Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Communications Crime Encryption Networking Security The Internet Your Rights Online

FBI Hunt For Child Porn Thwarted By Tor 714

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cost-of-anonymous-communication dept.
v3rgEz writes "Documents released by the FBI provide an unusual inside look at how the agency is struggling to penetrate 'darknet' Onion sites routed through Tor, the online privacy tool funded in part by government grants to help global activists. In this case, agents were unable to pursue specific leads about an easily available child pornography site, while files withheld indicate that the FBI has ongoing investigations tied to the Silk Road marketplace, a popular, anonymous Tor site for buying and selling drugs and other illegal materials." Sounds similar to the problems that plagued freenet.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FBI Hunt For Child Porn Thwarted By Tor

Comments Filter:
  • FBI angry? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:15PM (#40291313)

    FBI SMASH TOR!

  • It doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arch_Android (1989386) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:21PM (#40291343)
    Nothing is important enough that it takes priority over liberty and freedom of speech. Nothing.
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:28PM (#40291413)

      Nothing is important enough that it takes priority over liberty and freedom of speech. Nothing.

      Nothing? Not shouting fire in a crowded theater? How about if someone rapes your daughter, films the act, and puts it on a billboard across the street from her school?

      Freedom is important, but it is not an absolute.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:41PM (#40291531)

        Unfortunately technology is forcing us to decide -- a repressive police state that enforces your views of censorship, or a society that allows free speech. What little middle ground there ever was is rapidly vanishing.

        Child porn, hate speech, etc are awful -- but we've seen what's first up against the wall when the censors get their way -- criticism of the law itself.

      • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:46PM (#40291579)

        Not shouting fire in a crowded theater?

        I find it somewhat unlikely that people would get up, scream, and trample over everyone else to get out of the building because someone screamed something that they don't know to be true. And even if they did, I'd say they should be the ones paying for any damage they did to other people.

        How about if someone rapes your daughter, films the act, and puts it on a billboard across the street from her school?

        Prosecute the rapist.

        Freedom is important, but it is not an absolute.

        That depends on where your priorities lie. In some cases, and to some people, it might be.

      • by nbsr (2343058) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:49PM (#40291605)

        What if someone kills your daugther? Should we pass a bill to bring her back to life? Or maybe we just put the murderer in jail.

        If I had to choose, I would much more prefer to have CP pictures floating around than having a wide-spread surveillance network looking into *all* aspects of my life.

        This is a fine act of improving quality of our lifes. On one hand being killed or raped makes the victim's life pitiful (or gone), on the other - eliminating this danger is impossible and makes everybody's life poor (no one has managed to solve this problem, not even China or NK).

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:53PM (#40291625)
        On the other hand, Tor's ability to protect dissidents who live under repressive governments, it's ability to enable free speech in those countries (e.g. discussing the Tienanmen Square incident, criticizing the Ayatollah, etc.) should, in my opinion, take priority over the quest to arrest people who download and share child sex abuse images. We may be revolted by such imagery, but:
        1. There are plenty of other ways the images can be shared. I have even heard from one security researcher that producers of child abuse imagery often choose to send an encrypted DVD through the postal system, since it is considered to be a more secure way to transmit gigabytes of data. Tor is a relatively low-bandwidth network, and so the scale of such activity on Tor is inherently limited.
        2. Anything that can be done to catch people who share child abuse images on Tor could be used by a repressive government to persecute dissidents. I doubt that the FBI will really be able to keep any hypothetical Tor-breaking technique out of Chinese hands, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the Chinese government would hesitate to use its intelligence capabilities to obtain such techniques. The fact that the FBI is unable to break Tor is a hopeful sign for the people who use Tor to protect themselves from persecution over political statements, religion, or human rights work.

        So while freedom may not be absolute, we are not really talking about an edge case where free speech does not apply. We are talking about an important technology that enables free speech in places where there are few protections, which happens to see some use among child abusers (and the free speech issues relating to sharing child abuse imagery are not really settled -- not all the people who possess or share such imagery are producing it, and it is even less likely that someone who uses Tor to download such images has in any way paid for or encouraged its production).

      • by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:05PM (#40291693)

        Nothing? Not shouting fire in a crowded theater?

        Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences of speech. Libel, inciting a riot, reckless endangerment, and conspiracy all do not limit the speech but the actions that arise from the speech.

        How about if someone rapes your daughter, films the act, and puts it on a billboard across the street from her school?

        Freedom is important, but it is not an absolute.

        Use the film to prove the rape, prosecute the bastard and send him to a prison where someone else shows him what it is like. Also, prosecute the billboard owner for obscenity. Lets face it. The worst thing happening in that hypothetical situation is not that someone took pictures. It was rape.

  • Make up your minds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Sabbath (118110) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:24PM (#40291377) Homepage

    Freedom of speech, or government monitoring of all communications.
    Decide which one you want and accept the consequences of your decision.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:27PM (#40291409) Journal
      Problem is, it doesn't stop governments who want to monitor all communications, because they can detect and block the protocol. So it helps bad guys (unless you think child-porn sellers are not bad) and doesn't help the good guys.

      I like TOR, and I think it should stay around, I'll fight to make sure it stays legal, but I am disappointed that it hasn't lived up to its original promise and potential.
    • by sirwired (27582) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:24PM (#40291851)

      Is absolute tyrannical control over communications really the only alternative to pure unstoppable anonymity?

      Maybe I'll take C), where the government obtains valid, reasonable, limited, warrants for the monitoring of communications, carries out those warrants, and finds the bad guys.

      I can't believe this got modded "insightful"... methinks the mods (and the parent) need to read up on the logical fallacy called the False Dilemma.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:26PM (#40291393)

    Isn't it kind of the POINT of a darknet that nobody can trace who's who? Sounds to me like the system is working as designed.

    Yes, it will be used to break laws. But that's when you break out the actual investigative skills instead of relying on tech work and unrestricted wiretaps.

  • by WarmBoota (675361) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:26PM (#40291401) Homepage
    This is why we can't have nice things. I would LOVE to support democracy locally and internationally by running a Tor node, but I would never run one as long as the risk existed that I'd be questioned about kiddie porn. I know I'm innocent, I could be PROVEN innocent, but anyone who ever heard would always think I was guilty. It's just not worth it to me. It's Kryptonite to free speech.
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:58PM (#40291649)
      You could run a bridge node -- these are very helpful to people who live in countries with national firewalls that block official Tor relays. Bridge nodes are unlisted relays, which are included in short lists (three nodes if I remember correctly) of randomly selected that are sent upon request via email. Some countries (I am looking at you, China) have ongoing campaigns to compile lists of all bridges, which is why we need people to run as many bridge nodes as possible. A bridge node is not an exit, so you will not face the wrath of the FBI or other police agencies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:30PM (#40291431)

    FBI: "There are secret anonymous corners of the internet, where people are trading illegally downloaded movies!"
    Public: "So what?"
    FBI: "That isn't all. They're ALSO buying and selling.... MARIJUANA!"
    Public: "We don't care."
    FBI: ".....AND CHILD PORNOGRAPHY"
    Public: "Nooooooooooooo! Here's $50 million in extra funding and new broad new powers for your agency."
    FBI: "We promise only to use them for your own good."

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:34PM (#40291469) Journal

    If they believe that they need to crack the encryption, that just means they're going after the wrong people. Instead of wasting time going after the darknet sites and/or their customers, they should be focusing 100% of their efforts on trying to identify A. the kids and/or B. the locations where the videos were shot. This approach has several advantages:

    • It doesn't require any access to the actual transactions.
    • It doesn't require weakening the security model of the Internet to do it.
    • By jailing the people who make the porn, you actually protect children by getting them out of abusive situations.

    In contrast, by going after other people in the chain, you *might* occasionally get an actual child abuser, but usually you just ruin the lives of people who did something stupid and probably would not have actually harmed anyone's child. It's a bit like the difference between jailing people who are using guns to kill people and jailing everyone who carries a gun in the wrong part of town because a few of them might kill people....

    • by Dwedit (232252)

      People are dumb enough to leave the EXIF tags on unaltered JPEGs fresh from the camera. So those might help trace the victims.

    • by sirwired (27582) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:31PM (#40291891)

      "they should be focusing 100% of their efforts on trying to identify A. the kids and/or B. the locations where the videos were shot."

