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Friday, October 4, 2013

Tor anonymizer network among NSA’s targets, Snowden leaks reveal

Tor anonymizer network among NSA’s targets, Snowden leaks reveal

Top-secret national security documents disclosed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden show United States and British intelligence have long attempted to crack the Tor anonymizer network used by human rights workers, journalists, cybercriminals and others.
Top-secret national security documents disclosed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden show United States and British intelligence have long attempted to crack the Tor anonymizer network used by human rights workers, journalists, cybercriminals and others.
On Friday, the Guardian published leaked documents attributed to the former intelligence contractor revealing how the US National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, have worked extensively towards compromising the computers of people who browse the Internet with Tor, a program that routes traffic through multiple nodes in an effort to help mask the identities of its users.
According to the Guardian’s James Ball, Bruce Schneier and Glenn Greenwald, the NSA’s “current successes against Tor rely on identifying users and then attacking vulnerable software on their computer.”
While it seems that the NSA has not compromised the core security of the Tor software or network, the documents detail proof-of-concept attacks, including several relying on the large-scale online surveillance systems maintained by the NSA and GCHQ through internet cable taps,” the writers add.
The Guardian has so far published two top-secret government slideshows used to discuss the Tor network and possible vulnerabilities that might compromise users if properly exploited.
One government document, “Peeling Back the Layers of TOR with Egotisticalgiraffe,” the security of some Tor users can be compromised if the government or other malicious actor can exploit bugs in the Firefox browser and other vulnerabilities.
In another slideshow, “Tor Stinks,” the government claims it already has access to a select number of nodes which anonymized traffic is navigated through.
The “goal,” according to the NSA slide, is to “expand [the] number of nodes we have access to.” To accomplish as much, it’s acknowledged that the GCHQ runs Tor nodes under a program of its own, and that other partners may be able to assist with further efforts to deconstruct traffic patterns to narrow-in on other wise anonymous users.
In one document, the NSA notes that Tor, or “The Onion Router,” enables anonymous Internet activity to Iranian and Chinese dissidents, terrorists and “other targets too!” The software has become increasingly used around the globe by privacy-minded individuals of all sorts in recent months, however, as previous documents disclosed by Mr. Snowden have detailed the intelligence community’s efforts, many successful, to compromise other would-be secure modes of communicating.
As RT reported previously, the number of Americans using Tor jumped 75 percent between June 1, just days before the first Snowden leak, and August 27, 2013.