Staying in the darkness

Braintricks for OPSEC

Creating different usernames is just the first step when we’re developing an OPSEC plan for pseudonymity. One of the most plausible threats to your privacy/anonymity/pseudonymity is one where the adversary correlates a personality trait across all of your accounts.

In 2011, researchers from University of Cambridge published details in how to correlate traffic patterns of a Tor user, to their real life identity. They did this by taking advantage of the fact that most people visit a certain set of websites on a regular basis. Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or some specific site of interest. This is an example where an attacker is taking advantage of a personality quirk to attribute you to your identity.

Your writing style is also something attributable. You may know that certain adversaries have the ability to do correlation attacks on your writing style (or at least Edward Snowden thinks so). Taking something that you’ve written anonymously and matching it to something you’ve written in the clear.

The idea of State-Dependant Memory (SDM) can help us here. SDM is when the human brain compartmentalizes certain memories based on the state-of-mind of that person. While in that state-of-mind or consciousness, memories are harder or easier to recall. Think of this like a lock box for your memories. A common example of this is studying for a test at a University. Before your exam, you study in the room you’ll be taking the test, at the time of day you’ll be taking the test, at the same desk that you will be using. When you go to take your exam, your brain will flip into the state that you’ve trained it for, making it easier to recall those memories.

You can apply this as a management tactic for you pseudonymity. For each identity that is created, design a state of mind for that user. Your consciousness can be adjusted using a combination of one of your human inputs:

  • Music/Audio: play certain music, certain songs, certain albums or look into a specific meditation album that can put you into a specific, reproducable state of mind. (See Robert Monroe’s tapes)
  • Environment: It might not be possible to switch keyboard, monitor, or desktop environment you normally work under but changing where you work has a huge impact. Find a public place that your identity always goes, or sit in a specific area of your apartment.
  • Lighting/Colors: Studies have shown that lighting and the colors of that light have a drastic impact on the mood and state of being. This could be as simple as having a light on or off while working, changing the color scheme of the monitor, or closing the blinds for a window.
  • Drugs/Chemicals: When trying to reach a state of mind, you’d be hard pressed to find a faster, more consistent way to get into a reproducible state. Many stimulants like caffeine, Ridilin, and cocaine, have a common affect on people where taking something like LSD may not give you reproducible results.
  • Smells: As we’re going through all the senses, don’t forget smell. Simply lighting a specific candle or type of incense can take you into the place that you need to be.
  • Time: Being aware of the time of day and when the identity works, is not just helpful to bring you to a specific state of consciousness, it can also help deter adversaries from being able to tell what timezone you live in.