Suppose I have committed a crime

and admitted to it on a public message board,can the police find me?


It probably depends on how serious the offense is, how appealing the case is to the police or prosecutors, and how likely they feel it is that they can get a conviction.

If you post that you jaywalked, I don’t think they would bother (do they even prosecute jaywalkers after the fact based on confessions?). If you confessed to being the perp of a high profile case and your story appears to be credible, then they can look for evidence here and there, get a warrant, and serve it on the SD or wherever you posted.

Absolutely. Well they can find your IP address. And if that is associated with your name and address in some way, they can certainly find you.

That said to do that they would need to subpoena first the message board in question and then the ISP that provided your IP address. So if you just said “I was totally stoned that time” its pretty unlikely they’d bother.


Get a life already, Swine.

Almost certainly, assuming they care enough to look for you.

The degree of ones anonymity is relative to the strength of their pursuer.

That’s dependent on where the message board is hosted and/or operated from, whether or not that’s the same country as where the crime was committed, on who runs the board, and so on. In some countries a subpoena may not be required.

It’s not uncommon (or illegal) for police to make an informal request for information. Some operators might be willing to provide it.

It’s possible to make it very, very hard for them.

As others have said, you can assume they’ll be able to get your IP address, when you posted, and possibly the headers your browser sent when you were accessing the message board. (Headers are pieces of information your browser tells the web server to ensure the most reasonable content. They vary from browser to browser and, to some extent, from person to person. I don’t know how often message board software actually saves them, however.) Of these, the IP address is the most useful. Therefore, you want to dissociate yourself from your IP address as much as you can.

A proxy is a way to do this. The Tor network implements proxies that are explicitly designed to allow anonymous web browsing, and it isn’t the only such network. Using Tor, the message board never sees your real IP address; all it sees is the IP address of wherever your network traffic left the Tor network and entered the open Internet. This alone erases most of what they have to go on. Using a public WiFi hotspot that you don’t have to pay for, or that you can pay for in cash, is a further step that’s easy to take in many regions.

Headers can be changed by configuring the web browser. This varies from browser to browser; the easiest way is probably to do a fresh installation of Firefox in a virtual machine, use it to post, and then destroy the virtual machine when you’re done.

After you do all that, the only other things they have to go on are when you posted, which you can control, and what your posts ‘sound like’, which is more difficult to control. Your unique voice is hard to mask fully; on the other hand, it is also hard to definitively link back to you in a way that will stand up in court. You can minimize the risk by only posting a small number of times, giving them little to work with.

Which is why a lot of message boards ban known Tor and proxy servers.

No, no, the other posters are mistaken. There’s no way they ever could. So what crime did you commit?

The simplest way to do anything basic anonymously on the Net is to use a WiFi hotspot. Go to a coffee shop or whatever. (I notice that Home Depot advertises free WiFi now. Okaaay.)

But there are still some gotchas:

  1. The hotspot operator, to protect itself, might be logging MAC addresses. It’s a little code that uniquely identifies a network device. (Not the same as IP address, which can change.)

Some Ethernet cards allow you to set your own MAC address. As do some network routers (so you can add a router with the same MAC address as the computer your ISP knows about and run several computers thru it). Not sure if WiFi cards generally allow this. But you can get a $10 WiFi USB adapter for a notebook, use it, throw it away.

  1. Traces of using that hotspot, connecting to the MB, etc. might be left on the computer. You need to wipe all that history in case the police decide you are a suspect and search it. Not as easy as it sounds unless you wipe the drive completely and reinstall the OS. (Which is of course suspicious to law enforcement types.)

  2. MBs like the SDMB require an email address. Setting up an untraceable email address is a whole 'nother level of trouble. Some of the claimed anonymous email services turn out to not be trustworthy. You probably can’t run your own mail server via the WiFi hotspot. Etc. This is the biggest bottleneck and I’ll stop here.


Yeah, yeah, tell us! The more self-incriminating detail, the better.

Stalkin Broadway

If you do it here, Cecil will snitch on you, even without a court order.:smiley: