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How can a website identify me if I'm using a VPN and an alternative log in?

Bigredbus

Junior Member
Mar 10, 2020
4
0
6
I recently had an account banned by over zealous moderators on a website - lots of people have suffered the same fate after disagreeing with their new policy of profit over community.

I'd been with the site for a long time and lost a lot of contacts etc but decided I'd set up a skeleton account to access the site to be able to message a few of the members. All was fine as I was using a vpn (opera browser) but then after 6 weeks, they flagged the account and banned that one. I assumed that it must've been an issue with the vpn not being active at some point so decided to give it another try through an actual vpn.

I set it up and then, whilst still connected to a vpn, the account was shut down.

I'm really curious as to which ways websites can actually track a user - if all the log in details including email are different and the cookies are deleted and my traffic was routed through a VPN, how would a site be able to identify me? That's very curious. It makes me wonder what data certain websites are collecting.
 

Paperlantern

Platinum Member
Apr 26, 2003
2,235
4
81
Just spitballing here but they may have some kind of fingerprinting code on the site to thwart this kind of behavior. Granted, that does seem a little overboard for a forum site, but it depends on how serious they are taking their bans. The capability exists to have the browser query various aspects of the system and build a fingerprint for each user. If you connected with the same system, whether it was coming from a different network or not, it may have matched your banned account and thus, banned that one too. I'm not saying this is what happened but it is one possibility.
 

Bigredbus

Junior Member
Mar 10, 2020
4
0
6
Just spitballing here but they may have some kind of fingerprinting code on the site to thwart this kind of behavior. Granted, that does seem a little overboard for a forum site, but it depends on how serious they are taking their bans. The capability exists to have the browser query various aspects of the system and build a fingerprint for each user. If you connected with the same system, whether it was coming from a different network or not, it may have matched your banned account and thus, banned that one too. I'm not saying this is what happened but it is one possibility.
Thanks for the reply. Yeah it looks like the fingerprinting is the most likely option - after a quick nosy around it looks like if I stick to Brave or Firefox, that shouldn't be an issue.

I've managed to get new IP adys on my mobile and broadband (it's through a 4G router so that was as easy as ipconfig /release and turning off the router for a while) so in theory, if I stick to one of the aforementioned browsers, that "should" sort things out as far as I can foresee.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
5,194
395
126
It appears to me that you want to circumvent their ban, which is yet another reason you should be banned.

Realize something, that if it's a privately owned site, and you are banned, you are trespassing on private property. Most sites wouldn't bother taking legal action since the existing law on the topic is still open to interpretation (but that could work in favor of the site, too), and it's a lot less work and better PR to just wait and nip the problems in the bud again as they resurface.

You don't mention the site size, how the owner and management structure is there which can make a big difference. Perhaps they are lenient, seeing if you can behave yourself but then you messaged people trying to stir up trouble, then one of those people tattled on you, and that's how they realized, OR perhaps you went back to your old habits that got you banned in the first place, so either this new ban was entirely independent of the old ban, or you were recognized.

There's no "fingerprinting" thing used on standard forums, cookies yes but this is server side and custom code would have to be set up, yet you stated you cleared cookies.

Now I should ask, Were you banned here on AT? You start posting this topic with only 0 posts to your name. Why? If it's not Anandtech then why not just mention the site?

Maybe this is all just a big misunderstanding on my part, but I deal with and ban punks on a regular basis on a site. I've blocked entire VPNs, not just IPs, to keep some people out who wouldn't take the hint after it was no longer a hint. They make a post, they send a message, I've got the originating IP and if it's a VPN, so it is.

If those ex-members came back and didn't try to pull crap, there'd be no reason to ban them again. They'd be acting like they were supposed to in the first place. It's nothing personal, except to the people who can't behave.

Again, sorry if I'm getting your situation wrong but I doubt it. When you are banned, that is not an invitation to create a new account and try to hide your identity. At the same time, lifetime /permabans seem a bit harsh to me and I consider it better to give people a vacation period instead, but some will just create a new account right away, or come back after the vacation, having learned nothing.
 
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Bigredbus

Junior Member
Mar 10, 2020
4
0
6
Thanks for taking the time to vent your proverbial spleen on that one. I didn't appreciate the language used so I'll not be commenting on the details.

You sound like a particularly overzealous "jobsworth" moderator, the only question for you would be as to which website you moderate so I don't ever make the mistake of registering!
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
5,194
395
126
You're the one who managed to get yourself banned while obviously, remaining members didn't. Ponder what makes you so special.

