Ever wanted to get off the grid? Jameson Lopp did. The New York Times has recently published his story, entitled “How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps”.
All began when Lopp had the SWAT team raiding his house. He was no criminal, however, only someone who was targeted by an unknown person who affirmed that he would see a lot more mayhem in case he did not pay a large Bitcoin ransom payment.
Lopp got mad. He soon posted a video on Twitter firing an AR15 rifle in order to show how he was not taking any bullshit from anyone and then he decided that it was the time of getting off the grid. How he would do that? By using a lot of devices and subterfuges.
The man, a self-described libertarian who works for a cryptosecurity firm, was always enamored by the idea of having privacy and he definitely never liked the eyes of the government and of the corporations on him. So, it was the right time to vanish for once and for all. However, he was not hyped by the idea of fleeing to the woods and staying there.
He had a better plan. A plan which, according to The New York Times, involved 15 steps to vanish. Part of that was an experiment, part was the attack. He simply wanted his privacy back.
The Road To Complete Anonymity
The first step was the creation of a new corporate ID. Lopp wanted to buy things as normal people do, but he did not want to reveal his identity. His solution was to create a limited liability company (LLC), which would be his new identity to the world.
This was one of the easiest parts of the plan. Since some states like Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming do not require corporations to name their owner, though, he decided to use one of them to start his “business”.
After creating the company, he decided to set up a bank account using his LLC. This way, nothing that he ever bought could be directly tied to him in any way. He also used it to create a payment card without listing his name.
He decided that the best way not to link too much information to his account was to use prepaid debit cards most of the time since they do not need to list either his name of the LLC’s.
Another interesting idea is that he also started to carry cash around, as it is easy to buy things using cash and nobody asks you who you are.
His fourth step was to get a new phone number. It is easy to link a phone number to a person, as the phone companies have them, so he started using throwaway phone numbers since they are very easy to create and they only cost a few dollars. The wonders of technology.
The next step was to remove geolocation from his phone. He decided to use a dedicated GPS device when traveling instead of his phone because smartphones generally take a lot of information from you whenever you use them.
He moved away from his house as well since it was tied to him. He used the LLC to buy the new property, so it is not tied to his name. The money came from a cashier’s check of the LLC’s bank account.
In order for his neighbors not to blow his cover, he had to use a fake name to be introduced to them. He told The New York Times that it was odd to use a fake name at first but that now he is actually used to it (Jameson Lopp is obviously a fake name).
Another very important step that the man took was to use a VPN at home at all times. He had worked in a marketing company before which tied internet addresses to specific customers using databases, so he wouldn’t have any of that. The VPN was very useful to carefully shield his location from the internet providers, then.
Before he went off the grid, he had a motorcycle and a Lotus Elise car with a license plate which spelled BITCOIN. All that had to go, too, and now he has a considerably more modest and forgettable car, which was bought via the LLC.
He actually even bought a decoy house to fool the DMV, which insisted on a real name to register his new car, as well as a street address. He bought the cheapest house he could find just to use it as an address.
Another important point was that he did not want to be in anyone’s mailing list and not even to register it as the LLC’s name. When he wanted to receive a delivery, he created an actual private mailbox at a shopping center. That felt a little bit “revealing”, he affirmed, though, since the shipper gets the address of the private company.
He also always wear hats and sunglasses. Having plastic surgery was a bit too much for him, but he was afraid of being recognized by facial-recognition software. He also decided to cut his beard to a more manageable length in order to blend in better now.
Working remotely was another important step. Now he always meets up by video conference in places where people will not be able to identify where he is.
When traveling, he always uses encryption devices now. He shuts down his digital devices and encrypts them. However, he still had to use his passport in order to travel to Tokyo recently, which proves that not even with all the effort in the world he was actually able to be 100% protected.
The final step was to hire an actual investor to check his work. He paid more than one private investigator to try to find him. It was this that let him know that his DMV registration made him vulnerable, for instance.
According to him, his efforts have cost him around $30,000 USD. He did mostly know how further he could push this idea but affirmed that he likes his privacy now. Obviously, not a lot of people will follow his journey, but it was a very interesting tale nevertheless.