Tor: Not that hard to crack
US and European police recently arrested 17 people and shut down over 400 online contraband operations that they thought remained hidden by Tor.
For those of you who don’t know, Tor is a browser that lets people get a taste of the virtual world without having to deal with censorship online, and they can stay anonymous while they do it all. The tool has gained popularity of late with activists and journalists that see it as an added blanket of security.
All for naught
Despite its reputation it doesn’t seem like Tor is unbreakable. Law enforcement officials were able to crack the code and find the people they were looking for. They shut down an excess of 400 different websites with illegal activities. While no one can argue that shutting down illegal websites can never really be a bad thing, we have to wonder that if Tor could be cracked by law enforcement, just how safe is it for the people that are trying to keep their privacy and security in check.
The FBI only a few weeks ago was crying foul because of the encryption that was being put in place by tech firms. They can’t get to the people they want fast enough, and despite the main purpose that Tor was created for, it seems like it doesn’t really hinder regular authorities – there’s no way it can stop NSA or the FBI.
The current hit was made against dark markets that sell illegal stuff. This includes a cesspool of regular criminals and cyber criminals selling everything from firearms to credit card information. TOR, also called The Onion Router s actually the creation of the US State Department and the Department of Defense. So why it was seen as a safe haven by anyone is somewhat confusing. It is possible that authorizes didn’t have to really even try all that hard to push through to find the information that they are looking for. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell spoke about it, “It is a plain fact that criminals use advanced technology to commit their crimes and conceal evidence, but the global law enforcement community has innovated and collaborated to disrupt these ‘dark market’ websites, no matter how sophisticated or far-flung they have become.”
However, the question remains, if dark markets can be cracked this easily then what happens to people who were genuinely just trying to be a bit more safe. So far we have relied on PGP (pretty good privacy) tools when we couldn’t trust mainstream service, but even those have had trouble truly keeping the hound dogs away. Tor seemed like a great option for people who aren’t into a lot of technical stuff and needed a simpler solution.
The real question is, can we really do anything to make sure that we can keep our data from falling into a hacker’s hand, or the government’s hand, or someone elses. So far the answer to that question seems like a big fat no.