Tor: network security for domestic abuse survivors

Michael from Beta Boston writes, "The privacy protections offered by tools like Tor aren't just for journalists and spies; they're important for everyone. Almost every modern abusive relationship has a digital component, from cyberstalking to hacking phones, emails, and social media accounts, but women's shelters increasingly have found themselves on the defensive, ill-equipped to manage and protect their clients from increasingly sophisticated threats. Recently the Tor Project stepped in to help change that, and we took a long look at the work cut out for them."

This is an important point: when you make it so that no one can keep secrets from the state and its enforcement arm, you also make it so that no one can keep secrets from crooks, thugs, stalkers, and every other kind of bad guy.

Staff members ask questions to determine if cases contain a digital component earlier in the screening process. They are wary of client cell phones and compromised communication channels. If they feel a victim carries a bugged phone they replace it. If the abuse is happening across social media they encourage not using the platform in question.

However digital abuse often remains hidden until well after a victim’s first contact with the organization, making it vulnerable to compromised communication lines, Mednick said.

In more severe cases the Tor Project gets involved and introduces some of their anonymizing tools to provide an added layer of security.

As domestic abuse goes digital, shelters turn to counter-surveillance with Tor (Thanks, Michael!)