      Wow! I'm going to call the FBI right away and suggest they try and find out who and where those kids are so they can be rescued! I'm sure they haven't already thought of that one!

      Yeah, I'm sure it's a piece of cake tracking down the precise identity of some random abused youth locked in a completely generic concrete basement. There are only millions upon millions of generic concrete basements out there in the world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270)

        Yeah, I'm sure it's a piece of cake tracking down the precise identity of some random abused youth locked in a completely generic concrete basement. There are only millions upon millions of generic concrete basements out there in the world.

        You're completely missing the point. Law enforcement, like anything else that involves time and effort, is a zero sum game. Every minute they spend wasting their time chasing distributors and downloaders and other penny-ante criminals (who have almost zero chance of bei

        • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @03:56AM (#40293005) Homepage

          Law enforcement, like anything else that involves time and effort, is a zero sum game.

          You have no idea what a zero sum game is, so stop using it. A zero sum game is one where all the gains and losses add up to zero, like for example a poker game with no rake. All the money is simply moving around and one man's gain must be another's loss. If a criminal escaped a life sentence that's a huge gain for him but you can't say there's an equal and opposite loss for the police, it's not like they have to go to prison instead. Law enforcement like most games are not zero sum. Time is zero-sum yes, if you spend more time on one thing you must spend less on another but it'd be 24 hours per day even if all they did was sit around and eat donuts all day. If time is the "game" then that's as good a solution as any other.

  • by outsider007 (115534) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:47PM (#40291589)

    We need to get the child rape off the internet and back in the church where it belongs.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:56PM (#40291641)

    It's just bit. There is no difference to the network between an image of child porn and a manifesto to free Tibet.

    If you can find the source of one you can find the source of the other.

    So the "problem" is actually a case of "working as designed".

  • The real reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:05PM (#40291697)

    Whilst I am of course against child pornography, I get the feeling this isn't the real reason. Instead child-porn is now the catch-all excuse the FBI/NSA/CIA/whoever will use every time to try and legislate against any and all kinds of encryption, sharing or anonymising system that they can't get into.

    No politician will stand up to defend our rights if it means they also risk being perceived as possibly defending child abuse.

    I'm far more inclined to believe the real interest behind this is the RIAA/MPAA who want to make it impossible to anonymously share files at all and/or the gov itself who want to monitor every email, IM and keystroke we make online.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:15PM (#40291779)

    The only reason why this was released to the public, was to drum up support to make programs like TOR illegal in the US.

    You have been warned. Once the government uses the "For the children" excuse... or "Child pornography" excuse... it should immediately make you take notice that the government is trying to outlaw something.

    In this case, its dark nets, because as we all know that is where piracy is heading, and they want to stop it.

    • by pegasustonans (589396) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:18PM (#40291809)

      The only reason why this was released to the public, was to drum up support to make programs like TOR illegal in the US.

      You have been warned. Once the government uses the "For the children" excuse... or "Child pornography" excuse... it should immediately make you take notice that the government is trying to outlaw something.

      In this case, its dark nets, because as we all know that is where privacy is heading, and they want to stop it.

      Fixed that for you.

  • Dangerous freedom. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Voogru (2503382) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:47PM (#40291981)
    I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. Eventually these pedo's will screw up and get caught. Time to go do some real police work.
  • by J'raxis (248192) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:48PM (#40291989) Homepage

    Surveillance thwarted? Sounds like TOR is functioning exactly as it should.

    If there's any actual "problem" here, that problem is the FBI.

  • by wanderfowl (2534492) on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:50PM (#40292007)

    Reading the comments on this thread, I'm realizing that likely within our lifetimes, we'll be having the same debate about strong cryptography that we're now having about guns, likely spurred on by stories like this about pedophiles, terrorists, "hackers" and all those other scary people on the internets.

    Some of the same talking points are already in use ("We'll need them when the government comes for us", "Only criminals need them", "If they're banned, only criminals will have them and we'll be defenseless", etc), and strong cryptography, much like guns, are something that the governments and law enforcement fear as they can make it possible for people to break the law (just or otherwise) without the government being able to stop them.

    I hope I'm wrong, and of course, you can't quite ban code so easily, but still, a scary future and an unpleasant debate may well be ahead.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

Working...