A Guide to Stalking by Example
In my last post I mentioned that I found a journal entry in a pastebin. My curiosity was peaked, and so I took a little time trying to track down who posted it, and perhaps a little more on what actually is going on. When I thought of writing down my little adventure in this blog, it also reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago on microcelebrities, where the author found a forum thread discussing the merits of him finding a nanny for his child. As I'm typing this I'm also reminded of several articles on how googling yourself is getting more popular and might be a good idea, since it displays what other people can find out about you on the web.
In other words, how easily you can be stalked online.
I know that searching for my real name (one of "Ning Hui Li", "Justin Li", or "Justin Ning Hui Li") doesn't get too much stuff, but searching for my online alias (ninghui48) gets almost everything I've ever done online. Further more, a few of my profiles (in particular, my profile on Facebook) have very little security while providing accurate and sometimes up to date information. I know therefore that I'm a highly stalkable target.
I'm about to make someone else a microcelebrity.
First, the pastebin journal entry. On careful reading, you'll see that even though the poster didn't provide a name to the pastebin, the author of the post actually included his real name, "Ed", near the end of the entry. When he quoted verbatim his note to Shannon, he included the valediction and signature. So now we know he's called Ed, short for Edward, as shown when he quoted what Shannon said over the phone, again verbatim.
I don't mind long full quotes; in fact, I do that a lot in my own journal.
My first attempt at finding the LJ was a simple search for the entry. I googled the first line, then the crucial "Shannon was in love with me." Nothing. I paused for a moment. Ed is a common name... but his AIM user name, "oorza", isn't. Googling that gives links to last.fm, digg and Beryl, but no LJ. It could very well be the same person, of course, but it wouldn't give any information about him and Shannon. So I changed tacks, and assumed that "oorza" is the username he used for LJ as well.
Bingo! It's a friends only journal, with a post telling visitors so. The important thing to note in the post is that people should friend him to get access, or find him through IM and "get [him] to copy paste this shit to a pastebin." Which is exactly what I stumbled upon. Taking into account that pastebins are technically oriented, and that the previous results for "oorza" are also technical (following Beryl there are also links to Compiz and Gentoo), the mention of pastebins in this LJ lets us be reasonably sure that this belongs to Ed.
Although the journal is friends only, there are other things to learn. Ed has posted several times before, but all of them lead back to the same post, meaning that post was probably modified to update that line about his latest post. More enlightening is his user info page. Seven friends, one of them himself. The account type also caught my eye - Ed had a Plus Account, meaning he's paying for his account. Checking his friend's page shows that of the seven shows that ___ writes the most - at least, he writes the most of everyone who's posts are not friends only. His account is also paid.
** PARAGRAPH DELETED BY REQUEST OF SUBJECT **
Long story short, I ended up on Facebook which convinced me (incorrectly, it turns out) that I found the author of the post.
** END EDIT
That's about where I left off. I've found his friends on Facebook, which adds evidence that they're the owners of the profiles we've been looking at. Ed has no friend named ___, but seeing she's 45 (as per the conversation), she's less likely to be on Facebook. I'm sure there's more to be found if I dig deeper, but I found enough already.
So, what have we learned?
- BE OBSERVANT. This is the most important. Even seemingly trivial details may be useful.
- Google and Facebook are your friends.
- Usernames are often used for multiple sites, leading to multiple search results for the username.
- Usernames sometimes contain the users' real names in whole or in part.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the pastebin post was to someone else we haven't encountered so far. They're not on LJ, or Ed wouldn't need to post it to pastebin in the first place. *shrugs*