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Wired Writer Disappears, Find Him and Make $5k 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the hiding-in-plain-sight dept.
carp3_noct3m writes "A freelance Wired magazine journalist has decided to see what it is like to disappear from normal life, all while staying on the grid. The catch, is that he is challenging anyone and everyone to find him, take a picture, and speak a special codeword to him. If you can do that, you can make 5000 dollars, which happens to come out of his paycheck for the article he'll be writing. Oh, and to top it all off, whoever finds him gets pictures and interviews in Wired. He has been posting to his Twitter, using TOR for internet, and the Wired website will be posting his credit card transactions."

*

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Wired Writer Disappears, Find Him and Make $5k

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  • Is this an ad? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by VoyagerRadio (669156)
    I can't figure out if this is an ad, spam, or something else altogether. Someone want to help me out? Does Slashdot post links to contests?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Desler (1608317)
      No, it's just more of idle crap that samzenpus is posting to the wrong section again.
    • Re:Is this an ad? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:47PM (#29121645)

      Yes [slashdot.org] Slashdot [slashdot.org] does [slashdot.org] post [slashdot.org] links [slashdot.org] to [slashdot.org] contests [slashdot.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ottothecow (600101)
      Hey...I thought it was interesting.

      I got to read the original article (though it would be nice of /. linked to it directly or mentioned it in the summary) and read a few posts of the twitter followers and such. Interesting concept, I wonder how much of it he will get to expense later (and if the 5k out of his salary if found is really enough to make him ultra paranoid about being found)

      • I guess I jumped all over that one, but I'm not totally opposed to contests. (Unfortunately, most contests are simply dressed-up advertisements for the service/website, and hardly dressed-up at that.) Scavenger hunts can be fun, but it sure wastes our time when there's no actual possibility of reaching the goal. Perhaps in this case there is; I would hope Wired wouldn't resort to phony ad/spam scams, but -- except the Wired editors themselves -- who knows?
    • by mrmeval (662166)

      It's incitement to commit stalking. I'm not sure of the state but in many there is no need for the victim to press charges. That's a nice way to get a felony. It is also spam.

  • The catch (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:30PM (#29121293)

    The catch, is that he is challenging anyone and everyone to find him, take a picture, and speak a special codeword to him.

    But, but... that would require leaving my basement.

    • I wish that it didn't have the take a picture stipulation because then you could just call up his hotel or other forms of shelter when you find him.
      • Well, there's a picture just besides the Slashdot story. Why not take that?

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        But, but... that would require leaving my basement.

        I wish that it didn't have the take a picture stipulation because then you could just call up his hotel or other forms of shelter when you find him.

        Luke, trainee jedi-geek that you are, you show your geek-naïveté in approaching the problem from such a brute-force perspective. The true geek would do all their stalking using quite conventional transaction-tracking. Then, having determined the hotel/ rehab-clinic/ brothel/ mountain hovel/ etc that he

    • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:42PM (#29124873)

      Hack an ATM and use the image from it for the photo.

      You can speak the password to him via the network that McDonalds uses to take orders in the drive-through these days.

      "Ok. I have 3 cheeseburgers, an Iced Tea and the password is "Where the fuck is Waldo? That will be $5,004.89 at the first window. Please pull through."

      No need to leave the basement.

    • by Antity-H (535635)

      why leave your basement, hack the security camera around him to take the picture, and the cellphone company to find out his phone number. send the picture to the phone number and call him to tell him the codeword easy, nothing to sweat about :)

  • blarg (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) * <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:30PM (#29121295) Homepage Journal

    It'll be funny when a Mac user wins the $5K and has to admit finding him on the other side of a glory hole.

    .
  • by ep32g79 (538056) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:33PM (#29121369)
    This is too easy, Just get a judge [slashdot.org] to tell you where he is.
  • Already Been Done (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:36PM (#29121423)
    This has already been done by a journalist and his security-industry buddy.
    They wrote a book about it and presented at a recent hacker conference (it might have been the last HOPE, or maybe last year's defcon)

    Good job being original, guy
    • [citation needed] (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HanClinto (621615)

      [citation needed]

      Not necessarily doubting you -- just saying that your post is incredibly unhelpful.

    • Re:Already Been Done (Score:4, Informative)

      by mrdoogee (1179081) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:19PM (#29123425)

      I thought that one was about "falling off the grid". What this guy is doing is trying to stay hidden while still using modern conveniences and only the skills that an average citizen has at their disposal. I.E., hiding while staying on "THE GRID".

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        Big deal. I fall "off the grid" all the time. That's where I am right now, not for any particular reason, other than I can. I'm not using any credit cards. I have a prepaid credit card, but rarely use it. The phone number everyone knows forwards three times, and ends up on a prepaid cell with no GPS capabilities. If I have the urge, I just pick up a new prepaid phone, and change the forwarding. I can change the last hop, or several of them.

