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Stay Off the Grid, Win $10,000 228

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the running-man dept.
DariusD writes "Last summer, Wired writer Evan Ratliff wrote a story about how people erase their identities and start over. After it ran, he tried to disappear — spending 25 days on the lam until a few enterprising Wired readers tracked him down through some brilliant hacking and sleuthing. Now we're going to try the experiment again. Evan, Wired, Loneshark Games and I are working with Universal Pictures to do another, similar contest connected to the new film Repo Men, and this time we want you to go on the run. We need four applicants willing to disappear from their lives from late February to late March. If they can stay hidden for that time period, they'll end up with $10,000 each."
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Stay Off the Grid, Win $10,000

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  • by RemusX2 (726167) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:05PM (#31037688)
    This is a great opportunity for those unemployed to ,well, still be unemployed!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)

      Well, except for the fact that they are selecting 4 people, and they aren't quite so likely to select people that have it easy.

  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:06PM (#31037694) Homepage

    Easy with one caveat. It would only be easy for people who wouldn't want to take part in the first place.

    For the twittering, facebooking, wannabe internet-celebrity, attention whores, who would take part; they'd blow it.

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger (8636) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:21PM (#31037912)

      Easy with one caveat. It would only be easy for people who wouldn't want to take part in the first place.

      Indeed. All you'd have to do is get a friend to give you a lift to a national park and spend the month camping, and when you need something, walk out to the nearest town and pay in cash. This time of year, you'd probably want to choose a park in the southern parts of the country -- the accompanying Deliverance joke is left as an exercise to the reader -- but that's about it. Even if you're the governor of South Carolina -- the Appalachian Trail is the last place they'd look for you.

      • For that prize, I could even convince a friend of mine to take my ATM cards and start off in the opposite direction, leaving a trail of ATM bills on his way.

        Of course I'll make sure my account does not contain my life savings... But it should provide a nice red herring.

      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

        by smclean (521851) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:43PM (#31038258) Homepage

        In the Wired article, Evan regularly logged in to the internet and even conversed with people involved in the hunt.

        Clearly this is not the way to disappear from society, so I wouldn't be surprised if the contest includes rules mandating you to do certain things that make you catchable.

        If someone with outdoor experience just walked off in to the wilderness, they would not be found. The Appalachian Trail might as well be an interstate freeway compared to the isolation that's possible if you just wander off cross-country.

        I'd love 10 grand to go on a month long backpacking trip, and you better believe a lot of other people would too!

        • Re:Easy (Score:4, Funny)

          by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:10PM (#31038640)

          I'd love 10 grand to go on a month long backpacking trip, and you better believe a lot of other people would too!

          The problem is that you will eventually run across mutant wilderness hillbillies.

          • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mdarksbane (587589) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:18PM (#31038768)

            That's what concealed carry laws are for.

            Oh wait, you're in the middle of the wilderness.

            That's what open carry laws are for.

            • Yeah, but why risk getting snagged on a branch?

              (hunters around here actually have been harassed for this, keeping their pistol warm under their coat or protected while climbing over bramble during pistol season).

          • by lorenlal (164133)

            mutant wilderness hillbillies

            redundant...

            Actually, I'd be more afraid of the wilderness finding me... In the form of bears, wolves, and possibly rabbits with *big pointy teeth.*

        • by fm6 (162816)

          Why bother with the wilderness? Check into a motel that takes cash in some town where nobody knows you. As you say, there have to be rules about how much you can isolate yourself.

        • by eth1 (94901)

          Still...

          1. Create new and/or change pw on online accounts
          2. Borrow someone else's cell who's in on it
          3. Dad, you're retired... why not take a road trip?
          3. Call dad's cell phone: "can you log in to X and make Y update for me?"
          4. profit!

          Now, if I had to go to work during that time, it could be problematic. There's a REAL challenge, since you don't know who in the company (of 100k+) might be playing on the opposition.

        • In the Wired article, Evan regularly logged in to the internet and even conversed with people involved in the hunt.

          Clearly this is not the way to disappear from society, so I wouldn't be surprised if the contest includes rules mandating you to do certain things that make you catchable.

          If someone with outdoor experience just walked off in to the wilderness, they would not be found. The Appalachian Trail might as well be an interstate freeway compared to the isolation that's possible if you just wander off cross-country.

          I'd love 10 grand to go on a month long backpacking trip, and you better believe a lot of other people would too!