You are welcome to set up your own site to do whatever you want to on it, and on that site, you are welcome to ban anyone you want to. See how that works?

What site was it? If in your heart of hearts, you really think this was an injustice, contact the mod's superiors. Good luck with that. ;)
 

Bigredbus

Junior Member
Mar 10, 2020
4
0
6
Thanks again for your oh so valuable input - always appreciated. You know none of the details and, they are none of your business. I'm sure you'll want to last word - your kind always does! So I'll remove the notifications for this thread as I have had useful advice and my posting has served it's purpose. I've also located the "ignore" option - fabulous!

Now troll along and bother someone else - thanks! Have a wonderful day! :grinning:



Thanks to those of you who offered up your helpful suggestions!
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
32,803
2,739
126
Thanks again for your oh so valuable input - always appreciated. You know none of the details and, they are none of your business. I'm sure you'll want to last word - your kind always does! So I'll remove the notifications for this thread as I have had useful advice and my posting has served it's purpose. I've also located the "ignore" option - fabulous!

Now troll along and bother someone else - thanks! Have a wonderful day! :grinning:



Thanks to those of you who offered up your helpful suggestions!
You need to understand and I believe that it is against these forum rules to help you in circumventing a ban on another forum!
Just by your replies to others in this thread I would guess that the ban was justified!
Also whether it was justified or not it happened and you should examine what YOU did to facilitate the ban!
As was mentioned if you feel mistreated you can always contact the head of the forum or head moderator! Good luck with that....
 
Feb 4, 2009
25,959
6,615
136
I recently had an account banned by over zealous moderators on a website - lots of people have suffered the same fate after disagreeing with their new policy of profit over community.

I'd been with the site for a long time and lost a lot of contacts etc but decided I'd set up a skeleton account to access the site to be able to message a few of the members. All was fine as I was using a vpn (opera browser) but then after 6 weeks, they flagged the account and banned that one. I assumed that it must've been an issue with the vpn not being active at some point so decided to give it another try through an actual vpn.

I set it up and then, whilst still connected to a vpn, the account was shut down.

I'm really curious as to which ways websites can actually track a user - if all the log in details including email are different and the cookies are deleted and my traffic was routed through a VPN, how would a site be able to identify me? That's very curious. It makes me wonder what data certain websites are collecting.
No suggestion other than why bother logging into some forum or website that plainly doesn’t want you as a “customer”
 

mikeford

Diamond Member
Jan 27, 2001
5,285
59
91
Both "real" suggestions sound likely to me, fingerprinting, and VPN IP block blacklisted. Welcome to the age of censorship.
 

Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,355
305
126
I'll take advantage of this topic to share two 'other side' stories about bans; with a prefatory comment that I pretty much agree with everything mindless1 said and am generally on the side of banning quite nasty people, even agreeing with his caution on permanent bans. It's a chance to blast Amazon again, well-deserved.

Amazon permanently banned me from posting anything on the site - reviews, questions about products. I must have done something pretty terrible, right? No, they did.

They used to have public forums, with many general topics. What they chose to do, and were not honest about - this is a combination of fact and my opinion of what's pretty clear - is create an automated moderation system. The forums unfortunately collected groups of people - we could call them somewhat inaccurately trolls - who would decide there were people whose posts they didn't like, and mass downvote their posts.

How would I know? Besides the comments, when you put up a long post on a topic, submit it, and within a few second before it can even be read, it has multiple downvotes, it's clear. It was more obvious in my forum, politics, but I saw it others like religious discussion also.

Then, the bans started. Suddenly, masses of people were gone. Some made other accounts and discussed what happened. They all received an e-mail (there was one warning, and the second notification was a permanent ban), that was faked to sound like personalized moderation, saying 'after careful review of your posts, we found you posted spiteful content'.

Funny thing. There was zero communication possible with the moderators, no evidence was offered, some of the banned people were clearly not posting 'spiteful' content, and everyone got the exact same letter, making 'spiteful content' memorable.

Now, it's worse than that. Not only was the first ban a permanent ban, it wasn't just for the forums, but all of Amazon.

AND they retroactively removed the product reviews and other content you had previously posted!

That's an insanely anti-customer, abusive, irresponsible moderation policy. Shortly after, they shut down the forums; the bans remained.

In short, another way Amazon is sometimes a horrible company and deserves shunning, despite their other times having very good customer service. Very good or horrible.

