This is an interesting story with lots of twists and turns. And lessons.
Ryan Lin, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested last week on charges of cyber stalking. How he got caught was interesting. And a lesson.
The case goes back to April of 2016 when Lin responded to a Craigslist ad and moved in with the unnamed victim (called Jennifer Smith in the warrant) and her two roommates. Starting right after that, Smith was the victim of multiple hacking, harassing and cyberstalking incidents.
Authorities think that Lin got access to passwords of some of Smith’s online profiles because Smith didn’t have a lock on her room and didn’t password protect her computer.
Lessons so far –
- Vetting roommates is hard
- Putting a password on your computer, especially when you have roommates, is probably a good idea.
- You really shouldn’t have to lock your room door, but ….
The FBI accuses Lin of:
- Creating a collage of Smith’s personal photos and non-related sexually explicit images and sent it to Smith’s friends, classmates, co-workers and family friends, among others.
- Sent excepts of Smith’s private journal, revealing details of her medical, psych and sexual history to other people.
- Spoofed Smith’s identity to send bomb threats to nearby schools
and a whole host of other horrible things.
These events happened soon after Lin moved in and even after Smith moved out two months later, scared of his actions.
Lin used Tor, Protonmail and VPN clients to hide his identity. After the local police tried to figure out who was doing this – for a year – they called in the FBI.
Even though Lin’s former employer had reinstalled Lin’s computer, the FBI was able to find artifacts of articles related to the case that he had read and accounts he had on Protonmail, Textnow, Rover and a VPN connection.
Next lesson: Don’t assume you can hide bad deeds; they often come back to haunt you.
But the most damaging evidence against Lin were VPN logs from PureVPN and WANSecurity.
PureVPN was able to link the stalking IPs with Lin’s home and work IP addresses. This is especially odd given the fact that PureVPN says prominently that they do not keep any logs that can identify or help in monitoring a user’s activity.
Next lesson: Don’t trust a VPN provider who says that they don’t keep logs; don’t trust that using a VPN will protect you from the cops and don’t use a VPN to hide illicit activities.
Curiously, the FBI found Tweets from Lin to other people telling them to beware that VPN providers store logs.
The FBI also found other evidence of similar activities after talking to past classmates of Lin.
The good news is that the fact that the VPN provider lied worked out for the good guys and one more perv is behind bars, but for those people who assume that VPN providers tell the truth or that VPN connections can hide the tracks of criminal activities, you might want to rethink your chosen career.
Information for this post came from Bleeping Computer.