CBS News® reported today (September 25, 2009) that a digital trail of breadcrumbs led to the arrest of Colorado bombing suspect, Najibullah Zazi.
Apparently, Zazi did not learn in Pakistani terrorist boot camp or elsewhere that accessing a Website records your digital fingerprint; and continuing to use a computer after swapping out the hard drive changes the storage but not your identity.
Each computer has a unique signature called an “IP” address, used to sign-in at whatever Website you access with a Web browser. IP addresses are not part of hard drives. Therefore, thinking you can hide from authorities by installing a new hard drive is like emptying the trunk of your car and filling it with different items for the purpose of concealing your vehicle.
Before the fingerprint penetrated popular culture, criminals left prints all over their crime scenes. Now, there are fewer convictions from prints and more from DNA. The same kind of technological learning curve we saw with prints also exists with computers: Criminals will eventually improve their ability to hide on the Internet. But until that happens, we should see large numbers of convictions from sheer digital incompetence.