configuration or tunnel flag.  To setup a tunnel you will utilize the SSH client and tell it to operate in tunnel mode, this will cause it to bind a server to a local port on your machine which you then tell your programs to connect to and forward your data through. SSH Tunnels are encrypted and often very fast.  They can easily be chained together to make it hard for the target to trace you and will most likely have connections logged.  The logs should be cleared whenever you are done using the tunnels to ensure that it is hard to trace you back to your location.
    	Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are the next technology I would like to discuss that is used by users to stay anonymous.  VPNs are networks that are setup to connect external users to a local network through the cloud (internet).  These networks are typically used to connect work-at-home users to a corporate intranet.  They can be used to allow you to connect through the company's internet connection to the target.  The target will see the attack coming from corporate IP address and often have to get a judge to subpoena the logs of the VPN server.  The connections are typically encrypted and often only trusted individuals have access to them.  For our purposes they can often be looked at just like a regular tunnel or proxy.  There are some security concerns that you must be concerned with when connecting to a VPN.  When you connect to a VPN you are opening your network up to any other users who are connected to the VPN.  These other users can easily see any network shares you may have, may print to your printer or various services which you run that are typically protected by your firewall.  When you connect to the VPN you are allowing them access to your network through the firewall and all traffic may look like it is coming from your computer.  I suggest you look into the security problems farther as these concerns may have changed since I have done my research into VPN technology and utilizing them to hide myself from the target.
    	The last technology I would like to discuss is my personal favorite technique and by far the safest technique.  War Driving is a technique that requires a laptop computer and a wireless card.  It involves you going around towns and neighborhoods scanning for wireless access points or WAPs.  Once you find some WAPs you can crack any encryption that may need to be cracked and connect.  Once in you have full access to the network that hosts the WAP, this includes internet access.  This is great and hard to get caught.  The only evidence that is left behind is the wireless cards MAC address.  The MAC address is a hardware address that is assigned to each network card, though this is a hardware address there are ways to change it and fake your MAC address making it almost impossible to be tracked.  I advise you to make sure that you are not recorded, do not use your personal car if there are cameras around as you can be recorded and your license plate tracked back to you.  This is by far the safest and most anonymous way to hack, though it still gives the problem of giving your general location to the target unless you drive miles away to access the WAP.  This technique works best in heavily populated areas.
    	I have now described several ways to stay anonymous in the always connected world, while these techniques are commonly used, I would never recommend anyone use just one when attacking a target.  I would suggest at least 3 layers of anonymity and at least one of those layers to be located in a country hostile to the country that your target is in.  This will make it very hard to be tracked as politics will come into play.  I suggest never hacking from your house and always using a hacked WAP as the first entry point to the internet with a spoofed MAC address.  This ensures that even if the target has deep pockets and manages to track the attack back to its originating IP address, they will not be able to track it to you if you take the proper measures to ensure you do not get recorded or leave any form of identification.  This may very well mean you travel without ID so that if you get robbed or drop your wallet you are sure you have not left any form of ID around.
    	This article is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the measures people may take to stay anonymous but serves as a great introduction to the newbie hacker wanting to learn what steps they have to take when hacking to ensure they will have long happy and jail-free lives.  Make sure you do your research and take the time to research your target and utilize multiple proxies, or tunnels and you will be hard to catch, and remember never hack from home, that's just asking to get caught.
    	If you have any techniques you would like me to add to this document or found and error, please send me a message on AIM, my SN is BinaryShinigami.  I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this document and hope you have learned something and take your anonymity seriously.  Follow the rules and you will have a good time hacking.