- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1599219778
- ISBN-13: 978-1599219776
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace 1st Edition
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“It may shock the hell out of you. It did me…. I couldn't put this book down, finding out all of the ways anyone could get their hands on information about any of us. You're more vulnerable than you may think.” - Tammy Chase, Chicago Sun-Times
From the Inside Flap
In a world-wise, straight-talking, wryly humorous narrative, Ahearn provides field-tested tips, tools, and techniques for maintaining privacy, as well as strategies for protecting personal information and preventing identity theft. You’ll learn key tactics such as misinformation (destroying all the data known about you), disinformation (creating fake trails), and reformation (getting where you want to be without leaving clues). Throughout, Ahearn shares real-life stories of his fascinating career—from
nabbing adulterous celebrities to helping abuse victims find safety.
An indispensable resource not just for those determined to be anonymous, but for almost anyone in the brave new world of online information, How to Disappear sums up Ahearn’s dual philosophy: Don’t break the law, but know how to protect yourself.
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Top Customer Reviews
Author Frank Ahearn is a professional skip tracer; which is a person who locates other people. The term comes from the word skip being used to describe the person being searched for, and comes from the idiomatic expression to skip town, meaning to depart, perhaps in a rush, and leaving minimal clues behind for someone to trace the skip to a new location. Often these people are wanted by the government, family, spouses, or other authorities.
The book is touted as the "authoritative and comprehensive guide for people who seek to protect their privacy, as well as for anyone who's ever entertained the fantasy of disappearing - whether actually dropping out of sight or by eliminating the traceable evidence of their existence". Those are a number of very different goals.
For those who seek to protect their daily privacy in the physical world, the book provides a lot of good, high-level insights.
Since the author admits he isn't a technology expert, the book doesn't offer significant input on how to ensure online privacy, short of saying that one shouldn't use social media. Readers wanting to protect their online privacy can use effective resources such as CDT's Guide to Online Privacy for such topics.
Most people want to protect their privacy, and while many do entertain a fantasy of simply disappearing, the reality is that true disappearance is extraordinarily difficult and fraught with risk.
At 197 small pages, the book is a quick read and covers all of the key points. The book does have a lot of good details, but isn't the definitive text, as the devil is in the details, and many of those details are missing in the book. The person who truly wants to disappear would need an expert like Ahearn to work with them, rather than simply relying on the book alone.
The danger in a book like this is that it may lead someone to attempt to disappear on a whim. That is a great way to get themselves in a fine mess, often ending up in more trouble than before their aborted disappearance attempt.
The book focuses on 3 key areas: misinformation (destroying all the data known about you), disinformation (creating fake trails) and reformation (act of getting you from origination to destination without leaving any clues).
Some of the books ideas are similar to the federal witness protection program. In the federal program, witnesses are encouraged to keep their first names and choose last names with the same initial in order to make it easier to instinctively use the new identity.
Like the federal witness program, the books notes that in order to prevent the possibility of someone being followed, they should use a convoluted and indirect transportation path before finally reaching the location where they will live under the new identity. This path often involves a long chain of seemingly random routes which are intended to be difficult for a skip tracer to find or anticipate.
The book includes numerous stories of real-world scenarios in which Ahearn was involved with, and shows how to avoid their mistakes.
Many people envision disappearing as being on a beach with endless beers. Ahearn paints a reality involving endless use of disposable cell phones, cash cards, and remote mail boxes. But that is a lonely existence most people don't seem ready for.
Can someone really change themselves? Yes, but it's very expensive and difficult to hide without changing your identity and you certainly cannot hide from the government without changing your identity. The book is ultimately for someone who has a lot of money, as there is no way to create a new life on the cheap.
The book doesn't detail how to create a completely new identity in a new location, something that seemingly only a witness protection program can do, and mainly is about leaving false trails so that those looking for you can't find you.
For the person contemplating disappearing, they must ask themselves if they really want to live a life of endless prepaid phone cards and prepaid credit cards, using only free wireless and disposable USB memory cards as the book suggests. The book is about ensuring that one's old life and new life don't connect. After a few months of that, most people will likely be quite lonely.
The author notes that most people want to disappear for two main reasons: danger or money. Some people deal with stalkers, abusive ex-spouses or someone who came into money and doesn't want friends or family to locate them.
In a recent interview, Ahearn suggested New Zealand is one of the best places to disappear, as it's a long way off and has great beaches, is an English-speaking country and it's easy to acclimate to life there. But for a lifelong Red Sox fan do they really want to root for the New Zealand Warriors rugby team? Does the person understand the cold reality of vegemite?
Ultimately this is an interesting, but impractical book for the vast majority of people. Can one disappear? Perhaps, but it's getting harder, even with an expert like Ahearn. Perhaps the biggest deterrent should be Google StreetView. Even if one moves far away, StreetView is there, ready to announce your location to the world.
For most readers How to Disappear : Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace will be an entertaining book that does have valuable information.
Ultimately, for those considering disappearing, they need to understand the implications of loudly shutting the door on their way out of society. They should contemplate that before they take a course of action they are likely going to regret.
The lack of specific advice in "How to Disappear" for keeping your location absolutely secret gives a false sense of security. Frank recommends using corporations (pg. 88). However he doesn't give specific advice like J.J. Luna does. Frank does not mention New Mexico in "keywords for building your corporation." New Mexico is the only US state not requiring LLC members to be registered. I believe you're putting yourself at great risk if your name and location is tied together in any database.
This book gives unnecessarily restrictive advice about using computers. Frank says "never use [your new computer] to access the internet from your home." (pg. 90) I strongly disagree with "Not recommended: anonymizing software" (pg. 68) and the implied recommendation to use the WIFI at a café or bookstore. Frank doesn't recommend anonymizing software because he doesn't know if it's effective. Proxies and Virtual Private Servers (VPN) are generally effective at not immediately disclosing your IP Address and geographic location. Many providers claim to permanently protect your identity by not logging your IP Address, see "Torrent Freak: Which VPN Providers Really Take Anonymity Seriously?" I believe you should always use a VPN to ensure your ISP and network sniffers don't know what sites you're visiting or what information is being sent back and forth. Frank says "Don't Google yourself once you've hit the road" (pg. 121) because usually your IP address says where you're located. Using a VPN deals with this problem and could make your pursers waste time looking for you in the location tied to the VPN's IP address. Frank contradicts himself saying "Sign up for Google Alerts associated with your name and email address" (pg. 196).
The statement "be careful with toll-free numbers" (pg. 151) is not comprehensive enough. The receipt of call with masked caller-id can unmask it using TrapCall and/or Flowroute, google "How to Unmask Caller-Id (Asterisk)"
There no mention of the risk posed by security questions for bank accounts, e.g. "What's your mother's maiden name?" I know a physician who had over $100,000 stolen because the thief knew his mom's maiden name and social engineered the rest of the needed info. I recommend giving wrong unguessable answers to security questions.
I enjoy "How to Disappear". However I think you should implement J.J. Luna's advice first. Frank's advice is great for screwing with your pursuers. If you run websites etc and like screwing with the enemy I also recommend Aggressive Network Self-Defense. For those who love computers I recommend Secrets of Computer Espionage: Tactics and Countermeasures.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
don't put on your kindle
don't brag about it after you disappear