PC World by Martyn Williams
Coordinated raids by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and 16 European countries have closed hundreds of underground websites, including dozens dealing in weapons and drugs, and led to the arrest of 17 people.
The raids took place on Thursday and were the biggest so far against sites running on the Tor network, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and Europol, which cooperated on the action.
Tor is an encrypted system that facilitates anonymous communication. It has plenty of legitimate uses, particularly for evading surveillance in countries with authoritarian governments, but its use by criminals has caused controversy. Police have increasingly been targeting underground websites on Tor, and Thursday’s raids are the latest in that work….
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Among the shuttered sites are, Blue Sky, Cloud Nine, Executive Outcomes, Fake Real Plastic and Hydra; facing charges ranging from drug dealing, stolen and fake credit cards, identification documents, passports, counterfeit currency and firearms.
Tor is a tool intended to help you stay anonymous online. Its intent is to protect your privacy as you browse the Internet and circumvent government censorship of webpages visited.
According to EFF.org, Tor still works:
One of the many things that we learned from the NSA leaks is that Tor still works. According to the NSA “Tor Stinks” slides revealed by the Guardian last year, the NSA is still not able to completely circumvent the anonymity provided by Tor. They have been able to compromise certain Tor users in specific situations. Historically this has been done by finding an exploit for the Tor Browser Bundle or by exploiting a user that has misconfigured Tor. The FBI—possibly in conjunction with the NSA—was able to find one serious exploit for Firefox that lead to the takedown of Freedom Hosting and exploit of its users. Firefox was patched quickly, and no major exploits for Firefox affecting Tor users appear to have been found since.
That is until this latest takedown.
Admittedly, prior to the American government in collusion with the British government’s infiltration of Tor, I was a fan.
That being said, the jury is still out as to whether or not these raids every now and then are apparatus put into place merely to justify NSA violating the fourth amendment rights of those who use Tor, the majority of whom are law abiding.
One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that Tor is only used by criminals and pedophiles. This is simply not true! There are many types of people that use Tor. Activists use it to circumvent censorship and provide anonymity. The military uses it for secure communications and planning. Families use Tor to protect their children and preserve their privacy. Journalists use it to do research on stories and communicate securely with sources. The Tor Project website has an excellent explanation of why Tor doesn’t help criminals very much. To paraphrase: Criminals can already do bad things since they will break laws they have much better tools at their disposal than what Tor offers, such as botnets made with malware, stolen devices, identity theft, etc. In fact using Tor may help you protect yourself against some of these tactics that criminals use such as identity theft or online stalking.
You are not helping criminals by using Tor any more than you are helping criminals by using the Internet….