Tor Puts NSA at Odds with Browser's U.S. Navy Creators, Other Agencies

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-10-07 Print this article Print

But in reality, there’s a good reason that the U.S. government has created a sophisticated encrypted communications network without a back door that can be exploited by others in the same executive department.

In the long run, it’s more important to give the forces of democracy the means to communicate, even at the cost of providing a pathway to terrorists and child exploiters. As agencies ranging from the NSA to the FBI have demonstrated, you really don’t need to reliably decrypt the communications of everyone just to catch the bad guys. Yes, it’s convenient for the NSA and other agencies to have some kind of magic access, but other methods are available to organizations as capable and well-funded as the NSA.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, took over a child exploitation network called Freedom Hosting and used it to plant malware on the computers of anyone who accessed the sites it contained. The feds then used that malware to identify anyone who had used one of the sites, exposing them to further scrutiny by the FBI and the NSA.

The NSA, meanwhile, has created its own servers that it places on what the Guardian called the “Internet Backbone,” which impersonates the sites criminals or terrorists might use, and then injects malware of its own. This allows the NSA to track those people, and in the process to know which people visited which site, and what they tried to look at.

So the obvious question is whether you should trust Tor. The answer depends greatly on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re trying to communicate with others fighting an oppressive government, chances are that it will work well for you since most of those governments likely lack the sophistication to crack or track Tor. But all bets are off if one of those governments happens to be Russia or China which may have the ability to do some tracking.

If what you’re trying to accomplish is keep your business secrets private, then you’re probably safe as well since your competitors almost certainly don’t have the capability to do anything about Tor. But if you’re trying to do something that a major government doesn’t like and has the resources to investigate, then you might want to think twice because you might be able to be tracked.

But that doesn’t mean that tracking and decrypting your communications will be easy. The feds have to really want you badly enough to spend the money and take the time to defeat your specific use of Tor, and if they want you that badly, you’re probably already in trouble anyway.



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