NSA has had little success in cracking Tor network, documents reveal

By on October 5, 2013, 9:30 AM
nsa, anonymous, browser, gchq, tor, silk road, the onion router

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has released classified documents that reveal the government agency, along with its British counterpart GCHQ, have had little success in trying to crack the Tor anonymizing protocol. It’s all a bit ironic when you consider Tor software is partially funded and promoted by the US government itself.

One of the documents titled “Tor Stinks” says they will never be able de-anonymize all Tor users all the time. With manual analysis, however, they can de-anonymize a small fraction of users but they aren’t able to de-anonymize a specific user in response to a specific request.

Despite the fact that the NSA hasn’t been able to crack Tor, they have had a little bit of success in de-anonymizing a very small fraction of Tor users by first identifying them then attacking vulnerable software on their computers. 

One such method used a vulnerability in the Firefox browser used with Tor according to the NSA documents. This allowed the agency to gain full control over a target computer with access to files, keystrokes and all online activity.

If you aren’t familiar, Tor – short for The Onion Router – is an open-source network of sorts that routers users’ Internet traffic through multiple computers to avoid censorship tools and guarantee anonymous Internet usage. It is used by a number of journalists, campaigners and activists but law enforcement officials also say it is utilized by those engaging in terrorism as well as people interested in child porn and online drug dealing.

User Comments: 9

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2 people like this | John Carter John Carter said:

Of course the benefit for spying is to not let the enemy know you know ... the recent arrest of the Silk Road guy could be an example of why this premise is either not true or not entirely true whether or not it might have been true at one point. My risk analysis of the situation says it is smarter to obey the law. ;)

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Of course the benefit for spying is to not let the enemy know you know
I was thinking along those lines to. I'm almost positive they wouldn't tell whether or not they could.

FF222 said:

Riiiight... NSA "leak" exposes that the U.S government can't penetrate the Tor network and identify users on it. Never mind, that there have been many indepent studies that confirmed that it's indeed possible to identify users, or that it was the U.S. government (DARPA) who actually created and built the Tor network in the first place. Just jump on it people! You can the trust the U.S. when they say they are unable to track you there. Can't you?

Guest said:

Tor be or not Tor be...that is the question.

Guest said:

Oh, come one, even if they can't spy the terrorist they can still check your porn.

Tygerstrike said:

Its called FALSE INFORMATION for a reason. See taking down the silk road is a major accomplishment. If they could take the silk road down, then it stands to reason that they can take ANYONE down. Now many people will say that this view is a conspiracy theorist POV. I say quite the opposite. They took a MAJOR player down. When that happends the smaller fish tend to scatter. By putting this information out there that they couldnt crack TOR, is just another method of causing all those little fish to group back up, or start useing the TOR network again. Given the general arrogance of the standard consumer, they will ASSUME that this information is correct and continue their illegal activites online.

What this article basically tells me is that they want to get all those smaller fish back to nibbling. While they have access and a way to target TOR users BEFORE a patch or upgrade is put out to close off that avenue.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

You know what, all this amounts to since Richard Snowden is, the NSA now has to keep two set of documents. One for the people they're sure they can trust, and another as bait for would be leakers.

avoidz avoidz said:

Sure... And I've got some primo swampland you might be interested in.

Chazz said:

So the guy who leaked information that has us all talking about the NSA is now no longer credible? Some of his leaks are to be believed but others aren't? They told you what they can do and can't do, this article doesn't say that TOR is completely safe, just somewhat.

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