The Feds Have Figured Out How To Hack The Secret Internet For Criminals

The preferred tool of pedophiles and many drug users around the world,
the Tor network has seen an estimated 50% of its super-secure sites compromisedby the federal government.

Take your pick of what to call it — Tor, Darknet, the deep web — this is a slice of the Internet that many don’t know about and have never visited.

It’s the secret internet for criminals.

Also, those of us concerned with our online privacy for whatever reason see this swath of digital real estate as a dream come true. Tor anonymizes your web browsing habits by routing your traffic through a number of proxies, concealing your location and therefore your identity.

Now it seems the federal government wants to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing. News broke yesterday that a web hosting company called Freedom Hosting fell victim to a malware originating from Reston, Virginia.

“It’s pretty clear that it’s FBI or it’s some other law enforcement agency that’s U.S.-based,” said reverse-engineer Vlad Tsyrklevich.

The founder of Freedom Hosting, Eric Eoin Marques, was even arrested in Ireland for alleged ties to child pornography and will face extradition to the USA. (Pedophiles use the dark web to host their porn collections so ownership cannot be traced.)

As if you needed it confirmed, here it is: The government is hacking Tor. (As an interesting aside, Tor was initially built as … a government project!)

By injecting a little bit of malicious Javascript code into Freedom Hosting’s servers, someone’s aiming to undo Tor’s privacy-enabling features. As users visited infected sites (an estimated 50% of all of the deep web), a small piece of Javascript gave your browser a unique “fingerprint.” Where you go, Big Brother can now follow.

This is supposedly a federal effort to fight the Internet’s pedophiles and child porn distributors. But the next item of concern is drugs, and this is leaving the customers of Silk Road (think eBay for drugs) terrified.

To put this in practical terms, if you’ve visited a site on Freedom Hosting’s servers recently you need to change account passwords for every site you’ve ever used on Tor. Secondly, you’ll want to use the “Use a New Identity” feature, which jumbles up your proxies all over again to give you a new “identity.” Expect Bitcoin value to drop — it’s the anonymous currency used in Silk Road’s anonymous marketplace. Make sure you disable JavaScript in Tor’s preference pane. And finally, be sure to update your browser to the most current version — the vulnerability has been fixed.

This is further evidence that domestic surveillance is only becoming more and more of a hot-button issue. If you don’t know where you stand on the topic, you better figure it out soon.

For all the drugs and sex, there are still some “good” uses of Tor’s powerful anonymity. It serves to let journalists safely research touchy topics, to protect children’s’ identities online, and to let whistleblowers safely transmit sensitive documents. This is a super-secure backroad of the Internet that even has Edward Snowden’s endorsement.

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