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NSA Bug Leaks to Tor No Big Surprise

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Over the weekend a story broke that alleged that the NSA (National Security Agency) and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) might actually be helping the Tor network to find and fix bugs in their systems. The news that this might be going on appeared to come as a shock to most people and new agencies reporting on rumor. Of course if you look at the Tor project’s history and the way it is still used today you will find that it is actually in the best interest of the governments in question to keep TOR alive and healthy.

The tor project originally was started as The Onion Router (this is where tor comes from) and was sponsored by the US Naval Research Laboratory. Its primary concept is the use of multiple layers of encryption during the routing of traffic over the internet. As recently as 2012 around 80% of the Tor projects money (they are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization) comes from the US government, much of that from the State Department. So we know that the US government sees the Tor Project as a needed thing.

So you can see that someone in the US government wants the network up, running and happy. There are also proponents for the Tor Project inside the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Many of these use the Tor network for… well let’s just call it communication. The network is also used (in conjunction with other services) for dissidents to find out information in oppressive regimes and also to enable communication to others. The people that want Tor secure from everyone would seem to be at odds to the groups that are looking for the “bad guys” that are using the same service.

These groups are always trying to find a way to unmask people using anonymity services en masse so they do not have to search for needles in a massive haystack. They target services like Tor because of their popularity and they also know (from being part of the team) that this is used by their own team. In their minds breaking these open is not a breach of their side, because they will only use the data to go after the bad guys. Conversely, they also do not want to expose their own people to danger so it is very likely that they push the more concerning bugs to the other side of the hall to be reported.  It is a never ending process of trying to find a way in that only they know and can exploit and making sure their own people are safe.

So when we hear that people in the NSA and or another government agency might be submitting bugs to the Tor Project through their anonymous system we are not surprised at all. This type of thing really does happen all the time in any intelligence community where they have to play jump rope with the line of finding the bad guys and protecting their own. What is surprising is that the Tor Project is bringing this to light. It might be counterproductive to them as the people that are doing this might now need to back off on sending bug to make sure they are not caught doing something they are not allowed to do.

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Last modified on Monday, 25 August 2014 12:03
Sean Kalinich

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