The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

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Rotten onion

Right after the Lizard Squad finished with a DDOS attack on the PSN and XBOX networks, they launched an attack against the Tor anonymity system. The attack was simple, set up enough Tor relays to be able to identify a significant fraction of Tor users and connect them with their activity. They got caught because they were bozos (perhaps intentionally). They did the attack hard and fast, which made it easy to identify the rogue relays, and they bragged about it (which told people to look for the attack). (more…)

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Looking in Dark Box

I have long said that privacy services are all about trust. I this article demonstrating how to use a simple web proxy to compromise the users of that proxy. Of course, the operator of the proxy is being untrustworthy, but that is the whole point. If you don’t have a reason to specifically trust the operator of your privacy service, you need to assume that they are attempting to do you harm. Of course, the same argument applies to Tor. Literally anyone could be running that proxy for any purpose. (more…)

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Tor webpage

Two new attacks on Tor were recently announced.

The first involves using an exit node to automatically modify software patches to include malware. This one is being seen in the wild already. (more…)

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Aug/14

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The Privacy Blog Podcast – Ep. 22

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Standard Profile PictureWelcome to episode 22 of the Privacy Blog Podcast for July, 2014.
In this episode I will talk about:

  • A recent revealed compromise of the Tor anonymity system
  • Why Canvas Fingerprinting both is and is not a big deal
  • The coming conflict between US searches and EU privacy
  • How even genealogy information can compromise your identity
  • An update on Chinese censorship
  • Why the security model of the web is hopelessly broken
  • Russia’s continuing crackdown on the Internet
  • and finally how Lightbulbs, among other things, can
  • compromise your network

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TorAppLogo

Tor just announced that they have detected and blocked an attack that may have allowed hidden services and possibly users to be de-anonymized.

It looks like this may be connected to the recently canceled BlackHat talk on Tor vulnerabilities. One hopes so, otherwise the attack may have been more hostile than simple research.

Tor is releasing updated server and client code to patch the vulnerability used in this attack. This shows once again one of the key architectural weaknesses in Tor, the distributed volunteer infrastructure. On the one hand, it means that you are not putting all of your trust in one entity. On the other hand, you really don’t know who you are trusting, and anyone could be running the nodes you are using. Many groups hostile to your interests would have good reason to run Tor nodes and to try to break your anonymity.

The announcement from Tor is linked below.

Tor security advisory: “relay early” traffic confirmation attack | The Tor Blog

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Jul/14

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Russia puts a bounty on Tor's head

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The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs recently announced a contest to create a method to identify Tor users, with a prize of about $114,000.

Clearly the government is worried about the ability of Tor to allow people to bypass the increasingly draconian Internet laws that have been put in place. This puts a big target on Tor, but people have been working on breaking Tor for years. This year a talk at Black Hat on cracking Tor anonymity was pulled without explanation after it was announced and scheduled.

Being free and well established, Tor has the largest user base of any privacy service, so it is the obvious first target. Its distributed design also introduces paths for attack not available in other designs like Anonymizer Universal.

It will be interesting to see if this move drives Tor users to other services, and whether that in turn leads to expanded efforts to crack those tools.

Fancy $110,000? Easy! Just be Russian and find a way of cracking Tor | HOTforSecurity

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Mar/14

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Check your phone for evil Tor app

TorAppLogo

Fake Tor browser for iOS laced with adware, spyware, members warn | Ars Technica

There are a number of different Tor anonymity service apps in the Apple iOS app store. According to several people at Tor, one of them is unofficial and loaded with adware and spyware.

The bad one is “Tor Browser”. If you have it, you should un-install it immediately.

Apple has been requested to remove the app from the store, but no action has been taken so far.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook and Google+.

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This is  episode 15 of the Privacy Blog Podcast for December, 2013

In this episode I talk about:

How people are tracking the biggest ever theft of Bitcoins

A keylogger that has compromised 2 million accounts

Why a majority of Turks may be at risk of identity theft

How an anonymous bomb hoaxer got caught

A demonstration of activating iSight cameras without the indicator light

and finally, some thoughts on staying safe this holiday season.

 

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On Monday, Dec 16, during final exams, someone sent an email  to Harvard University administrators saying that there were bombs in two of four named buildings on campus. The threat was a hoax to get out of final exams. The sender used TOR and Guerrilla Mail, a disposable email address service, to hide his identity.

Despite that, police quickly identified Eldo Kim, he confessed, and was arrested. So, why did the privacy tools fail?

According to the FBI affidavit, the lead came from Harvard University, which was able to determine that Mr. Kim had accessed TOR from the university wireless network shortly before and while the emails were being sent.

This is really a case of classic police work. A bomb threat during finals is very likely to be from a student trying to avoid the tests. A student trying to avoid a test is unlikely to have the discipline to find and use a remote network. Therefor, the one or hand full of students using TOR at the time of the email are the most likely suspects…. and it turns out that they are right.

This case provides some important lessons to the rest of use who are trying to protect our identities for less illegal reasons.

First, clearly the Harvard Wireless network is being actively monitored and logged. It is reasonable to assume that your ISP or government might be monitoring your activities. One way to reduce correlations of your activity is to use privacy tools all the time, not just when you need them. This provides plausible deniability.

After all, if you never use such services, except for ten minutes exactly when some message was sent, and you are a likely suspect, then the circumstantial evidence is very strong. If you are using them 24/7, then the overlap says nothing.

Second, if Mr. Kim used anonymous email, how did they know he used TOR to access the email service? Because GuerrillaMail embeds the sending IP address in every outgoing email. The service only hides your email address, not your IP. In this case, they must have embedded the IP address of the exit TOR node. Even if they had not embedded the IP, GuerrillaMail keep logs which would have been available to the FBI with a warrant.

The lesson here is to look closely at your privacy tools, and to understand what they do protect and what they don’t.

The most important takeaway is that there is no privacy tool which will let you turn it on and turn off your brain. You always need to be thinking about what you are hiding, from whom, and how much effort they are likely to expend in finding you.

If you are hiding your IP address to get a better price on airline tickets, the threat is very low across the board. If you make terrorist threats, it is very hard to stay hidden afterwards.

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