          The AT is known to be the more "social" of the big 3 trails. In a way, the AT is perfect, no one uses their real names anyway, just a trail name. For more solitude, go with the Pacific Crest trail or Central Divide trail.

        • I can't talk about the US but in Australia there are plenty of places where you can get totally lost and never see anybody, but those places don't have water. In places which do have water you will encounter other people. One strategy which might work is to find a way to publicise pictures of the person you are looking for with an offer to split the prize with the people who find them. I think that would have a pretty good chance of success.

          Several times recently when people have gone missing in the bush st

        • Re:Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Friday February 05, 2010 @07:05PM (#31040838) Journal

          We will provide you with vital technology and seed money to get you through your month on the run.

          like a GPS enabled phone?

          Applicants must be willing to abide by all contest rules...

          and from the application:

          Official Rules will be provided to Runners before being officially named a Runner.

          Why not post the rules?

          The application looks like something my nephew might vomit out of MS Word in a few minutes.....this doesn't look terribly well thought out.

      • by epiphani (254981)

        Not to mention that the people with sufficient technical knowledge to successfully evade being tracked down electronically (while still being online) certainly can't afford a month off work with only $10k as a prize.

        Make it $100K (and available to Canadians), give me a $10k budget, and I'd probably blow my entire vacation allotment for the year on this.

        In fact, I'll arrange be online for several hours a day, and you still won't find me.

      • by pilgrim23 (716938)
        I am pretty sure the challenge is not re-create the movie Jeremiah Johnson but to accomplish this INSIDE our society. and such CAN be done. Use a pay phone to call, use a public library to connect with the web. live somewhere not your own (like a Salvation Army Hotel or Youth Hostel), pay in cash for everything. that is, carry cash not a ATM, toss your iPhone GPS, and other gadgets, then while at the library learn the great wonder and pleasure of reading a paper book with OUT a Kindel or Sony. Honestly
      • by mollog (841386)
        Nah, you're making it hard.

        Prepaid cellphone, new laptop, internet cafe for going online, and use cash. Frickin' Saudi's are probably pretty good at staying below the radar. Pick one of them.
    • Absolutely.

      One can just rent a comfy boat, stock up on freeze-dried food and stay out at sea for months. Even if they find your boat info, how are they going to find you, even with access to satellites? There are tens of thousands of pleasure boats at sea at any given time and they do not have highly visible identification. Any inspections come when you come to port or near some country's shores. And you can always dock in some tropical island that does not have their port authority on the net.

      But of cour

      • by fotbr (855184)

        That's the way I'd do it. Get service from a company like http://www.inmarsat.com/ [inmarsat.com] and a decent sized sailboat full of food, water, fuel, and books, and I'll be happy floating around the Pacific for a month.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      You got it. Disappearing is actually VERY EASY if you understand what you have to do and actually do it.

      Calling ANYONE you used to know is out.
      using ANY of your online stuff is OUT.

      You have to cut it and leave it all alone, in fact train yourself to use a different name, easy to do if your first name is incredibly common. John's have it really easy.

      Everyone who get's caught did so because they did not leave their old life alone.

  • Dear Boss, (Score:5, Funny)

    by boneglorious (718907) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:09PM (#31037726) Journal
    I'll be out of the office for a month. Please ignore the anonymous person checking stuff into the svn repo, I swear it isn't me...
  • Just get enough money in cash, go to mexico/canada which ever is farther from your normal place of residence and spend the time at campgrounds.

    • Heck, if you've got any survival training (I do), forget the campgrounds. You can easily carry tent, gear and a month's supply of food for one person and completely disappear.
      • Re:Seems easy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:29PM (#31038042)

        Provided your country allows that. Mine doesn't. "Wild camping" is not permitted, it's considered a form of squatting (which is also not allowed).

        Police state? Just 'cause I have to inform the authorities when I spend more than 30 days in one place (or not in my usual place)? How dare you say that?

        • by abigor (540274)

          Where the hell do you live? It sounds horrible.

          • Re:Seems easy (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:48PM (#31038324)

            Welcome to the wonderful world of the EU. Of course, my guess is that this law is a relict of about 70 years ago. We still have a few of those.

            The worst isn't the law itself, the worst is how people view it. It has been this way for so long that people got used to it and don't even question it anymore. They just do. I'm guilty of that behaviour as well. It wasn't until my first visit to the US that I started to wonder. When you travel to the US, you have to state where you will spend the first four weeks of your trip. No problem for me, I was used to that. It wasn't until I asked where I have to go to inform the authorities that I was going to change my place of residence that I got weird looks.

