Help! I’ve Stolen Someone’s Online Identity!

Online Identity: The ability for individuals to interact online without sacrificing their personal privacy is a vital part of the Internet’s value, and is intimately related to its trustworthiness. [1]

Upon reading the question; ‘Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity’, my initial thoughts were ‘Oh, this is going to be another discussion about the dangers of facebook and online shopping.’ How I was wrong!

Delving deeper into the concept of ‘Online identity’ and more specifically privacy, I was fascinated that my initial thoughts turned out to lead to something much more. Let me take my own personal experiences with Online Gaming, for example. Now, if you’ve kept tabs with my personal blog, you’ll know that I am an avid gamer of Counter Strike: Global Offensive. I have friends, some of whom are aged 16 and under, who are very much capable of ‘DDOSing’ someone; how something as simple as finding the target’s IP address can lead to a lifetime of gaming woes.

A Distributed Denial of Service attack, more commonly known as DDOS, is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. [2] It is one such form of identity theft.

In the case of CSGO, a DDOS can be carried out by finding the target’s Skype ID. From there, you can find their IP address and thus issue a DDOS code to render their computer useless. Upon further investigation, I delved upon ‘Commercial DDOSing’. An article I read found that clients can pay hackers for their services for up to as little as $10 an hour. One company this article investigated was making profits of up to $35,000 a month. [3] Having online identities is a very profitable business and provides full time jobs for many people. Of course, hacking is illegal, but nations have different laws on the abuse of online identities and this makes prosecution across countries very difficult. It is because of these low prosecution rates that hacking freely exists in the internet and why a market still exists today. This TED talk perfectly explains my views: [4]

Some key facts to take out of the video were that there are over 200,000 unique pieces of malware released every day! So, not only does the threat of DDoS exist, but online users are faced with a myriad of other problems including viruses, Trojans and a basic lack of awareness of the dangers out there. In conclusion, irrespective of the fact that identity theft is illegal and morally wrong, it provides jobs for people and in hindsight there is very little that consumers/law can do about it.

Facebook and Google today remain the biggest sources of online identity. It’s what define us in the Social Network world. Basic interaction ceases to exist as more and more people are becoming obsessed with instant messaging. Facebook recently spent $1 billion on the purchase of Instagram [5]. They say pictures describe a thousand words and soon life will define us by the amount of followers and likes we have. Whilst this sounds petty, it remains true; every second 8 people connect to the internet for the first time. Consequently, we are becoming more and more attached to the internet and regardless of White and Le Cornu’s theory of the digital representation of ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’,(as found in my blog titled ‘Digital Users?’) everyone is becoming increasingly at risk of exposing their online identities. [5] Yes, having more than one online identity may make us seem more sociable, but at the risk of leaving us exposed to a whole cyber-crime network? At the risk of exposing your own personal files to 1000’s of hackers half way across the country? The cons clearly outweigh the pros.

After researching about ‘online identity’ I am more aware of the dangers associated with my online identity: I have changed my passwords, I have told my parents to change the name of our unique WiFi, I’ve changed my security settings on Facebook. ‘Webform’ released this year by Google allows us to delete our online identities. [7] More is being done to protect us, but this leads to a whole load of new problems such as people with past criminal records asking for their identities to be removed.

The issue surrounding online identity is very complex indeed but a proactive approach and a level head can keep you safe from the bigger threats out there.

As always, don’t be a stranger! If something has caught your interest drop a comment!



[1] Definition of Online Identity: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[2] Definition of DDoS: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[3]Commercial DDoSing – Tom Wilson, Commercial DDoS Services Proliferate, Are Responsible For Many Recent Attacks: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[4] James Lyne, TED – Everyday Cybercrime and what you can do about it: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[5] Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram – Bruce Upbin, Forbes Article – ‘Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion. Smart Arbitrage’: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[6] Aumar Mustafa, Blog regarding the concept of Digital ‘Residents’ and ‘Visitors’ – ‘Digital Users?’ Date Accessed: 20/10/14

[7] Deleting online identity – Natasha Lomas, ‘Google Offers Webform To Comply With Europe’s ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Ruling’: Date Accessed: 20/10/14

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