1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is there any way an "untraceable" website could be traced?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 8, 2016.

    For my story, the villains, are using a website that the police, FBI, etc, cannot trace in order to broadcast their kidnap and ransom videos and show them to society to get everyone's attention.

    However, I am still plotting out a way for them to be caught in the end. Perhaps I could play the website finally being traced back to them. But is their a way to do this if the website has been untraceable for months already in the plot? What would the sudden change of success be, for it to work plausibly, if that makes sense?

    Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it.
     
  2. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Someone had to engineer the untraceable website, right?
     
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  3. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    No, once it's on a public server, there is no way to determine where it came from. You might have a record of the ip address of the computer it came from, but that would be a proxy from an unfriendly country, which is a dead end. Proxies allow you to remain hidden because they change the information that leads back to you. Lots of people do this because they don't like websites tracking them, if you notice, there are lots and lots of proxies in countries that are not friendly to the US, those are the best ones to use.

    Random videos and terrorist videos are usually located by looking at features in the video itself.


    That's different than an actual website being hosted. That would require a physical machine with a public IP, which can be traced. Of course, that would most likely be a proxy to another server somewhere else. Once again, you'll likely end up in an unfriendly country in which the official investigation has to hit a dead end.
     
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  4. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    First - why is the website untraceable? That's the first question you need to answer, because in it it also contains the answer to how can it be traced.

    Second off the top of my head having been hunting for book covers on and off for the last year - check the file properties / metadata of the images being played. Maybe they changed camera. Usually if you look at a photo it tells you the make and model of the camera as well as loads of other information. Also reverse image search - if the image has been posted elsewhere. That elsewhere may not be so untraceable.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well the villains have been making their kidnapping videos agains a plain black curtain, in order to hide the location. So I do not have a reason for them to all of a sudden change the location, or change the video, so the location will all of a sudden be revealed.

    The website is untraceable cause they want it to be, and I did not use the unfriendly country idea. But cannot seem to find out if it can be traced back to them. If not, then I can find another way for the police to locate them.

    If the villains use a camera for the video, and then upload it to their site, can the uploading really tell the police what camera was used?
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Go to Google Images and pull up some pics of whatever you want. Open the sites, click on the images, right click and pull up "properties". It varies as to what is stored in this metadata - but it's often a lot more than you think.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Is molten cheese a bad substitute for wax play? You bet your ass it is. :supergrin:

    Now to the topic at hand. No website is 100% untraceable (including if it is on the deep web), just damned hard to find if you don't have a clue on what to look for. There will always be some traces left lying around that will lead back to the host, even after bouncing through multiple servers all over the globe. What you need is a group of very skilled hackers to break it all down and sift until they find something of potential proof. Then it will be investigated by some alphabet soup agency (Probably the FBI), and if that turns up nothing then back to the hackers. And round and round it goes, criminals always slip up at some point, so you just have to have a really good crack team to hunt them down in cyber space.
     
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  8. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @Ryan Elder :
    First of all the website itself need not be untraceable. You said that the villains use that site to broadcast their videos to the public. This could be YouTube or any other legal site.
    What they want to hide is the computer they use to upload these videos. This is usually done via the Tor network ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network) )

    If this is the case, then the police can work together with the site's operators and prepare a virus like program that infects the villains' computer and opens a so called backdoor for them ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backdoor_(computing) )

    Why does this take months? The Internet is designed in a way that it is not easy to infect a computer via a webpage. The virus needs a program flaw in the Browser program (like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc) that it can use to break into the client computer. These flaws are corrected by program updates but the average user does not install program updates too often so most computers connecting to the Internet are vulnerable.
    Someone who is well prepared to hide himself does not make this mistake. What the police is waiting for is called a zero-day-vulnerability ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-day_(computing) ) to become known that has no corrective update yet.

    If you really want to hide the website itself, it should be located in an unfriendly country. If not, then it is traceable.
    Similarly to what's written above websites can be hacked (and often are) but that is not a straightforward process especially if the site's owner is an IT expert. Again, zero-day is the key here.
     
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  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well for the story I wanted the villains to go succeed in their crime wave for months, which is why I wanted it to take months. In real life though, the Silk Road case took the FBI a long time to crack, and the website is still constantly re-uploading over the years.

    I could have the villain use youtube but if the villains want to broadcast a ransom video, and their demands are not met, and they kill the kidnap victim, youtube is not going to air such videos for people to see, and after months of hostage deaths, the police are going to be working with youtube to take them down, as soon as they are appearing on the site, I assume.

    So the villains would need their own site that they could control the content of, wouldn't they?
     
