How To Trace People On The Internet

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-- The intrigue generated by the Manti  Te’o  mystery and the fear generated by this week's cyber threat at Ladue Middle School has us wondering how difficult it is to trace people doing things on the internet.

If you have a computer, you probably know that it has a unique number associated with it called the IP address, assigned by your ISP, your internet service provider.

So it would seem to follow that tracking down the truth would be simple when it comes to the Notre Dame football player's mystery girlfriend or the bully who used an Instagram profile this week to post pictures of so called "ugly" kids at Ladue Middle School and then included a picture of the Sandy Hook shooter, just to make people nervous.

But to trace an IP address, first you have to have subpoena power and second, you have to move fast because in many cases those numbers change often and internet service providers don't keep track of them forever.

If a threat comes from a computer at a business it is a lot easier to trace because business IP addresses tend to be permanent.

There had been an attempt in congress to pass bills that would make it easier to trace those IP addresses, but there was so much push back they died. But new legislation is on the horizon which could require ISP providers to keep their logs for at least two years.

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