At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:
Identify what Tor is.
Identify one reason you may wish to use Tor.
Explain how Tor works.
Explain how Tor began.
FOSTA - Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act
The FOSTA bill was passed by the House of Representatives. This kills the Craigs List. Any website found to be promoting prostitution or sex trafficking can now be held responsible for the content within. This will be selectively enforced to target start ups and small businesses.
Some news outlets have claimed that FOSTA will disproportionately harm innocent LGBT peoples. These arguments are not new and have existed in relation to computers for a long time. Please view the Computer Chronicles episode on BBS and Modems for an interesting discussion between the hosts, a BBS sysop, and an assistant district attorney.
The question is posed - should admins be held responsible for the discussions held on their boards? Is a BBS like a newspaper with first ammendment rights or is it like a utilitie that is subject to regulation? The exact questions we are asking today were previously posited then. What has changed between then and now?
The CLOUD Act Rains On Our Parade
The CLOUD act is currently in the budget and is being snuck into use as we speak. This will improve law enforcement access to data found on servers outside the United States and provide a loop hole to by pass all rights and protections to privacy. We will now be able to work openly with foreign intelligence services to spy on United States citizens. We may also accept ‘evidence’ provided by these agencies. This will allow law enforcement to open cases and pursue prosecution based on data provided by foreign services legally (like the Trump Dossier) regardless of merit or whether it appears truthfully. In the video found below, mentioned is collusion between British and American spy services in connection with investigating the victims of the Lockerbie Bombing. This behavior would not be illegal under this new bill it would appear.
Microsoft is in court already due to the passing of this bill. I want to know what was on the server the government is after.
Can we forever be outraged? How can we stay angry forever? We fought SOPA, FOSTA, CLOUD, and an endless number of bills each running back to back with the next in order to manage public attention. People and businesses run out of money, attention, and outrage. It would also appear that we are loosing every battle. Network neutrality is a loss. FOSTA will be a loss. We will loose on the CLOUD bill. What do we do next?
How does Tor Work
Tor works as an internet networking protocol with the intent of anonymizing any information passed through it. It allegedly provides protection to journalists, activists, business people, the military, and others. Tor encrypts traffic and bundles it through a method known as onion routing before passing on this bundle of information between nodes on the way to the destination. You can use Tor to communicate internally to the network or you can use the power of an exit node to access information found on the clearnet. Tor recommends the use of the Tor Browser, a tool developed with a base in the Firefox web browser that is recommended for ease of access and use.
I do not trust Firefox and I do not trust the Tor Browser. I don’t trust any browser. Active exploits of the Tor Browser exist in the wild at this very moment and large and complex tools like the Tor Browser will continue to be vulnerable. Full stop.
In fairness I will also provide the 7 current vulnerabilities in Elinks.
How To Install
Get the installer and get it onto your computer. The process will look like the following.
$ apt install tor
Open the Tor Browser
Docker Install Alternatives
RUNNING TOR MAKES YOU A TARGET
The use of Tor has been a deciding factor in investigating you.
DO NOT RUN AN EXIT NODE FROM YOUR HOUSE
When discussing Tor and the manner in which many individuals complain about harassment due to their participation as an exit router, we need to look at the laws concerning accomplice liability. You should also read more about accomplice law.
Tor is used to commit crimes. The open net is used to commit crimes. Cars, planes, trains, and even banjos have been used by criminals or became instruments in crimes. We don’t try to ban them, spy on people for owning them, or worry that our neighbors may be serial ‘pumpernicklers’. In 1988 a murder was committed in Britain in which a man was beaten to death with bread. But privacy is a fearful thing and those who wish to retain their right to privacy are considered strange, scary, or weird.
However, when law enforcement is investigating a crime and they trace the criminal activity to your home, they will want to better understand why your home is being used for criminal behavior. Providing an exit node and advertising that your home is used to traffic child pornography is going to grab law enforcement attention. Those privacy advocates who provide exit nodes do so at the risk of their traffic being marked as hostile or as a carrier of illegal traffic.
Do not run an exit node from your home and if you decide to run an exit node on a server owned by a hosting company, make sure you pick a company that understands what you are doing and how to handle law enforcement requests for information.
How To Setup
Set security to high.
Keep Tor running some where with 24/7 uptime or as close to as possible
Who Made Tor
Tor was originally developed as a method for the United States Government to provide bi-directional communications over the internet where the source and destination are hidden from view. The Department Of Defense, Naval Intelligence, and DARPA deployed Tor in order to protect their assets and to hide their activities. It was never intended as a tool for dissidents or as a tool to protect users from government spying. It was created to facilitate spying while using the noise produced by others to mask their behavior.
