Going to cover like 3 of yours posts here lol. Firstly, welcome to HTS. Second, glad you are already familiar with programming and are using linux. You love to read, win!
I'll start by saying that the paranoid survive. I don't care if you (black) hack for a living or only illegally download 1 song a year. You need to watch yourself.
A_new_dave wrote:If you could start out again and create yourself totally "off the grid" how would you do it?
You can actually do this at any point and time you like. Sometimes its not a bad idea depending on your habits. The way you set yourself up can determine how easily this can go. Here are few pointers to your post:
1. Never EVER use the same username/email twice. This includes your passwords.
2. Never EVER boast about your illegal dealings. People check for validity and do their own research on you and the target to ensure you aren't lying. There is just no need to go down that road.
3. As far as making friends go. Don't trust anyone, period. You'll make connections along the way but never divulge too much information about yourself. Point 1 and 2 are very important with meeting the underground populace. Make sure that if you start making 'friends' you find everything out about that them that you can.
4. You've got an idea on how tracing works, awesome. Check the laws in your state/country and find out what the police have to do in order to get to you. For example; it takes a warrant in some cases for the police to get your physical address from your ISP.
5. In regards to your IP and security. There are numerous ways to stay hidden. But without going too outlandish with it: Get yourself another hardrive (or large flash drive) to do all your fun
stuff on. Make sure nobody ever ever finds it. Running a live CD for the OS isn't a bad idea. Soon as you power down everything goes back to zero. Proxies are good, but I get nervous about using them sometimes. I suggest TOR. Don't be lazy with just TOR Button. Get the full client and configure it properly. You might be using TOR for surfing the net, but what about your tools? They will leave your fingerprint too. If you torrent (illegally), stop all uploads! Looking back at point 1. If you have an email used for anything questionable, never log into it with an unguarded IP. Using your neighbors wireless is not usually the best idea. I'll discuss further on technical specifics if you'd like. Coffeehouses for example aren't a bad idea. Just be weary of cameras. Hacking from your car isn't a bad idea either. Just be careful nobody sees you. A cop WILL come up to say hi if he sees you with your seat back pounding away on your laptop for more than a few min and you never get out to go anywhere. I've heard mention of using airport wifi, but I just don't trust them. If you ever leave your house/computer unattended for a couple of days or you physically move addresses, delete all your tools. Just do it. You should know where to find them, how to instal and configure them anyway. It doesn't take long. If for some instance someone breaks in and steals your machine and goes home and plugs it in and your comp is hot, it wont be long before the thief comes forward about where he stole it if being accused of hacking charges.
Don't stress too hard though. If you did you would never use the internet lol. There is no sure way to stay completely hidden. But look at it from a realistic approach. There are uncountable user connections to websites and servers all day everyday. Don't ever be scared of doing research. Nothing illegal about that nor is it considered questionable (as long as you don't search, how to haxxor facebook, FBI home page, etc). You are right, the admins here could look you up if they wanted to. But since we don't condone illegal activities here, there really isn't any reason to. You aren't connected to anything (here). Just in case though, if someone gets your computer delete your cookies and web history after every use if you are nervous about that end.
Just be sure to never let your questionable happenings cross into your legitimate everyday usage. That line is entirely based on the individual. But more connections means more ground you have to cover to sweep up your tracks.
** Homework assignment for you: Do some research on "doxing." Second, find some articles on hackers getting arrested. Police love to boast how they tracked them down. Let it be a lesson. **