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Tor – Not just for drug dealers…

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Over recent weeks there has been a great harrumphing of editorials about how the usual internet bogeymen (pedophiles, drug runners, terrorists and alleged assassins) have been utilizing Tor to carry on their business away from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies. This has recently been brought to a head with the arrest of Eric Eoin Marques the owner/operator of “Freedom Hosting” in Ireland, the main provider of Tor hosting services.

The captured servers were operated by law enforcement officials for an unknown period of time to capture information on who the site owners were and who the main users were, the primary target was the Silk Road online drugs marketplace, for which arrests are ongoing.

The surprising thing about Tor is that it was originally a product of the US Defense Research Agency DARPA (where much of the technology of the internet originated) to allow anonymous communications over the internet. To this day it is still supported by the US and Swedish governments, where 80% of funding for the Tor project comes from. This is despite Tor being classified by the NSA as “the King of high secure, low latency Internet anonymity” in a recent Guardian article on the subject (Link).

For myself, I utilize Tor, not for anonymity, but to access websites that the government or my ISP deems unsuitable for my delicate tastes, this is not just a problem in Malaysia, but also the UK where the High Court has created an effective blacklist, enforced by ISP’s blocking access to sites such as The Pirate Bay.

Given the increasing censorship around the world, having Tor as a means of bypassing such totalitarian controls is a useful tool. I wonder how long it will be before the Tor download site itself is blocked.

Carpe diem ladies and gents.

Download Tor

Eli the Computer – Introduction to Tor

16 Comments

  1. Paul Marks says:

    People need safe places to base websites (and themselves) in. But do these safe countries exist? Can anyone name one?

  2. jeremyp99 says:

    One thing – Tor is NOT recommended for P2P. Also, anyone with an ounce of intelligence can still access Piratebay through one of the many many proxies available. Tor helps to a degree to make your browsing anonymous but it is by no means 100% (end points are vulnerable). I’d go for VPN before Tor any day.

    http://torrentproxies.com/

  3. John Galt says:

    Yes, fair points Jeremy, but Tor is free (unlike all VPN providers I can think of) and can be tailored to route through specific countries. Equally, the endpoint vulnerability is more theoretical than practical.

    I’ve also used it in UK public libraries where both proxies and VPN’s were blocked to prevent users from bypassing the censorship controls on their free wifi.

    On some UK ISP’s, for example talktalk the content restrictions are even more severe unless users call them to opt-out (“Yes sir, certainly I’ll unblock your access to naked teens dot com). They even block access to Tim Worstall’s blog as he is pro-smoking.

    I’ll stick to my Tor if you don’t mind…

  4. jeremyp99 says:

    A good vpn should not be detected by your ISP. I use Private Internet Access, cost c£25 per annum. P2P flies using it, as does streaming P2P, such as acestream, which will pause for buffering with most ISPs. Whilst I love our local library and use it all the time, their internet connection is so bad it is to all intents and purposes unusable.

  5. John Galt says:

    £25 per annum, hmmm pricey when you’re a tight fisted git like me.

    How about free? ‘cos free works for me.

  6. NickM says:

    How can I get, say, a few years old (not that old) version of Corel Graphics from something like BitTorrent? I is confused.

  7. John Galt says:

    What version do you want?

  8. NickM says:

    Whatever is going JG. Later the better natch. But not too hot and heavy. Crikey, we are running XP, Vista, 7, 8, and Ubuntu (when I figure out what is wrong with that deck – not that that matters… but).

  9. John Galt says:

    You’ve got my e-mail address, send me your snail mail address and I will put a CD in the post.

  10. NickM says:

    Cheers John!

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    I meant to post something when Silk Road was seized, but got distracted. If I were of a suspicious frame of mind I’d suggest that the real target here is Bitcoin. The fact that drugs were traded there is helpful to The Authorities’ cause, but who made that illegal in the first place? No, their real beef is that people were buying and selling willy-nilly with their own currency in some kind of a… a – what would you call it? – a… free market. How are they going to be taxed?

    And sure, HMG’s blocking TPB isn’t much of a problem. Yet. If you think they’re going to stop at a torrent tracker, now they’ve got the bit between their teeth, you’re fooling yourself. As has been said many times over at Samizdata, Dave’s on-by-default censorship engine is not about porn.

  12. PeterT says:

    I use talktalk (crap but cheap) and I can access Tim Worstall’s blog no problem. And other stuff.

  13. Errr no mention of a country from which it is safe to run a website.

    Is there no country where it is safe to run one from?

  14. John Galt says:

    Principality of Sealand?

  15. NickM says:

    Not exactly a country. Could be squished anytime.

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