Forgetting to run your VPN is as bad as not using a VPN at all as one Russian hacker reportedly found out this week when his true location was outed.
Guccifer 2.0 was the moniker who hacked US DNC computers. Who then went on to release emails to Wikileaks causing much embarrassment for Hilary Clinton and her party in the run up to the elections that finally saw Donald Trump elected as US President.
There has been a lot of talk about Russian influence affecting the US presidential elections and to distance him or herself from Russian connections a cover story that Guccifer 2.0 was a Romanian hacker working alone was concocted.
Who was Guccifer 2.0
While there was no evidence to suggest otherwise investigators were sceptical of the lone Romanian hacker story and there had always been suspicion of a Russian connection.
In fact, the US Government went as far to say that they had “high confidence” of a Russian intelligence agency link but didn’t confirm their suspicions with certainty.
As with many large online scandals, user error appears to have finally confirmed the connection between Guccifer 2.0 and Russian intelligence.
Original investigations had traced the DNC hacker to servers in France which were owned by a VPN company called Elite VPN.
Elite VPN has servers in France along with 28 other countries but is actually headquartered in Russia.
While there are plenty of stories of VPN providers who claim to log nothing handing over details which eventually catch hackers and other ne’er do wells, this certainly isn’t one of them.
Trying to get a Russian based VPN provider to cooperate with US law enforcement is about as likely as England winning the World Cup anytime soon.
Don’t forget to hit Connect
In a scoop for US law enforcement it would appear Guccifer 2.0 got sloppy and like most online criminals made a simple human error mistake which led to his real world location being revealed.
It would appear someone using the Guccifer 2.0 persona forgot to connect to the VPN service which was being used to mask their real physical location.
In one social media log, a real IP Address was exposed which in turn was linked to Russia. An IP Address is unique to an internet connection at the time of connection and can give away a physical location.
Investigators were able to track the IP Address to the GRU which is a Russian foreign military organisation. Even more damning evidence was revealed when the IP Address was linked to Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow which just so happens to be the GRU headquarters.
Sloppiness causes privacy issues
A serious case has again shown that user-error is often the weakest point in a user’s online security and privacy.
Most VPN clients from providers such as IPVanish and ExpressVPN have features that will automatically launch on your device start-up and even connect automatically which should mitigate against such memory lapses.
This simple feature could have protected Guccifer 2.0 in the case above.
The story highlights the need for users to be aware of their online security as an ongoing concern and not leave it to random occasions or as a use-once and forget about.