  10. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    Hey, so if they have uploaded it onto the dark web by which I assume you mean TOR (Onion Router) then (and you would probably need to include the explanation in your book) it would be traceable assuming 1 of the server nodes is hosted by the government. This is how people get caught out on TOR these days. think of it like this
    1.When you use tor rather than going direct to a website you go via stop off at different servers, so when you finally arrive at your web page your original IP has been masked by all the jumps in between.
    2. When tor was first setup all the servers were privately owned.
    3.Now goverments own a large percentage of the servers on the tor network.
    4 as long as the goverments server are first or last in the hop then they got you.
    5 however they can not control where the server sit in the chain.

    so to summarize if the website was uploaded to the tor network, and they constantly upload videos, then the government could get lucky and catch them that way.

    Now I wait forsomeone with more technical knowledge than me to tell me I am wrong :p
     
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  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well after they have uploaded a video, is there a way to erase the trace as to where the video came from?
     
  12. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    Do you mean meta data or ip?
     
  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    ip. Is meta data traceable to where the video came from as well?
     
  14. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    ok so what your asking is two separate questions i think.

    1. IP - If they have uploaded via the TOR (onion router network) then the IP isn't traceable other than the way i mentioned in my previous post to you. So for the sake of your story (not trying to tell you how to write it just giving you a template idea). When officer bob starts investigating he isn't going to be able to find the IP (even if officer BOB is fairly clued up on networks, packaging and unpacking information. And as the story progresses he somehow speak to someone at GCHQ (if in the uk) or FBI/CIA(america) etc etc and one of these people says they may be able to help and you could even have the person explain to officer bob how the government have been buying thousands of highend servers and making them part of the TOR network to hopefully get servers to be the first or last node in the 4 node link. (explained in previous reply).

    2. the meta data - this is pure assumption work from me but your story is fictional (unless you are planning on plotting a kidnapping lol) so it shouldn't matter about making a piece of software (in your story) that goes into the source code of the video and amends the meta data tags (i believe on jpeg files meta data is at the start and end of the file, so probably the same for a film) .

    Hope that helps.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. It was said before that the FBI or police would use hackers to find the source. Would they use ex-con hackers? Cause there is an ex-con in my plot, who is threatened to have his parole revoked and is forced to cooperate with police on a different matter. If I can make that ex-con a former hacker, than I can combine two characters into one then. But would they use ex-con hackers? If not than I do not have to combine two characters into one. I was just wondering.
     
  16. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would think a good hacker could trace down the website untraceableness. (It's a real word, I swear)
     
  17. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I think they would, if not through direct employment, as security contractors. Kevin Mitnick, an early and pretty famous hacker who eventually got caught and did time, now runs his own security consulting firm. For law enforcement to use someone not quite so far along on that path sounds plausible to me, and you could even include some tension between the ex-con hacker's work for the goverment and whatever (s)he might be cooking up on the side.

    eta: from Wikipedia "Since 2000, Mitnick has been a paid security consultant, public speaker and author. He does security consulting for Fortune 500 companies and the FBI, performs penetration testing services for the world's largest companies and teaches Social Engineering classes to dozens of companies and government agencies."
     
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  18. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    I have never worked for the FBI or the police so i really couldn't say however I have seen this in films and tv shows for sure. However i doubt an individual whilst they had the skills would not have the resources to do it. Just depends how authentic you want it to be.
     
  19. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Well, a 4chan administrator once claimed that the FBI has "super moderator" powers across the internet on any website run on a US server.
     
  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Because a random 4chan administrator claiming government internet control conspiracies is so reliable, right?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
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  21. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. So using an ex-con would not have the resources then? Does he need more than just some really good computer gadgetry?
     
  22. joeh1234
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    joeh1234 Active Member

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    Yeah he could have all the lnowledge in the world but without the relevant equipment or access to it then i assume it would be a struggle. If you really want info go on a computer forum whete they could give you more definitive answers
     
  23. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    If this excon is working with the government to get these guys, you can assume he'll have everything he needs to get the job done.
    Would the FBI really grab someone like that and then just say "You need -insert glossy technology here-? Nope. Can't be done."
    If they need him, they need him.
     
  24. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Yup, but I stand by my (it's probably on TV Tropes) theory that there should be some tension where the hacker asks for far more than they need, while the antagonist government agent insists on giving them far less.

    Yes, it's been done, but it sounds like you're working on a thriller, so the readers (and I count myself as an at least occasional thriller fan) are not likely to be too upset by thinks like that, as long as the whole story isn't copy/paste.

    To get personal, Use of Weapons, which was my introduction to the works of the late Iain M. Banks, is a novel with interleaved chapters which progress both forwards and backwards in time, but there's a scene where Q (not the James Bond one, but similar) denies the MC access to weapons he wants for fear of abuse. Total set-piece scene, but the rest of the book isn't.

    Think I'm rambling, sorry, time to hit "post"
     
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  25. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. When you say the 'antagonist government agent', which character are you referring to?
     

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