Imagine this scenario:

A criminal wants to commit a crime online. He buys a brand new pc, finds an open WIFI, connects to TOR network, and commits a crime.

How would authorities possibly detect/find him?

closed as too broad by symcbean, Steffen Ullrich, Xander, Eric G, Neil Smithline Jan 9 '16 at 20:41

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  • If he's tracked back to that public Wifi network, security cameras may have captured him. Or his MAC address may be traceable by the manufacturer to identify him. (so he should spoof his MAC and not be in plain sight when using that public Wifi, perhaps using a high gain antenna to let him stay far away from the access point) – Johnny Jan 9 '16 at 1:45

Frankly, there is nothing stopping a criminal from doing those things and making it impossible for authorities to catch them. But, it can be far simpler and cheaper than your scenario.

I run honeypots and I analyze hackers and their techniques. I was able to fully identify an Eastern European hacker (name, address, employer, phone number, even his favourite coffee shop) because of a series of small mistakes he made. I didn't trace his IP or traffic to find him, though I did anyway and found he used a pre-paid cell plan for data. But, there were pieces of data that I put together to paint a picture of who the person was. It was a dozen small things that were nothing on their own, but in combination, was enough to id him perfectly.

Your question assumes that criminals are detected through traces and logs. That's not the typical scenario, unless mistakes are made. There are "fingerprints" left behind that can be clues, but the way that criminals are traced are through their actions after the crime has been committed: selling, storing, bragging, etc.

  • Shame the question is on hold as this is a really good answer. I can't think of a good edit to the question, but have voted to reopen as it is. – paj28 Jan 11 '16 at 20:42
  • The criminal could use their real name, or some other information tied to their identity (see: Dread Pirate Roberts/Silk Road).
  • They could use Tor and a public WiFi in a way that stands out (see: the recent bomb threat against Harvard).
  • They could re-use the computer without taking proper anti-tracking measures (see: any number of drug couriers caught because of re-using "burner" cell phones).

And many other ways. Proper security is hard.

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