by Mike Masnick

Tracking Down The Online Extortionist

from the it-can-be-done dept

We keep hearing these horror stories about how criminals using open WiFi access points can "never be caught." However, just because they're using an open network doesn't mean they don't leave signs that point back to them. That's what detective work is all about. It's not about having a bright red neon sign saying who the criminal is, but about figuring it out from the information available. We've had a few examples in the past about criminals who were caught by other means after using open WiFi (and not for using the open WiFi, but for the actual criminal activity). The NY Times is running another story that demonstrates that just because a criminal is using open WiFi doesn't mean they're uncatchable. The story is officially about the rise of internet extortion scams, which really aren't that new. It still remains surprising that people don't go to the authorities when confronted with these threats. Still, one company did hire some help (and talk to the FBI) and were able to track down their extortionist -- despite his use of open WiFi networks. It just took some good old fashioned detective work. While some people will respond, as they did last time we wrote about this, that the guy made some mistakes which allowed him to get caught, that's what detective work is all about. Figuring out the mistakes. For all the talk of how an open WiFi network is "anonymous," so is robbing a convenience store with a ski mask. However, there are other signs that make it possible for police to track down and find who was involved. So, can we please stop saying that criminals using open WiFi networks can never be caught?

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