        I occasionally pop up in an unexp

        • by fbjon (692006)
          So you're doing it for the thrill of it, necessity, or paranoia?
          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            He's not doing it at all. I've known a pathological fantasist since I was a child, and this sounds exactly like the kind of story she would come out with.
          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            I guess it could be considered "thrill". It started out as a observation of how life decisions made me untrackable. Various people I've been with (when I pop up) note "You pay with cash for everything?" or "Who's car are you driving today?" Someone commented (on the phone) a few days ago that I have more phone numbers than the Dell support centers. :) It's not that I *have* the numbers, it's just that I change them frequently enough that anything they store won't be good too long after th

  • by horatio (127595) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:37PM (#29121455)

    You will be excluded from winning if you commit a crime in your efforts to find me, contact my family, or physically harm me.

    Man, talk about taking all the fun of a game.

    • by sgauss (639539) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:43PM (#29121589)
      Well, if I believe my television, you should still be able to waterboard him!
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Well, if I believe my television, you should still be able to waterboard him!

        Yes... apparently getting him abducted by the CIA, secretly flown to Syria and tortured for months on end is perfectly legal in the US.

    • You will be excluded from winning if you commit a crime in your efforts to find me, contact my family, or physically harm me.

      How about if we locate him, then wait until he's just falling asleep, sneak into his bedroom and then say in a gravely voice "Tag, you're it"? Does scaring the pee out of someone count as physical harm?

    • . . . contact my family . . ..

      I saw a documentary about so-called "Bounty Hunters" in the US. The guy claimed that family members were to most likely to reveal where you are hiding. He added a quip like:

      "For every person, there are two folks who love you, two people that hate you, and six people who don't give a damn about you. I just need to find the last eight, and they will lead me to my target."

    • by mrdoogee (1179081)

      contact my family

      My only real objection to his terms. I get that he wishes to keep his family from harassment (specifically his kids if he has them) but most agencies tasked with finding people start with the family, mostly because it is the best way to find someone. This gives him a much more sporting chance, though which I guess was his intent.

      • by maevius (518697)
        He obviously writes an article about the possibility of finding someone through technology and not by sticking a gun to a family member's head
    • by dk90406 (797452)

      You will be excluded from winning if you commit a crime i

      That is sad. That removes cracking, phishing etc. from the approaches. It would have been interesting to have an more open playing field - that would potentially reveal something useful (weakness in FedEx for instance, dangers of social engineering).
      I fully agree that the family should be left alone, as this is only a game.

      • by maevius (518697)
        I think it's impossible to find someone this way without breaking the law, it's more probable that he was forced to put that exclusion. Except of course if you own a big corporation that is allowed by law to collect private information via the terms and conditions...
  • Can I get reimbursed for my relocation costs? $5k isn't enough of a reward to justify traveling to the places he's at.

  • hey guy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by hort_wort (1401963) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:53PM (#29121745)

    Come to my house and let me win the contest. I'll give you $3000. I'd be happy to tell wired the advanced methods I used to win.

  • I forget, is this bow or gun season for Wired writers? The local DNR is waffling, the closest they could come is 'long pork', but that is much too broad for the purposes of this game.

                          -Charlie

  • This guy is going to bee seen everywhere!!!
  • ... that he is not already dead [slashdot.org]?
  • No problemo (Score:5, Funny)

    by nizo (81281) * on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:58PM (#29121843) Homepage Journal

    1. Post his picture in the general vicinity wherever his credit card transactions are, with the note "Have you seen this child molester?" underneath.
    2. Take pictures of him/give him the codeword in jail* a few days later.
    3. Profit!

    * Though I'm not sure how the whole secret word thing will work if a mob beats him to death.

    • by Ponga (934481)
      I'm confused. Living "off the grid" means NOT using a credit card. By my definition anyway...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Khyber (864651)

        Then re-read TFS or TFA because he says he's staying ON GRID and it's explicitly mentioned.

        • by Ponga (934481)
          RTFA, are you crazy!?

          (My bad...)
        • by quanticle (843097)

          From TFA:

          The Web page will provide everything a plugged-in investigator would have, including activity on my frequent flier, credit card, and ATM accounts â" if Iâ(TM)m foolish enough to use them.

          I'm pretty sure he knows enough about tracking to not use credit cards.

      • by Rob Kaper (5960)

        But he is staying on the grid. Not that everyone and their uncle has access to his creditcard transaction log, but he's not going hermit on us.

      • > Living "off the grid" means NOT using a credit card.

        It used to mean either generating your own electicity or doing without.

