Patterico's Pontifications


Stacy McCain on Neal Rauhauser’s Deceptive Sock Puppet Methods

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:33 pm

Stacy McCain continues to expose Neal Rauhauser. His latest post is titled ‘Persona Management’ for Wackjobs: Rauhauser’s Methods of Deception and quotes Rauhauser on the dangers of using sock puppets:

You have habits that include:

The time(s) of day you are active

The language you speak

The situational knowledge you have when interacting with a certain group

The software you prefer to use

Quirks of spelling, punctuation, and other subtle hints as to identity

Whatever objective you have in approaching the venue

The following are some failure modes we’ve personally experienced over the years:

Used a pet phrase from a persona in a venue we frequented — instant outing

Used link shortened from a known account via Twitter — instant outing

Disclosed specific software preferred during conversation, not a full outing but it brought scrutiny that made the effort fail eventually

Use of phone number that had a single obscure Google hit — instant outing.

We often feel we’re being clever in constructing a persona but we generally fail miserably due to time constraints.

Indeed. As Rauhauser is soon to learn, he sucks at persona management, and his “failure modes” are far more extensive than he previously realized.

Which is as good a way of teasing my future post on the “Gaped Crusader” as I can imagine.

Also from McCain: Neal Rauhauser: Internet Super-Spy!

14 Responses to “Stacy McCain on Neal Rauhauser’s Deceptive Sock Puppet Methods”

  1. I think Neal is probably very much enjoying the free publicity Stacy is giving him, but that’s just me.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  2. Who was Neal Rauhauser writing this to? It seems he was trying to discourage sockpuppetry on his aide that he did not control.

    It doesn’t seem to me like it is so easy to detect who is behind a sock puppet or else maybe we would have been more successful in determining who was Dan Wolfe etc. Of course Neal is talking about posting on the same forum where he also posts under his own name. But the phone number that had a single obscure Google hit wouldn’t seem to require any prior knowledge.

    You have habits that include:

    The time(s) of day you are active

    Now how much would that tell? In the 1987 book Cuckoo’s Egg it did lead to a time zone.

    There is one recent incident where a time zone was discovered. It is said that Iran (or its helpers) was able to trace the Stuxnet virus to Jerusalem, by looking at time stamps, but I think they also had must have had to take into account:

    1) The 25 hour break for Shabbat, which was honored in this non-emergency, regular hours project.

    2) Jewish holidays.

    I read that the Stuxnet programmers set all the times to 1994 or 1995, but evidently they didn’t keep on changing it, so a pattern was noticed that fit the Jewish state. It must have included breaks for Jewish holidays too, or otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to link that so well just from regular houirs and even from the no exception 25 hour break.

    Now Obama is taking the credit for the virus or at least for not cancelling it.

    Report: Obama Ordered Stuxnet to Continue After Bug Caused It to Spread Wildly

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  3. * On his side.

    It seems Neal was trying to discourage sockpuppetry on his side that he did not control.

    So he gives all these reasons why it might nort work. He exaggerates the ease of discovering who it is actually. Claims he can’t even do it right – not because he doesn’t know how but because he hasn’t the time.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  4. Obama steals credit better than anyone I’ve seen in some time.

    SPQR (3944f2)

  5. I don’t know, daley. Maybe he’s feeling even more paranoid than usual.

    DRJ (a83b8b)


    There is a strong and growing Progressive presence on Twitter. I am aware of two other leaders besides myself who are subject to harassment and intimidation from the right. The timing of this makes it appear that this is another centrally initiated effort similar to the flood of female conservatives who arrived concurrent with Sarah Palin’s “grizzly mom” prattle.

    My response to the threatening conduct has been to basically dare the person behind it to actually step up and do something. I am far more aggressive than most and would not expect the rest to follow my lead. An organized community response will be the best approach to beheading this nuisance before it gets any momentum.

    The names of the others who are subject to this are not for public release just yet, but it’s typical stalker behavior, made noticeable only by the apparent coordination. Using public information the stalker conducts a cursory investigation using Google, and then initiates contact with the target. They insinuate that they have more than just the public information, and that they’ll be contacting employers, romantic partners, and involving children or grandchildren is not beneath them.

    The direct actors in this case seem to be your typical garden variety wingnut – older, perhaps on disability, Tea Party online activist, and not terribly bright. Playing whack a mole with these characters is a time sink of the sort we don’t need, but getting at the instigators is a worthy goal.

    I’ve personally taken an aggressive stance with my stalker and I’ve simultaneously put him under a bit of surveillance. I’ve openly declared that I’m hunting his handlers and I won’t engage in anything more than trading insults until I explore his connections and determine that hauling him into court is a gateway to identifying the source of the strategy.

    I’m collecting tidbits from the others who are receiving this treatment and I’ve engaged the Progressives I know who are moving undercover as low key right wing supporters. My own experience tells me the Progressive and right wing leadership bodies are about the same size – four or five dozen top level strategists and technicians, then perhaps twenty times that number of fairly busy supporters. Being able to get at one or more of the right’s leadership due to their minions crossing certain lines, and revealing a portion of the rest of the network via discovery, would do much to tamp down the crazy incitement we see.

