This week on the Writer's Detective Bureau, VPNs, my personal story and the police academy. I'm Adam Richardson and this is the Writer's Detective Bureau. Welcome to episode number 30 of the Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction. 30 weeks. Man, that's a long time to stick with this. I'm glad I'm having fun. I hope you guys are as well. I want to thank Gold Shield patron, Debra Dunbar from debradunbar.com and Coffee Club patrons, Joan Raymond, Guy Alton, Natasha Bajema, Natalie Barelli, Joe Trent, Siobhan Pope, Leah Cutter, Ryan Kinmil, Richard Phillips, Robin Lyons, Gene Desrochers, Craig Kingsman, Kate Wagner, Rebecca Jackson, and Marco Carocari.
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My first question this week comes from Ros Guggi. Ros writes, "My killer hides behind VPN when sending messages to a newspaper, so they aren't able to track where they come from. And he trips up, I think by sending a message from his phone. It's a new phone. So I say he hasn't set up VPN on it. Can you set up VPN on the phone? Or is it easier for police to trace where a phone message comes from?" Great question Ros. For listeners unfamiliar with VPNs, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. To understand how a VPN works, we need to start with a basic understanding of how we connect to the internet. Whether you're connected via an ethernet cable from your cable modem to your desktop or Wi-Fi to your laptop or using an app on your cell phone, the device you're using has an IP address, and IP stands for Internet Protocol address.
So this address is a series of two or three digit numbers separated by decimal points. And those numbers all range anywhere between zero and 255. So an IP address might look something like 18.104.22.168. So if you send an email or visit a website using a regular old internet connection, the recipient of the email or that website host will be able to see what your IP address is. For an email, your IP address will be listed in the header. Now many of you are thinking what's a header? That's something that you can turn on to make visible using your email program, but it's definitely there for any email that's sent or received. So if you go into your email program and turn on headers, you will see what I'm talking about.
So for a website, the web host logs the IP addresses of every connection that's made to the website. So email and websites are going to see your IP Address. Equally as important, it's possible for anyone in that chain between your computer or phone and the email recipient or the website that you're visiting can potentially see what you're sending or receiving. And this is because your connection is unencrypted. This can become an issue if you're using a public Wi-Fi access point, like in the gate area of an airport while you're waiting for a flight or in a coffee shop. And hackers can use your unencrypted connection to the Wi-Fi to get access to things like your Facebook username and password.
Anyway, getting back to the IP address thing, your IP address is linked to the internet service provider you're connected to. So if a kidnapper sends an email ransom letter, I as the detective can look at the sender's... Continue reading...
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