            Until then, even I didn't wonder what this should serve questioned it. And I'm usually quite sensitive to privacy invasion concerns. So I guess if we want to fight the erosion of privacy rights, we have to do it now before people get too used to it.

            • by abigor (540274)

              Doesn't Sweden allow wild camping - "every man's right" or whatever, or is that just Norway?

              Perhaps it's only banned on a country by country basis. France bans it, but I find it hard to believe that you can't camp in Poland's Tatra Mountains, for example.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by yahwotqa (817672)

                You can't, because it's a national park.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by iJusten (1198359)
                There's "Everyman's Right" in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Austria. They allow hiking and camping on areas that aren't obviously someone's backyard. Scotland allows walking in the wilderness freely, but with some heavier restrictions (though what I have seen of the country, they couldn't really enforce if somebody would decide to set up a camp for few days). England and Wales allows hiking, but apparently camping is frowned upon.

                From experience, I also note that while camping in forests may no
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by knarf (34928)

                  I have camped just about anywhere in the Netherlands, one of those countries which do not allow 'free camping'. Once I had my tent set up next to a forest path in the province of Limburg (bordering Belgium, in the south) when a police officer came by on his bicycle. I happened to be cooking some food. Guess what the policeman did?

                  He wished me a pleasant dinner and cycled off.

                  Those rules about 'free camping' are in the books and will be enforced against those who misbehave by littering, making noise, destroy

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Alioth (221270)

              The EU isn't a country. There are many countries in the EU where you don't have to tell anyone if you don't want to. Of course, if you live in a property pretty much anywhere in the western world you have to register with someone because there will be property taxes of some sort. At least in the UK (an EU country) you don't have to report to the authorities if you're staying somewhere for a while.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by otter42 (190544)

              Wow, way to overgeneralize. Having spent 8 years in the EU, I can guarantee that that's not what I lived. France, for instance, required none of that.

              Maybe next time you'd like to say the countries you were in, instead of just the blanket "EU"?

        • "Wild camping" is not permitted, it's considered a form of squatting (which is also not allowed).

          You're just not trying hard enough to stay hidden ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by c_sd_m (995261)

        There are huge chunks of crown land in many parts of Canada where any citizen can backcountry camp for free and unregistered. Unfortunately, they also tend to be in places you wouldn't really want to spend March. It'd be an unpredictable time to pack for a month, given that you could have a spring melt or -25C. It'd be a lot more comfortable in a heated yurt or tentipi [tentipi.com] in a national or provincial park, perhaps with some cross-country ski trails for entertainment. They'll claim they want your name but I've n

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          There are giant swaths of canada that are beautiful, until the black flies eat all the flesh from your bones....

          Holy crap you guys have some evil bugs.

    • by uncledrax (112438)

      if you can, without doing it illegally, as per the rules of the game, get into a foreign nation, go for it.

      I'm gonna guess that remaining in the continental US is probably a game requirement.

      IMO, the best way to win would be to enter as a fake person.. can't find someone that doesn't actually exist. Perhaps as your pet dog, with some photo shopped photo/video entries?

    • Just get enough money in cash, go to mexico/canada which ever is farther from your normal place of residence and spend the time at campgrounds.

      No need to do that. Western Union is your friend. Keep your ATM card. The last thing you do as you leave town is to use an ATM, visit Western Union, send cash, go to any town other than to where you sent it and pick it up claiming travel problems. Knowing the test question and answer and MCTM is enough if the country is right. To mix it up, alternate with Moneyg

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:11PM (#31037766) Homepage

    The summary seems misleading. From what I understand, you aren't allowed to actually drop off the grid - they want you to actually perform certain activities, check in, provide clues, etc.

    Otherwise I'd just take a month off of work and buy a ton of food and go wilderness camping somewhere (Canada would be nice, but not in Feb). There is almost no way anybody would be able to track you down.

    On the other hand, I'd never take a month of vacation time just to live like a hermit and maybe win $10k - they really need to up the ante if they want people to do this for real.

