The ramblings of a giant squid…

How to not get caught…

Crime, Current Events, Friends-Romans-Countrymen, Rules, Security

Rule 1: If you do something stupid, particularly if it’s also illegal, do not get your picture taken while doing it.

Rule 2: If you absolutely must have pictures of your stupid/illegal acts, don’t post them to the internet or email them around.

There they are folks, the cardinal rules of not getting caught.  Yes, this blog entry will help criminals around the world.  However, it’s also of benefit to politicians (present and future), and anyone else who might one day aspire to pretty much any place or position where one’s checkered past might not be so popular.

Spreading pictures of yourself doing stupid and/or illegal things is just, well, stupid.  In fact, pretty much ANYTHING you post to the internet hangs around.  Personal information?  Check.  Ranting about how your boss is an ass?  Check.  Nudie pics that you took “just for fun”?  Double check – someone’s problably even selling access to them.  Here’s an undeniable fact, so recite it over and over until it sinks in: The internet never forgets.

Like the elephants of legend, that which goes into the ether of the internet stays there forever, like a time-bomb waiting to be retrieved and used against you.  Just go ask M and her friends P, M, and B.  In the early days of the internet, back when it was just catching on in the late 80’s and early 90’s, people probably didn’t realize the potential.  Even I didn’t realize back in the day:

(excerpted from here)
Date:    Wed, 05 Feb 92 16:32:36 -0500
Subject: Memory Discrepancies (PC)

>From: (Darin Cowan)

>I don't know what the discrepancy is, but I went looking 
>around with Quarterdeck's Manifest, and QEMM because I found 
>the same thing.  In my system, the addresses 9FFE and 9FFF 
>are taken up by something. QEMM reports they are unused, but 
>the whole 1K block cannot be mapped because something wants 
>them.  This has always been this way and I am certain there 
>are no viruses on my machine.

That exceprt is 15 years old.  The internet was little more than cans and strings back then.  Good thing I wasn’t being a nimrod (although I probably wouldn’t have to dig very deep to find some internet tidbit where I was being a nimrod).  The USA’s “Miranda” rights have, as part of their text, this little gem:  “anything you say can and will be used against you”.  I think it’s pretty fair to say that with the internet, anything you put in the internet can and will be used against you… it’s only a matter of time.

Have you ever wondered how many people would have gotten away with their little crimes if they didn’t have to flog it on the internet or email it around?  The Canadian soldiers who beat a prisoner to death in Somalia likely wouldn’t have been convicted – if even caught – had they not posed with their pummelled prisoner for a few snaps for posterity.  Ditto the US soldiers in Abu Ghraib.  If M had actually spelled GEOSQUID as all one word, I’d have found the plate in a few days – her misspelling kept it a secret from me until someone else, misspelling it the same way, triggered a strange referrer link to a search engine and revealed it to me (yes, I read my blog logs).  So Licence Plate Gang got a year’s respite from facing up to their prank.  At least once a week some kid posts another gem on Youtube of himself or a friend doing something stupid, illegal, or both.  The Star Wars Kid has to live down his little video. 

And for sure, it’s great for law enforcement.  It’s kind of hard to say “I didn’t do it” when you’re photographed in the act and then purposefully broadcast the photograph.  But even if you’re not caught right away, do you really want the interview board for that CEO position you’ll be going for in 2015 typing your name into a search engine and coming up with your smiling visage and a caption that reads: “This is me stealing licence plates”?  Ladies, your youthful webcam escapades will almost certainly come back to haunt you eventually.

So here are a few tips to help you live a happier life with the internet:

  • 1. Don’t post pictures ANYWHERE on the internet that you wouldn’t be proud to show to anyone, at any time, because when you post pictures on the internet, you ARE showing them to anyone at any time, FOR ALL TIME.
  • 2. Have a throw-away email address and a regular address.  It’s convenient if the throw-away address has a false or non-descript name attached to it.  Use this email address for anything that requires that you enter an email address.  Gmail and Hotmail are great for this.  Not only will this allow you to maintain a modicum of privacy when you visit potentially questionable sites, the spam that is inevitably generated by those sites will not end up in your private, friends and close associates mailbox.  There are sites that won’t take a Gmail or Hotmail address.  You can reasonably expect that a site that won’t take such an address probably wants your real address so they can spam you.  You have been warned.
  • 3. This isn’t a rule so much as a general statement.  Many people go buggo about posting personal information on the internet.  Recognize that your name, address and phone number are likely publicly available in the phone book, so posting them on the internet really doesn’t adversely affect your personal security.  However, if you’re one of the many people who becomes Lord of Flames when writing into the net, you may not wish to have that information associated with the names and accounts from which you post your vitriolic rants.
  • 4. Aside from all the various archives that people make and have available, the Internet Wayback Machine really never forgets.  Try it for yourself.
  • 5. I recommend ego-surfing on a periodic basis.  Type your name, in its various forms, into a few search engines and see what comes back.  You might as well see what the world sees about you so you can be prepared to deal with it.
  • 6. And the most important tip of all… Before posting anything on the internet, ensure your brain has engaged.  I have a theory that states “Any person, when sitting at their computer, loses 20-40 IQ points.  These points are returned when the person steps away from the computer.”  It’s a good theory that explains a lot about what we see on the internet, be it porn sites, flaming rants, or thieves posting pictures of themselves.  Some people can lose those 20-40 IQ points and come away as an average Joe.  Most people lose those points and end up with a deficiency.

I hope everyone who reads this finds it useful.  Be safe!

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