September 24, 2023

The real top ten tips for blogging anonymously

As many of you know, Reporters without Borders released a PDF handbook about blogging for dissident bloggers. Actually a lot of it also deals with making a good blog, like the section about blogging ethics and search engine optimisation. Completely irrelevant. If I was blogging at risk, I think I would have more pressing concerns than getting my blog spidered by Google. My chief concern was the section about Blogging Anonymously by Ethan Zuckerman which contains a lot of shockingly bad (and sometimes unnecessary) advice for blogging anonymously. So, here’s the real top ten tips for blogging anonymously.

  1. Get a new email address from a free email host.
    As anonymous as you think your own email address is, it is imperative to get a new one. Keep your real identity and your fake identity completely separate. Use your fake email address to open a new blogging account, don’t use a blogging account that was opened with your real email address. I recommend a service like that does not require your real email to make an email confirmation for opening a new account. One thing Zuckerman did not mention is that you need to choose an email name that has nothing to do with your name or anything to do with you. No funny play on words or use of acronyms. Enough coincidences like that and you’ll be scuppered.
  2. Get a blogging account from a popular blog host.
    Zuckerman made recommendations such as and Let’s get serious here. No disrespect to the guys who run those two hosting services, but I doubt they have the legal team like Yahoo, MSN or Google’s to back them up. You have to go for blog hosts that won’t crap their pants at the sight of a lawyer’s letter or the FBI at their door. Go for or or MSN Spaces. Accept no imitations.
  3. Blog from cybercafes
    Library computers are public, but some libraries require a lending identity card to use their computers. Anything that suggests your identity is bad. Go for a crowded cybercafe always. Zuckerman’s advice on switching your cybercafes often is a good one. Never choose any that are near your place of work or place of residence. Never choose one in which you have membership privileges because they will have notes on you. Always choose one that’s crowded and popular at all times. And always choose a seat in the cafe with your back to the wall! If you can be observed posting to your blog, you’re scuppered. As far as any security expert is concerned, the key to figuring out who you are is figuring out which computer you use.
  4. Forget about anonymous proxies
    Anonymous proxies don’t hide your identity. Even those that say they are “high anonymity” often are not. Do you want to trust a sysop to state the truth about his service when that service is for clandestine purposes? Anonymous proxies only make it difficult to make a direct trace to your computer, not impossible. And if the authorities already suspect which computer is being used to make blog posts, anonymous proxies won’t help. If you have to use an anonymous proxy, it means you are using the wrong computer. Always blog from popular public computers. Zuckerman’s suggestion that it can be safe to blog from your home with an anonymous proxy will earn you a knock at the door at midnight.
  5. Tell no one
    Zuckerman’s advice to seek the aid of a computer expert is his second worst piece of advice. That computer expert is yet another person who can finger you. Tell no one. (And do I have to mention here that you shouldn’t keep any notes related to your blogging topics? Notes = evidence that can be used against you.)
  6. Onion-router schmonion-router
    If you’re reading a handbook from Reporters without Borders on internet anonymity, you obviously don’t know anything about internet anonymity. Setting up an onion router compounds the problems of having to ask for help to set it up and putting too much trust in technology to hide yourself. If the authorities are going high-tech to find you, then go low-tech for protection. Tell no one and use popular public computers.
  7. Encryption: Are we still talking about that old hat?
    Sure, you can follow Zuckerman’s advice and set up PGP encryption and post via email to a remailer to a blogging service like that allows posting via email. Does that promote your anonymity? Hell no. It only means that someone intercepting your email will have a hard time discovering its content. If they’re already intercepting your email, you’re living on borrowed time. This technique also gives you the false sense of security that you’re safe while blogging from your own computer. You’re most certainly not. Furthermore, the shadow of the email you sent can be used as evidence against you.
  8. Post via email
    I am not saying that blogging via email is a bad idea. In fact, it’s a very very good idea. If you are being observed, a tell-tale sign of blogging is when you open up an obviously recognisable interface like’s. Blogging via email does not look like blogging at all. It looks like you are sending a supposedly harmless email. If you are using a blogging service that allows posting via email, set that up and don’t open the regular blogging interface. And make sure your email software keeps no traces in the “Sent” folder.
  9. Flush your cache
    If you are using a web interface for blogging, flush your cache before you leave your seat as an added precaution. Caches are logs of the sites you visited and can remain in a public computer for several days. Flushing the cache removes traces of what sites you were at. Go to the Preferences of your browser, find the Security tab and click on Empty Cache. This is a good practice to have when using a public computer, even if you are not blogging at risk. This is not a fool-proof technique since deleted log files can sometimes be recovered. But used in conjunction with other precautions, the authorities will have a harder time finding stuff about you, especially when the authorities don’t have the special expertise needed to recover deleted caches.
  10. Don’t panic!
    Be mindful of the force (and the authorities), but do not get paranoid or panic. The authorities are waiting for you to make a mistake and the chances of making one rise hundred-fold when you are out of your mind. If you think the authorities are close, test that assumption by changing your habits (like switching to a new cybercafe temporarily). In the movie Hunt for Red October, they called it a Crazy Ivan. Zig when they think you will zag.

The EFF has more real world tips on blogging anonymously.

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