    • This approach has been proven to be quite effective [philly.com].
    • Defamation/slander? Didn't he say you couldn't break the law?

  • Privacy illusion. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:01PM (#29121891)

    I knew a friend once that did skip-tracing. He tracked a guy down who changed his name, flew to the middle-east under an assumed identity and fake passport, dyed his hair, and more. His big downfall? He used a credit card once he landed -- which was under his old name. And this was using just information available to the credit bureaus to find him. Also... witness protection program? Yup... he found a few of them too. I bet I could have this guy nailed in about four hours if I called the police up and said I was a famous celebrity and he was defaming me on Twitter. Game over.

    All he's proving is that Joe Average doesn't have much power. Big deal. Your neighbor isn't the one you should be worried about finding you anyway -- they lack the technical resources, skills, and moral flexibility to do so. Now, if he wants to do a REAL test of his privacy -- photoshop some photos of a male politician in a pink tutu and make disparaging comments about his sexual orientation. I bet you get a knock on your door within a day. -_-

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcpkaaos (449561)

      I bet you get a knock on your door within a day. -_-

      Or a foot tap.

    • by Joe Snipe (224958)

      So then call your friend and have him help you and split the cash.

    • Now, if he wants to do a REAL test of his privacy -- photoshop some photos of a male politician in a pink tutu and make disparaging comments about his sexual orientation. I bet you get a knock on your door within a day.

      That is, if the politician is a Democrat [slashdot.org] and not a Republican [flickr.com].

      (But seriously folks, it is just me or are the paranoia levels on Slashdot reaching an all time high?)

    • I knew a friend once that did skip-tracing. .... Also... witness protection program? Yup... he found a few of them too.

      Why was a skip tracer hunting people in witness protection? Maybe he didn't care too much about where his paycheck came from...

      • Why was a skip tracer hunting people in witness protection? Maybe he didn't care too much about where his paycheck came from...

        He did care--But people who enter the witness protection program aren't issued new social security numbers.

  • Step 1) Withdraw a large amount of money
    Step 2) Buy the most common car on the roads second hand.
    Step 3) Find a national park that has wireless internet coverage
    Step 4) Buy a nice tent and other camping equipment
    Step 5) Buy a prepaid wireless internet subscription

    Not sure if 3 and 5 are possible in the US, but they are in Sweden.

    • by Cylix (55374)

      Actually, you don't even have to go this far with the restriction of keeping nearly everything legal.

      I could think of a half dozen ways to find him illegally. That said, I don't believe there is much of a point to all of this with such a restriction.

      On the flip side, if you could somehow manage to take him to court it would be win/win. If he shows, you get paid and if he doesn't you can get a default judgment.

      I just need to find a way to get wronged!

  • This seems to be an easy challange to fill /b/ s warchest...

  • Why this fails (Score:5, Insightful)

    by popo (107611) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:14PM (#29122141) Homepage

    The problem, as any Wired writer should know -- is that information wants to be free.

    As the writer himself has observed: Contacting his family or breaking the law are easy ways to retrieve the information.

    Those activities may disqualify the offending "player", but they do not disqualify the underlying data -- which wants to be free -- and can easily be passed on to any party in order to claim the prize.

    So like most "hacks", social-engineering will trump using the "grid".

    And the take-away here is this: There are no rules. There is only data, and it will be free.

    The poor writer is going to find much of his personal life violated, I'm afraid. But the blame falls to him. He should have known better.

  • Such an original idea. Perhaps next they can get an action photo of a football match, airbrush out the football and then invite readers to "spot the ball".
  • Now, how do you want he, dead or alive?
  • Just give me his credit card number, expiration date, and I'll destroy his credit limit in five minutes, ordering all sorts of things and using my real address as the shipping and billing address. Credit institution calls the man a minute after that, gives him the info on my purchases, he shows up at my door in another three minutes, tops!

    Instant $5K out of his paycheck AND added bonus of wreaking havoc with the credit system at the same time!

    • There WAS a comment on the Wired site that if you could somehow force him to come to you, that would be just as valid as going to where you think he is. Just sayin.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gapagos (1264716)

        Except that if you had RTFA, you would be disqualified of the contest for "commiting a crime".

        • by charlesnw (843045)
          Um. How is it a crime if the information is provided to you?
          • by Xylaan (795464)
            Simply having the credit card information does not make you an authorized user. Using the information without authorization counts as fraud.
          • by gapagos (1264716)

            As he said:

            Simply having the credit card information does not make you an authorized user. Using the information without authorization counts as fraud.

        • by Minwee (522556)

          Except that if you had RTFA, you would be disqualified of the contest for "commiting a crime".

          I understand that people around here don't like to read the articles but that's just because they can't be bothered, not because it's against the law.

