TOR or The Onion Router is one of the greatest anonymizer services available on the Internet, and allows anyone to use the Internet without revealing their source IP address, and through that, their location. Yet as recently as last November, when the FBI took down the Silk Road server and arrested its operator , and Interpol followed up with the seizure of 400 Dark Web marketplace sites and the arrest of 19 other site operators, it became apparent that TOR was not the invulnerable fortress of anonimity that everyone thought it was. So what happened? We will be looking at TOR in this and the next two posts.
ORIGINS OF TOR
As I looked into this issue, I did some background research on the origins of TOR, and was surprised to find out that TOR was developed back in the mid-1990s by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, and was further developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and was launched on September 20, 2002, with funding from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti, Voice of America), the National Science Foundation, the US State Department, Human Rights Watch, the University of Cambridge, and Google, among others. Around 80% of it’s annual $2 million budget comes from the US government. So TOR is not some rogue program developed to aid child pornographers, drug dealers and cyber criminals. This was developed by your government as a secure way for government employees, agents, operatives, and assets to communicate securely over the Internet. As an open-source project, anyone can use it.
This is the first of a three part series of articles. On Wednesday, we will take a look at how TOR works, and on Friday we will be looking into the ways that TOR can be compromised. We hope to see you then.
Sources for more information:
- Wikipedia – Tor (anonymity network)
- TOR Project
- TOR Warning Document
- NSA “Tor Stinks” Presentation
- eWeek – Tor Puts NSA at Odds With Browser’s U.S. Navy Creators, Other Agencies
- Vice.com – How the NSA (Or Anyone Else) Can Crack Tor’s Anonymity
- Forbes – How Did the FBI Break TOR?
- Sophos – Can You Trust TOR’s Exit Nodes?
- Business Insider – Both Of The Men Accused Of Running The Silk Road Made The Exact Same Mistake
About the Author:I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at http://wyzguyscybersecurity.com