Second story about such bans, there's an online game, Overwatch.

It has a lot of toxic players, everyone agrees.

The problem with these moderation issues - which Amazon was dishonest about and Overwatch secretive about - is that 'real' moderation is impractical. Buy Overwatch and you spend $30, that covers the game's development, ovrhead, and unlimited online play. Where would the budget be for them to have people reading messages and listening to voice chat for thousands of games for each player, even just the ones reported (I had to report thousands of toxic player actions).

So they're basically forced into an automated system. But what breaks that system are two things.

First is that players who are so toxic, can abuse the system to report the people who criticize their behavior. That adds up. Toxic players recognize names, and automatically report people. So while the system tends to catch the toxic people who get a lot of reports, it also catches the people toxic players report back. It's a bit more complicated, but not worth getting into the weeds, that's the main issue here.

The second problem is that they could address the first one with a quality appeal system - people who actually review record of messages and voice records - but even appeals aren't very practical - if someone spends thousands of hours, how do you listen to all that voice chat - and they appear to not make even a minimal effort for a quality appeal.

In fact, while they have a multiple step system of increasing bans, players aren't warned when the next ban is permanent, or even told it is permanent when it's done, there's just no end date given.

Their system has an option for 'one appeal', making it clear it's one and then never talk to them again and they won't respond any further - but it says that they will only consider appeals for people who can show their accounts were used without authorization by someone else, not looking at the question of whether the ban was otherwise justified.

And that's that. They have decided, it seems, to throw out the players wrongly banned with the ones rightly banned, and not worry about it. They got your money when you bought the game, it saves them money if you can't play, who cares?

Now, if they'd like to be at all self-righteous about protecting players - it's very easy to not be banned in an approved way: re-buy the game, and you're back in chat, and welcome. Give them more money for the re-purchase, and the door is open. Appeal, that would cost them money.

There's no easy answer, because moderation is costly. Too hard, ban people for wrong reasons with automated systems. Too easy, and toxic behavior is too common. But I think these are two examples where they're worse than they should be.
 
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Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,355
305
126
As for the OP's behavior - not enough info to judge his ban. Most times people get around bans, they're wrong; there are cases for it sometimes.

I do note he was asked if the site he was banned from is AT, and he did not answer, and has that obvious post count.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
5,194
395
126
Craig234, I didn't notice your post about Amazon. That happened to me too! Permaban, "spiteful posts", though ironically the only time I ever posted in their forum was to ask why I'd received a warning email and oddly some of my product reviews remain on their site even though they removed a massive chunk of them, none of which were controversial or troll-like, so apparently they don't just use a nuke-it-from-orbit button to remove all reviews, might be manually done and they got tired of clicking the delete button, lol.
 
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Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,355
305
126
Craig234, I didn't notice your post about Amazon. That happened to me too! Permaban, "spiteful posts", though ironically the only time I ever posted in their forum was to ask why I'd received a warning email and oddly some of my product reviews remain on their site even though they removed a massive chunk of them, none of which were controversial or troll-like, so apparently they don't just use a nuke-it-from-orbit button to remove all reviews, might be manually done and they got tired of clicking the delete button, lol.
Hi, sorry it happened to you also. Your story supports how abusive and arbitrary their actions were.

From talking to people, the suspicion was that they deleted some period of reviews, such as your most recent in however long. Were the ones you had deleted your more recent ones?
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
5,194
395
126
^ Yes, appeared to be the more recent going back a few years, though I didn't really do a comprehensive check or anything. Hmm, I could be wrong, still haven't done a comprehensive check but just searched reviews for something I bought in 2012 and 2007 (which I thought was before the cutoff date, whatever that date might have been) and both of those reviews are gone, and 0 reviews showing on my amazon profile.

I'm really not upset about my reviews being gone. I recall that for a time, for months after I was banned, I'd get emails that people had commented on my reviews and I was unable to post anything to interact or answer their questions, so it was annoying to be getting the email updates... which was the primary way I realized that some of my reviews hadn't been deleted.

The funny part is, that deleting my reviews... if anything was "spiteful", that'd be it, but if they can't disable email notifications instead then it is a better outcome for me. Maybe I could've disabled the notifications but I'd be getting them along with other emails I had to attend to, so just deleted them to clear them out and never got around to looking for that amazon profile feature.

Ultimately it reflects badly on Amazon and I always remember that when I consider a purchase, makes me pause and look elsewhere because Amazon isn't always the lowest price and their PR, is value detracted.
 
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