    It sounds like the contest is just about lying low, but posting hints. That obviously makes you far more detectable than if you were allowed to participate without any constraints.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So just do any online stuff at a library early in the morning on your way to the next town, or use wireless outside of any place that offers free wireless. Of course proxy everything through the pc you left on at your own home.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GIL_Dude (850471)
        True, and also have some friends in various locales around the world/country post things to your various accounts as well - without using any proxies.
    • by noidentity (188756) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:31PM (#31038064)
      Yeah, I too was disappointed on reading the rules. I was thinking, "yes, living in the basement and rarely going out will finally pay off!"
    • by Rick17JJ (744063)
      One of the webpages says is temporarily unavailable, so I do not see anything about not being able to just drop off the grid. I was thinking that what I could bury several caches of dried food, water and other supplies in the the most remote parts of the mountains of northern Arizona. I could then remove the battery from my cell phone and go backpacking for a couple of months. As needed, I could restock my pack with supplies from one of my hidden caches. That would be living off the grid.

      If the rules requ
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        You got the right idea. Simply "STEAL" open wifi at random locations. a biquad antenna fits in a pocket and can suck up a strong wifi signal from nearly a 1/4 mile away if you have a clear shot.

        Also dont follow a pattern. if you get online, sign up for a free VPn trial with a ddisposable address and connect to it and then to twitter, or another place. be random and never EVER use the same path twice.

        Actually the rules you would use to hack computer networks in the old days apply heavily here.

        • If you plan to do everything from a relatively confined area (probably a better challenge more akin to starting a new life) try to come up with a way of making your activities not look like a pattern.

          If you have a sort of home base (a forest you are camping out in or whatever), your natural inclination is to do things somewhat equally around that area. You might steal wifi a mile north and make a phone call a mile to the southeast..get enough of these and its easy to figure out where you are.

          you would

    • It looks to me that they have basically taken the Running Man show from the book and made it real.

      Unlike that bullshit movie that was made with the same title, same character names, but the story was nothing at all like the book.

      I imagine they would use the Running Man title if they could get permission to.

    • by Speare (84249)

      On the other hand, I'd never take a month of vacation time just to live like a hermit and maybe win $10k - they really need to up the ante if they want people to do this for real.

      You wouldn't necessarily have to drop off the grid or be a hermit, but going to Japan would knock off about 98% of your pursuers and be a lot of fun at the same time. Sure, some English-speaking network experts also speak or read Japanese (especially American otaku) but the group gets much smaller and at the same time the search w

    • by eth1 (94901)

      Two people might be able to do it quite easily... The "public" one is the one that stays in hiding somewhere, while the other one travels around.

      The traveller has a laptop with wi-fi and and a cellular card. He can set up shop anywhere, and the "public" person can remote the laptop via the cell card and be online from anywhere. The searchers could be standing right next to the accomplice and not know it. Even if they suspect it, they can't do squat about it.

      Sort of a mobile "air gap"

    • by spike1 (675478)

      So, basically...
      It's "Wanted".
      In the 90s UK's channel 4 ran 2 series of it, the rules were, you were allowed to travel anywhere so long as you didn't cross your own path, you had to perform a task each day for the week, and on the final day of the week when the show was due to be broadcast, you had to be in a phone box while the tracker tried to locate you.

      If you managed to evade capture you won 1000 quid for each day you didn't get photographed by the tracker AND completed the task. Then went on the run fo

  • 1) Collude with a very good friend. Live in their basement the entire month and never going outside. Split the prize with them at the end.

  • Site comes up with a 'suspended' page... maybe he should cancel the contest and use the 10k to pay off the bandwidth overages he probably just incurred from this... not to mention the resource spike i'm sure he just hit. looks to have been a shared hosting server. Ouch.
  • by lupinstel (792700) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:22PM (#31037928)

    I have seen this setup many times before. Once you sign up you are soon hunted for sport by wealthy businessmen and heads of state. You will disappear forever and "win" the $10,000, but your stuffed and mounted corpse won't be able to spend it from the underground chamber it is displayed in. I have seen this happen; beware.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:24PM (#31037948)
    1. Create a phony identity.
    2. Apply for the Wired "Off The Grid" contest.
    3. Stop using that identity for the duration of the contest.
    4. ?????
    5. Profit!
  • I read the Wired article, and I never really figured out what he was trying to accomplish with his little experiment. Can anybody fill in the blanks for me?

    • Sure. It's a test of how big a cam-whore you are.

      The people who feel the obsessive-compulsive need for celebrity and constantly barrage twitter/facebook/myspace with updates every five minutes are trying to find other people like them to do the same thing, but while running around being sillier than usual.

