ISSN 2330-717X

Falling Victim To The Illicit Use Of IP Address – OpEd

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Influential voices, who take up the responsibility of talking tough on affairs taking place in national or international arenas, often come under different types of personal security threats.

Some face direct threats on their lives, some face humiliation due to some fabricated allegation against them, some face direct or indirect cyberattacks.

Hence, people having influential voices – authors, analysts, columnists, lawyers, rights activists, etcetera – are always prone to many sorts of risks, including falling victim to cyber-related crimes.

It wouldn’t be surprising if a person having an influential voice finds out (only after a law-enforcement agency starts raiding his or her house) that a crime has been committed using his or her Internet protocol (IP) address.

In some countries, even the law-enforcement agencies themselves could play a vital role in the fabrication of a cybercrime – including faking IP addresses – if they wish to detain someone without much or any evidence against that person.

An IP address doesn’t automatically identify a suspect

Just because a person’s fingerprint matches the fingerprint found at a crime scene, it does not prove that person has committed the crime. Further evidence is required to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” his or her connection with the crime.

Likewise, an IP address alone cannot prove the guilt of a person. Like fingerprints, IP addresses can be faked. Hence it is not impossible to forge an IP address and, thus leave someone else’s “fingerprints.”

According to an article on the US legal blog Associate’s Mind, an IP address is “nothing more than a piece of information, a clue,” and it “doesn’t automatically identify a criminal suspect.”

Similarly an article published by the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says an IP address “alone is not probable cause that a person has committed a crime.”

Electronic Frontier Foundations Report

A report published by the EFF has brought forward some interesting facts about the misuse of IP addresses by US law-enforcement agencies and courts:

Police often overstate the reliability of IP address information when obtaining a warrant.

Law-enforcement agencies often explain IP addresses as if these are physical mailing addresses or vehicle license plates.

“Law enforcement agencies must be required to investigate further, including identifying other electronic or physical evidence that corroborates their theory that evidence of the crime is likely to be found at the physical location that is associated with a particular IP address.”

“And courts must be informed of the technological limitations of the evidence so that they can independently ensure that IP address information is reliable before authorizing law enforcement intrusion into individual privacy.”

An Example

A few years back in the US, an incident took place where a teen was watching the Food Network at home, when a SWAT team raided her house. It was found that her Wi-Fi had been stolen by someone offering online threats.

It appears that police raided the home of the wrong person, based on the IP address from which the crime appeared to have taken place.


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Bahauddin Foizee

Bahauddin Foizee

Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst & columnist, and specializes on greater Asia-Pacific & Indian Oceanic region geopolitics. He also focuses on geopolitics centering greater Middle East. With his articles published in several countries around the world, he, as a columnist, has a regular presence in the leading Dhaka-based newspapers. Besides his area of specialization, he sporadically writes his opinion on European geopolitics and deteriorating environment & refugee scenario.

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