    I carefully considered publishing the particulars of how I am handling this and I feel openness has merit. The right has a core of calculating leadership but their most vocal supporters are quite often prey to all sorts of conspiracy theory. Planting the idea (quite true) that some of their not so crazy sounding second and third tier players may be Progressive agents will amp up the paranoia and drive the entire community further to the fringe as they seek to weed out our people.

    People engaged in provocative online conduct feel insulated; they’re in the comfort of their own home, if they’ve engaged in a little bit of caution they may feel completely anonymous, and this emboldens them. Specifying the strategy we’ll use to break their anonymity won’t permit any mitigation on their part without adjusting their behavior, which counts as a win for us. We’re dealing with people who have likely had no interaction with the court system beyond a traffic ticket; the potential for a pro se litigant to force them into expensive, long distance, lengthy, discovery laden litigation doesn’t seem to cross their minds. The reality of travel, or frightful expenses, or summary judgments needs to be made real. We probably need to make a very visible example of at least one of them before the rest understand.

    There is a small, but non-zero chance that the response to such activities might be violent. The recent interdiction of a mentally ill man, incited by Glenn Beck and on his way to shoot up the Tides Foundation, was a warning as to what our worst case might be.

    Here again, a little openness ought to dispel some of this potential. We’ve already developed a good working relationship with law enforcement thanks to various problems we’ve noticed and reported. We would very much like to see such people rooted out and committed before they cause any harm, or if warranted, a quick, accurate report leading to their arrest ahead of any attack.

    Some personal discipline in this area is of great benefit. I appear to be quite accessible – easily found real name, phone number attached to my Twitter profile, and the like. Anyone actually trying to dig will rapidly run into a brick wall. I keep my name from leases and public utility bills. The best address that might be found for me dead ends in a Mailboxes Etc. in another county. My methods are a trifle extreme, but after fifteen years of off and on security consulting duties including a brush with the need for witness protection some years ago I find it easier to maintain such things as opposed to developing them quickly when a need arises.

    The less wary individual probably already has a digital shadow that grows uncomfortably close to their real world presence. It isn’t unreasonable for one of our number, feeling that they have a genuine threat, to withdraw. We would of course promptly begin tracking their stalker, seeking an opportunity to engage them with a synthetic presence or otherwise penetrate their anonymity. One lesson, well taught, would do much to put a stop to such antics.

    It’s unfortunate that our nation has descended from rational discourse to demagoguery and incitement to violence, but we didn’t start this. And that means we can end it using whatever means we find convenient, so long as we remain within the bounds the law provides. There are several remedies available and we need only the wit and will to apply them to the problem.

    will (b56961)

  7. You’ve got a typo: Should be “sucks at persona management.” You’ve got “as” instead.

    Robert Stacy McCain (502c5d)

  8. Thanks, Stacy. Fixed now.

    Patterico (1755e8)

  9. Hit Stacy’s tip jar like a rented mule, people!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  10. Oh goody! Another sock puppet takedown.

    aunursa (7014a8)

  11. Hit Stacy’s tip jar like a rented mule, people!

    Comment by daleyrocks

    I save my donations for particularly spectacular bits of verbal pyrotechnics – the first one I specifically remember was when Stacy said he was rattling the tip-jar like an epileptic in an earthquake; anything image that good deserves a reward.

    Dianna (f12db5)

  12. “I save my donations for particularly spectacular bits of verbal pyrotechnics”

    Dianna – I understand your point, but since it’s Patterico’s blog, I did not want to engage in any particularly spectacular pimpage of Stacy’s blog on this site and offend our host.

    Unrestrained by convention, I would endeavour to live up to your expectations.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  13. “The timing of this makes it appear that this is another centrally initiated effort similar to the flood of female conservatives who arrived concurrent with Sarah Palin’s “grizzly mom” prattle.”

    See, here’s another important thing to understand. Because THEY create these astroturf “floods” of support for and against things through “central” management, it might be easy for them to simply assume the same thing is being done on the other side.

    People like to believe that they are “normal” in that the way they think about things is typical. When they see something, people often ask themselves why someone would do that or what might be happening and then draw on their own way of thinking and experiences for the answer. So if they themselves engage in games of deception and sock puppetry, they might just assume that what they are seeing is the same thing.

    This is why I believe “free” places like Twitter should require a 99 cent signup charge using a credit card. You could have any name you want online but in doing this would make it much harder for someone to violate terms of service and create hundreds of false accounts without being noticed.

    It was Fenton Communications, by the way, that created the notion of “fake roots” organizations in order to make things seem more popular than they really are. Many of these left “activist” organizations are Fenton clients.

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

  14. And my above comment is one of the reasons why when I hear the political left making some accusation of the right doing something deceptive or unethical, I am likely to believe that it is really they who are doing those things and are projecting their own behaviors onto the political right.

    I never could, for example, understand why they so often accuse people who criticize them as being paid to do so until I saw so many instances of the left paying people to heckle or protest or otherwise just show up and make their cause seem more popular than it really is.

    Quite despicable, actually.

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

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