Security - Online anonymity

December 2016

Identity on the Internet

There are two ways of identifying a user on the Internet, his e-mail address and his IP address. An e-mail address is a means of identifying a person on the Internet, some services require you to provide your e-mail address as a form of identification, they then send you an e-mail that you must reply to from the email address you originally gave them. Nonetheless, with the rise in free e-mail services, it has become very easy to open an e-mail account using fake data.The IP address is the basis for communication on the Internet. For most people it is provided by their Internet service provider, and changes each time they connect. However, your ISP keeps logs of connections and can therefore keep a history matching you with the IP address. Nevertheless using free internet service providers it is possible to connect more or less anonymously (only the telephone number called is matched with you and the internet connection). Finally, there is a technique called (IP spoofing) where an IP address is spoofed making the IP address appear as if it were a different computer.

  • The e-mail address can be masked thanks to anonymous remailers, or free e-mail accounts.
  • It is more difficult to mask an IP address as this is what recognises a computer on the Internet. Some people spoof another machine's IP address, called IP spoofing, which relies on address authentication in computers on the same network. However with free ISPs, the matching of people to IP addresses seems to be more troublesome.

Anonymity on the Internet

E-mail can be sent anonymously using services called "anonymous remailers" which accept incoming e-mails, then remove the header and the source address and insert their own. This is a very controversial practice as many people use this for illegitimate purposes. However, the time when one could exploit a weakness using e-mail is gone.

Masking an IP address is a very difficult task. In fact, the IP address of a machine is unique. Using the Telnet protocol it is possible to simulate being on another computer, however computer logs will show a trail back to the source. There is a technique called "spoofing" ("faking ones identity") where you can allocate yourself an IP address which is not yours, this however is a very complicated technique.


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