Using Tor makes you into the smoke screen that supports the mission at hand. Tor is not shy about revealing military applications for their tool on their site. Tor is first and foremost a military and US Government orientated tool and provides benefits such as anonymous communication to the public as a side effect of that mission.
You can learn about the financial status of the Tor Project from their tax statements. You can see who is paying what, where donations come from, and how much money is being spent on different aspects of the project. Some believe that Tor is funded by the US government. I would be inclined to believe it, but don’t consider it a bad thing. The BBG, the American Propaganda Company, provided approximately $6.1 million dollars to Tor between 2007 and 2015.
I could not locate the financials for the RiseUp group.
What does Tor do
Tor allows users to enhance their privacy and gives some level of identity protection. It is not a perfect tool that can be trusted to make a users completely anonymous, hidden, or invisible. No currently known tools can provide absolute protection. The Tor system relies on a custom Firefox fork, local software or proxy, and an internet connection.
Spying is old hat
I recommend watching this video called “Secret Maps Of Britain” by Mark Thomas. It is fascinating to watch it with the knowledge we have today. The “conspiracy theories” that are presented like turning off the internet during crisis, sharing data while spying, or editing maps to hide data is common place today but was considered secretive knowledge when this video was made.
Setting up servers is hard. It can be difficult to setup a web server but it becomes infinitely more difficult when adding on an abstraction layer like Tor, worrying about the safety or your users, and incorporating a number of private and Government users who wish to cause you harm or unmask you.
You can also attack the internet backbone. This gives you a birds eye view of internet behavior and greatly simplifies finding the hidden services hosted as .onion sites. We have discussed this before but it needs to be repeated.
Significant Incidents In Tor History
Tor is in a particularly difficult position and has suffered several scandals. One situation occurred in which an individual who presented themselves as a State Department Employee achieved employment within the Tor project. They then later revealed they were a member of an American intelligence agency and had joined up with Tor in order to ‘do some good’ while using false credentials. They later claimed that the Government had no knowledge of their clandestine ‘personal operation’ to improve Tor. One Tor member was so concerned by this deception and their own situation that they believed their family would be killed.
mrphs or Nima Fatemi is(was) an Iranian who functioned as a contributor to the Tor project. Shortly after this chat occurred he moved to the United States and began deploying Tor exit nodes inside libraries. The Tor nodes were brought down and then allowed to run again after public support came through.
Tor is regularly used for hosting child pornography. Playpen was run by the FBI and Childs Play was run by the Australian Police Department. Governments are unmasking onion sites, taking them over, and impersonating these sites. I do not know of any efforts to unmask the method used for capturing these sites or understanding the methodology used for defeating Tor.
Tor content includes all open net sites that do not explicitly block Tor use as well as many .onion based sites. The most well known and notorious criminal related sites rely on Tor due to the manner in which it provides a similar style of platform as the open net for conducting web based business.
Most users employ Tor for surfing clear net sites with enhanced ‘security’. However, over 1 million users are currently logging into Facebook using Tor. My assumption is that many of these users live in non permissive environments that do not allow connection to Facebook.
Tor is a peer-to-peer platform that employs the use of a specific browser to function.
Users of Tor include Doctors, Educators, Privacy Advocates, Drug Addicts, Seditionists, and Criminals.
Tor functions by allowing users to anonymously share files, browse, chat, and more through the use of the Tor protocol.
Tor uses onion routing while I2P uses garlic routing. Tor is more focused on accessing servers outside the Tor network while I2P and Freenet attempt to minimize connections to the clear net.
This concludes our three part deep dive into privacy enhancing tools. I stand by my statement that I believe Freenet to be the best of the three that were reviewed. Tor provides an interesting tool set designed to provide some very specific protections but due to the nature in which it is configured, the reliance on the Tor Browser, and the historical as well as current issues we have found, I do not recommend this toolset.
I wish deeply that we could build an internet that was designed to be secure from the start. The current assortment of tools for ‘securing’ us or providing us with ‘privacy’ are bandages that hide a festering wound. The internet was not made to be secure or private and we have moved far beyond the point of being able to resolve the issues with the current deployment of tools. It will be some time before we find a resolution for our problem and I personally believe that we will not find a resolution for the issue.
Register a PGP key.
Contribute to a privacy enhancing project. I recommend Freenet. Pick one.
Develop relationships and build your own ‘Darknet’. Network in the real world.
Contribute to Open Source Projects.