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Has the Tor takedown begun?

Posted by on December 22, 2014.

Three days ago the TOR Project blog warned,

The Tor Project has learned that there may be an attempt to incapacitate our network in the next few days through the seizure of specialized servers in the network called directory authorities.
Possible upcoming attempts to disable the Tor network

There has been some suggestion that this may be linked to UK prime minister Cameron’s assertion that GCHQ and the NCA will be working together to reach into the dark web. Taking down, however, is more than reaching into — and while I can see GCHQ working with the NSA, and the NCA working with the FBI, I don’t see the UK doing anything on its own against Tor.

Tonight Thomas White, who operates an exit node cluster for Tor, has warned people not to use his services:

Tonight there has been some unusual activity taking place and I have now lost control of all servers under the ISP and my account has been suspended… From experience I know this trend of activity is similar to the protocol of sophisticated law enforcement who carry out a search and seizure of running servers.

If he is right, it sounds like a joint operation — the arrogance of the British government combined with the capability of the American government. He adds,

Until I have had the time and information available to review the situation, I am strongly recommending my mirrors are not used under any circumstances. If they come back online without a PGP signed message from myself to further explain the situation, exercise extreme caution and treat even any items delivered over TLS to be potentially hostile.
Warning: Do NOT use my mirrors/services until I have reviewed the situation

It might be a false alarm. Everyone’s waiting for something and might be seeing it where it doesn’t exist. But if UKUSA hasn’t come for Tor right now, it certainly will in the future. It has nothing to do with criminality or terrorism — those things will simply continue elsewhere, and the takedown of Tor will have not the slightest impact on them.

This is an attack on personal privacy and secrecy because UKUSA simply cannot tolerate the possibility that there is someplace where their ears cannot listen. But it still won’t work because technologists will simply develop other approaches. After Tor, UKUSA will seek to ban encryption; and when that still doesn’t work, within the next ten years, the very idea of privacy will be illegal.

Please God do not make me say I told you so in ten years time.

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Submitted in: Expert Views, Kevin Townsend's opinions, News, News_privacy, News_surveillance | Tags: , , , , , ,