Every time somebody engages and interacts on the Internet, whether or not they intend to be anonymous or not, they establish a digital profile of themselves. Little pieces of data or these “digital breadcrumbs,” can begin to add up and paint a picture of what the real identity of your suspect is.
Open source intelligence (OSINT) is information you can glean from publicly available resources, even on the DarkNet. The forums and posts by a user can give you tiny bits of information. These areas should not be overlooked; in fact, as was stated earlier, spending time in these areas give you not only information on how to conduct yourself while on the DarkNet, but will also give you clues to those you are looking for.
Obviously, no person who uses the TOR browser has the deliberate intention of divulging information that would reveal their identity…if they didn’t care, why use TOR in the first place? However, one careless misstep can provide you possibly that last piece of information you were looking for, if you are paying attention.
Ross Ulbricht posted his actual Gmail address in a forum using the same profile as he did when discussing the Silk Road.
Digital breadcrumbs should be considered by investigators for not only identifying their suspects, but also for maintaining their own anonymity.
In the case above, if investigators hadn’t been paying attention and putting the pieces of Ross Ulbricht’s persona together, they might not have found him. Tracing him, using several bits of information that he inadvertantly left, were the keys to his downfall. While the email address he used one time in one forum wasn’t the only piece of information used by investigators, it was indeed important. Other posts he made in forums, using different names, were tied together because of his wording, what he was saying, and how he said it.