Using real names online doesn't improve behavior

J.Nathan Matias takes a clear-eyed look at The Real Name Fallacy, the belief that forcing users to communicate using real names will improve online conduct. In my experience, the biggest problems come on platforms like Twitter where it's a mix of real and pseudonymous users. Read the rest

Ten principles for user-protection in hostile states

The Tor Project's "Ten Principles for User Protection in Hostile States" is both thoughtful and thought-provoking -- it's a list that excites my interest as someone who cares about the use of technology in improving lives and organizing political movements (principle 1 is "Do not rely on the law to protect systems or users" -- a call to technologists -- while number 7 is aimed at companies, "Invest in cryptographic R&D to replace non-cryptographic systems" and principle 2 says "Prepare policy commentary for quick response to crisis," which suggests that the law, while not reliable, can't be ignored); and also as a science fiction writer (check out those tags! "Acausal trade," "Pluralistic singularity" and "Golden path"! Yowza!) Read the rest

Freedom of the Press releases an automated, self-updating report card grading news-sites on HTTPS

Secure the News periodically checks in with news-sites to see how many of them implement HTTPS -- the secure protocol that stops your ISP and people snooping on it from knowing which pages you're looking at and from tampering with them -- and what proportion of them default to HTTPS. Read the rest

The Tor Project's social contract: we will not backdoor Tor

I first encountered the idea of "social contracts" for software projects in Neal Stephenson's seminal essay In the Beginning Was the Command Line, which endorsed the Debian project on the strength of its social contract: "As far as I know, Debian is the only Linux distribution that has its own constitution." Read the rest

Researchers find over 100 spying Tor nodes that attempt to compromise darknet sites

When it comes to accessing public websites, Tor has an intrinsic security problem: though the nodes between your computer and the public internet are unable to see where the traffic is coming from or going to, the final hop in the network (known as an exit node) gets to know what webserver you are connecting to. Read the rest

Jacob Appelbaum, Tor developer and Wikileaks staffer, resigns amid sex abuse claims

Appelbaum, whose work has put him in the crosshairs of his own government and foreign states, resigned from the Tor project on Friday, accompanied by a short note from Tor executive director Shari Steele. Read the rest

This facial recognition app 'may bring end to public anonymity'

FindFace is a new Russian smartphone app that lets users take photos of strangers and identify them with 70% reliability.

Read the rest

Germany will end copyright liability for open wifi operators

Germany's ruling coalition is modifying the country's legal "Störerhaftung" theory, which currently makes people liable for copyright infringement if they operate an open wifi network that someone else uses for copyright infringement, even if the operator didn't and couldn't know about it. Read the rest

Artist installs sculptures that are also Tor nodes in the world's galleries

Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum collaborate to create beautiful, acrylic-encased computers that are also Tor nodes, anonymizing data that passes through them, and install the in art galleries all over the world, so that patrons can communicate and browse anonymously, while learning about anonymity and Tor. Read the rest

Vice now has a Securedrop for anonymous whistleblower docs

Securedrop is a robust, secure, anonymous system for whistleblowers to convey documents to news organizations, created by Aaron Swartz and taken up by the Freedom of the Press Foundation after his death. Read the rest

The Torist: a literary journal on the darknet

The Torist is a newly launched literary journal, edited by University of Utah Communications associate professor Robert W Gehl and a person called GMH, collecting fiction, poetry and non-fiction. It is only available as a file on a Tor hidden service -- a "darkweb" site, protected by the same technology as was used by the likes of Silk Road. Read the rest

The Tor Project has a new executive director: former EFF director Shari Steele!

Shari Steele, who served as the executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation for 15 years and built the organization from a six-person shoestring operation that didn't even have an office into a fifty+ person, multimillion-dollar powerhouse, has come out of retirement to serve as the new executive director for the Tor Foundation, which oversees the Tor and Tails privacy/anonymity projects. Read the rest

French PM defies Ministry of Interior, says he won't ban open wifi or Tor

Despite the French Ministry of Interior's demands to crack down on Internet anonymity, Prime Minister Manual Valls has gone on record saying he won't allow such a thing to pass: Read the rest

The Tor project is soliciting donations in its first fundraising drive

The nonprofit foundation that oversees development on Tor, the anonymity and privacy tool, has launched its first ever major cash fundraiser, seeking support for its crucial work. Read the rest

Did the FBI pay Carnegie Mellon $1 million to identify and attack Tor users?

Documents published by Vice News: Motherboard and further reporting by Wired News suggest that a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who canceled their scheduled 2015 BlackHat talk identified Tor hidden servers and visitors, and turned that data over to the FBI.

No matter who the researchers and which institution, it sounds like a serious ethical breach.

First, from VICE, a report which didn't name CMU but revealed that a U.S. University helped the FBI bust Silk Road 2, and suspects in child pornography cases:

An academic institution has been providing information to the FBI that led to the identification of criminal suspects on the dark web, according to court documents reviewed by Motherboard. Those suspects include a staff member of the now-defunct Silk Road 2.0 drug marketplace, and a man charged with possession of child pornography.

It raises questions about the role that academics are playing in the continued crackdown on dark web crime, as well as the fairness of the trials of each suspect, as crucial discovery evidence has allegedly been withheld from both defendants.

Here's a screenshot of the relevant portion of one of the court Documents that Motherboard/Vice News published:

Later today, a followup from Wired about discussion that points the finger directly at CMU:

The Tor Project on Wednesday afternoon sent WIRED a statement from its director Roger Dingledine directly accusing Carnegie Mellon of providing its Tor-breaking research in secret to the FBI in exchange for a payment of “at least $1 million.” And while Carnegie Mellon’s attack had been rumored to have been used in takedowns of dark web drug markets that used Tor’s “hidden service” features to obscure their servers and administrators, Dingledine writes that the researchers’ dragnet was larger, affecting innocent users, too.

Read the rest

Library offers Tor nodes; DHS tells them to stop

John writes, "After a library created a Tor node on its network, the DHS and local police contacted them to ask them to stop. For now they have; their Board of Trustees will vote soon on whether to renew the service." Read the rest

What happened when we got subpoenaed over our Tor exit node

We've run a Tor exit-node for years. In June, we got the nightmare Tor operator scenario: a federal subpoena (don't worry, it ended surprisingly well!)

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