Category Archives: Darknet

France won’t block public Wi-Fi or ban Tor, PM says

Andrii Degeler at Ars Technica UK: Public Wi-Fi networks and Tor won’t be blocked or forbidden in France in the near future, even during a state of emergency, despite the country’s Ministry of Interior reportedly considering it.

Days after the reports on the proposal surfaced in the French newspaper Le Monde, the country’s prime minister Manuel Valls said he had never heard of such requests by police. “A ban on Wi-Fi is not a course of action envisaged,” he added according to The Connexxion.

Valls also said he wasn’t in favour of banning Tor, and denied any knowledge of the police authorities requesting a law to “require [service] providers to give security forces access codes.”

“Internet is a freedom, is an extraordinary means of communication between people, it is a benefit to the economy,” Valls said. “It is also a means for terrorists to communicate and spread their totalitarian ideology. The police must take in all of these aspects to improve their fight against terrorism, but the measures we take must be effective.”

Valls

Unlike the proposal to ban Tor, the idea of closing down public Wi-Fi networks in a state of emergency has some rationale. Police believe it’s easier to track down criminals and terrorists if they use data connections other than shared hotspots on the streets. France’s current state of emergency, which was enacted after the recent attacks in Paris, will persist until at least February 26, 2016.

The problem is that free Wi-Fi also allows civilians to find vital information during an emergency, such as where the nearest shelter is, or if any transportation is running. This may outweigh the perceived benefits of banning the hotspots, although both proposals are extremely hard to enforce regardless.

Giving the authorities a backdoor into virtually any device connected to the Internet has been also widely discussed in the UK over the past few weeks. The Investigative Powers Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter, would make it an Internet service provider’s legal duty to keep users’ browsing history for a year. The initiative was met with a wave of criticism from ISPs and industry experts.

Sources:

Ars Technica UK – France won’t block public Wi-Fi or ban Tor, PM says

Wired UK – No, France won’t be banning public Wi-Fi or Tor

FBI accused of paying Carnegie Mellon university for dark net attack on Tor

BBC News: Anonymity network Tor, notorious for illegal activity, has claimed that researchers at US Carnegie Mellon university were paid by the FBI to launch an attack on them.

2000px-Tor-logo-2011-flat.svg

Tor claimed that the FBI was “outsourcing police work” and paid the university “at least $1m (£675,000)”.

Tor is a so-called dark net – a hidden part of the internet that cannot be reached via traditional search engines.

A university spokesman told the BBC: “You can read what you want into it.”

The anonymised system lets people use the web without revealing who or where they are.

There are sites on it that offer legitimate content, services and goods but it also has a reputation for hosting criminal activities such as the selling of drugs and images of child abuse.

It gained notoriety in late 2014 when a big operation carried out by the FBI took down dozens of Tor sites, including the Silk Road 2, which was one of the world’s largest online drug-selling sites.

It was this attack that the Tor Project is claiming was undertaken by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, which is based in Pittsburgh.

“This attack sets a troubling precedent,” the Tor Project wrote in its official blog.

“Civil liberties are under attack if law enforcement believes it can circumvent the rules of evidence by outsourcing police work to universities,” it added.

Prof Alan Woodward, a computer science expert from the University of Surrey, said that such partnerships were not unusual.

“Universities work with law enforcement agencies all the time,” he told the BBC. “Were they paid $1m? I can’t say but law enforcement agencies do sponsor research into ways to track criminals so it is not that surprising.

“The big difference in this case seems that researchers were asked to unmask a specific set of people and provide their IP addresses.

“I’d be more surprised if they did that as all universities have ethics committees so the big question is was there ethical oversight?”

Sources:

BBC – FBI accused of paying US university for dark net attack

ZDnet – FBI denies paying $1 million to unmask Tor users

Tor Project – Did the FBI Pay a University to Attack Tor Users?