          Reading The Frakkin' Article is not a crime!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      Credit card fraud. You're not allowed to break the law to find him.
  • How can you be "off the grid" if you are using credit cards?

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @02:12PM (#29123251)
    He's been inside so long his eyes have gone pale.
  • And I took this photo [flickr.com] to prove it.
    I'm calling the Wired editors now to give the password and collect my money.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:41PM (#29124855)

    But not for fun and it was a lot longer than 30 days. A psychotic roommate accused me of attempted murder so I got the heck out of Dodge. While I didn't quit my job and move to a new country, I moved to a new place that couldn't be linked to me in any way. All utilities were in a new roommate's name. I received no mail at the new address. Everything (credit cards, DMV, voter registration, HR records, cell phone bill, bank statements, insurance, etc.) went to a mail drop. When I went out with friends, I'd meet them at our destination. For nearly 3 months, nobody knew where I lived but my new roommates and they knew the situation. For the next 5 or 6 months, only 4 other people knew where I lived. Good thing because my old roommate tried to track me down a couple of times but none of our mutual friends knew where I was. And they were glad that they didn't have to decide whether to give up the info.

    I know I didn't drop entirely off the grid but that wasn't my intent. My intent was to make my new home a sanctuary. I didn't want to have to worry about cops busting down my door in the middle of the night. I didn't want the old roommate showing up to try and work things out or "settle the score". Sure, I could be found at the office any time but at least I could go home at night and know that the only kind of disruption I could face was a phone call.

    Funny thing is my "safe house" was nicer than any place I'd ever lived before. My bedroom with private bath was on the top floor of a brand new 3-story condo. 8 miles from the office on the only stretch of the freeway that doesn't slow to a crawl during rush hour. Private park, BBQs, gym, pool, and hot tubs across the street.

    • by pavon (30274)

      Hmm, so is this where I should feel bad for realizing that I had been living in my new house for 6-7 months before any of my friends knew the address, and unlike the parent I wasn't even trying to keep it a secret?

    • A psychotic roommate accused me of attempted murder

      I didn't want to have to worry about cops busting down my door in the middle of the night

      so I got the heck out of Dodge.

      Wait, someone accuses you of attempted murder, so you figure the best way not to be hassled by the cops about it is to 'run and hide'?!?!?!?!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        He wasn't hiding very well if he still showed up to the same job. The cops are more than happy to walk into your office, throw you on the floor, and arrest in front of all your coworkers, just as much as they are willing to arrest you in the privacy of your own home.

        Isn't it easier to explain to the coworkers that you were out "sick" for a few days, rather than trying to explain the arrest at work?

        Brilliant.

        How about this. With an attorney, you go to the inve

      • by Lunzo (1065904)
        I think the key words you missed in the GP were "psychotic roommate". The poster was hiding from him, not the cops.
      • Obviously, your reading skills are poor. I made a point of explaining my goal very clearly. And don't 'quote' things that aren't quotes.

        My goal was to avoid being hassled AT HOME. My goal was to direct any inquiries to my office where the police would be more likely to be civil and respectful. And there's the legal department and corporate counsel here if it came to that. Also, any contact would occur during business hours when it would be easier to arrange bail, formal legal representation, etc. I ex

  • With Waldo! Can you find him?
  • Reminds me of the old Monty Python sketch...How Not To Be Seen.

    This is Mr. Evan Ratliff of San Francisco, United States. Mr. Ratliff cannot be seen. However, I will ask him to stand up.

    Mr. Ratliff, would you stand up please.

    BOOM!

    Mr. Ratliff has not learned the first lesson of not being seen...not to stand up.

  • Whoever finds him, I strongly recommend you say "You are Evan Ratliff and I claim my five grand!"
  • ... he's chowing down the Cheetohs and Pepsi in his mother's basement playing WoW with a bot posting the tweets.
  • Another WIRED Ad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @12:30AM (#29129525) Journal

    How much is Slashdot getting paid for these ads for Wired? It better be plenty because they're cutting into the credibility here. This latest, a PR boosting (for Wired at the writer) contest announcement, posted in of all places Your Rights Online, is proof positive that if the new eds know what they're doing, they know they're steering this ship towards the icebergs.

    The only thing this article has to do with My Rights Online is people are going to say with mod points that I don't have the right to tell you this shit needs to stop.

  • His Twitter account has been suspended for "strange activity."
  • For all of those saying "It's been done before", can I direct you to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobby_Lud [wikipedia.org]
    &
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brighton_Rock_(novel) [wikipedia.org]

    Grahame Green used this in his novel Brighton Rock (read it, the film's well worth watching as well). Newspapers used this as a marketing gimmick waaay back. "You are and I claim my five pounds" was a usenet catchphrase a back in the day (AICMFP).

    Bah, I feel old now.

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