      The rest of us will just scratch our heads and wonder what the world is coming to.

    • It is a movie promotion. Nothing more.

  • by chill (34294) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:29PM (#31038036) Journal

    http://www.howtobeinvisible.com/ [howtobeinvisible.com]

    After several months of unemployment, I landed a job a couple weeks ago otherwise this would be a cakewalk.

    1. Pay cash for EVERYTHING.
    2. If you must use a PC, use a foreign proxy. (To check in by the rules, etc.)
    3. If you must use a phone, keep the battery removed unless required by the rules to check in.
    4. Don't frequent places you normally do. (If you play tennis a lot, take up bowling, etc.)
    5. Head back-country for some extended camping. Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota or the Dakotas come to mind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Svartalf (2997)

      Interesting link. Ironic though that you have to supply information to the site just to get the guide- isn't it a bit of a violation of the rules of the game giving out information to get info on how to become anonymous? (Hey, I thought that all you need to become Anonymous is be lurking around on 4Chan...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rei (128717)

      5. Head back-country for some extended camping. Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota or the Dakotas come to mind.

      Bah, you call that backcountry? Go to Nahanni [wikipedia.org] ;) Under 1,000 people visit the ~11,500 mi^2 park each year, and the only realistic way to get in is by bushplane. Most of the people who do visit stay clustered around the river. It's a place so remote that they actually *encourage* you to not camp or hike in the same places as other people, in order to spread the impact around. Infrared would be p

      • by chill (34294)

        I was assuming that you can't leave the U.S. :-) I believe I'd prefer certain places in Central America during late February as opposed to arctic Canada. But, hey, that's just me.

  • Navy solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:33PM (#31038118)

    Sign up just before beginning a deployment on a nuclear missile sub.

    • Fast Attack is better. At least you get into port now and again. :-) They even have email that can be sent from the sub (my son emails me from his deployments from time to time while at sea on the USS Albany).
    • I was thinking the same thing... I already have four SSBN patrols under my belt. Thirty days away from my life? Pfft. I could practically do that standing on my head.

  • I mean really - 4 weeks? I'd pull a thousand bucks out of the bank, rent a car, drive a few hundred miles, take a bus or something to the trailhead and spend a nice month hiking the Appalacian Trail or something, paying cash for my food. Always wanted to do that anyway, and for $10,000 it'd be a nice vacation. Do the rules say you have to be transacting business, or in populated areas or anything?

  • web server (Score:5, Funny)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:41PM (#31038234)

    "If you are the owner or webmaster for this web site please contact your web site hosting company's support department."

    It looks like the webserver for this story entered the contest.

  • That wouldn't even cover the expenses incurred covering your tracks, nevermind having to get by after the fact until you can find a new job.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by julesh (229690)

      That wouldn't even cover the expenses incurred covering your tracks, nevermind having to get by after the fact until you can find a new job.

      I'd do it for half that, but my guess is they won't let somebody outside the US take part (site's slashdotted, so I can't check). They only want about a month's worth of hiding, so I'd need about $2500 for expenses. I'm willing to give up my time for another $2500. Might be an interesting way of spending a month.

  • Wired writer Evan Ratliff wrote a story about how people erase their identities and start over.

    We're getting ready to sell our house and move, only we're not buying another house right away. We're going to investigate locations to build an off-grid concrete home. In getting set up to go mobile I realized how easy it would be to make a few changes and drop off society completely. Not only can you do it, but if you have the money you can do it in style and comfort.

    My wife has a medical condition that

  • If 10 grand would cover a vacation to some remote island in the pacific?
  • But one assumes that there are restrictions in place that make it virtually certain that an experienced skip tracer will be able to find you.

    Without rules it is trivially easy to disappear and never be heard from again.
  • Most everyone assumes that Jack Bauer/CTU, the NSA and the military are actively *chasing* you. That's ridiculous. Unless the rules require you to start in a specific location at a specific time, this should be trivial and not even require leaving the city you live in (although it might help to avoid places you would normally frequent).

    Just get an extended-stay room at some anonymous hotel or furnished apartment in someone else's name, paying cash, including leaving a huge cash deposit for consumables lik

  • 10 year old 1: Want to play hide and seek?
    10 year old 2: Yeah!
    1: You know the rules right?
    2: Yep, you're never gonna find me!
    1: Yes I will, you can only hide in the kitchen and you have to talk to me while I look, it's part of the rules.
    2: That's not a very fun game...

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