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Tor Project Experiments With Funding Fast Exit Nodes 96

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cash-for-secrets dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "The Tor Project is considering paying exit relay hosts to make the network faster and more secure. The project has called for discussion on the idea, notably from relay hosts. Its founder has suggested $100 a month would attract fast and diverse nodes. Exit nodes are the last hopping point on the Tor network and are critical to its performance and safety." The problem: "But lately the Tor network has become noticeably faster, and I think it has a lot to do with the growing amount of excess relay capacity relative to network load ... on today's network, clients choose one of the fastest 5 exit relays around 25-30% of the time, and 80% of their choices come from a pool of 40-50 relays. ... Since we're not doing particularly well at diversity with the current approach, we're going to try an experiment: we'll connect funding to exit relay operators so they can run bigger and/or better exit relays." As to funding: "We've lined up our first funder (BBG, ...), and they're excited to have us start as soon as we can. They want to sponsor 125+ fast exits."
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Tor Project Experiments With Funding Fast Exit Nodes

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  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:53AM (#40763069)
    I always want to be able to make a fast exit from whereever I am.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:00AM (#40763133)

    I mean, even if you are paid much more than $100 a month, being legally and financially responsible for the shit that goes on through your server (since you are the EXIT node) could get you sent to jail for life and cost you huge amounts of money. Sounds completely insane for anyone to willingly run such a thing.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:09AM (#40763219) Journal

      It's a public service, helping to preserve people's ability to practice their right to free speech. Plenty of us believe extremely strongly in that, and I'd consider it at least as worthy as many other philanthropic causes. If I had a decent amount of money (i.e. enough to consult a lawyer beforehand, take reasonable legal precautions, and kick up a stink rather than just disappearing if I ever were taken to court) I'd do it like a shot.

      • If you run an exit node and several intelligence agencies find out you're the guy behind the node what exactly can you do? I would say you're life would be ruined. So is there a way to run exit nodes completely anonymously?

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          I don't know that there is a method to do it completely anonymously, but the fact we're even treating the mere operation of an exit node as a crime, and something to be hidden at all costs, is a rather depressing indictment of the current state of our legal systems. Ideally one should be able to proudly and publicly make a stand for anonymity - that's where my comment about a decent amount of money comes in. A higher profile name who sets up a (charitable?) organisation with limited liability (not a perfect

        • by slashrio (2584709)
          What you are basically saying, is that you live in a state ruled by tyranny instead of democracy. I mean, where else would a law-abiding citizen say that doing something legal could have him put in jail and/or his life ruined if 'they' might 'find out'.
    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:18AM (#40763275)

      It would be nice to think that everyone would all do it, making it basically impossible to harass individual exit nodes. That's certainly the theory behind Tor. And it's a noble idea.

      But then again, let's face it, most people are leechers. And unless you could find a way to encourage mass adoption of Tor, combined with a default (perhaps even mandatory) setting of "allow exit node", it's probably not going to work.

      Maybe they could bundle it in with some really popular apps or games. Offer "This game $10 for the regular version/free with Tor" specials.

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:22AM (#40763303)

        It would be nice to think that everyone would all do it, making it basically impossible to harass individual exit nodes

        Like how it is impossible to harass individual pot smokers? Even if there were millions of exit nodes, the police would be harassing exit node operators, just to keep everyone afraid.

      • by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:56AM (#40763647)

        But then again, let's face it, most people are leechers.

        I have a reasonably fast business ADSL connection which is genuinely unmetered with no "fair-usage", no throttling, no DPI. It is literally a packet-shifting Internet connection through my ISP which is fairly rare in the UK these days!

        I'd love to open it up to the benefit of society, but I just can't accept the risks of running something like a Tor node. Even running a secondary channel with open wifi makes me nervous.

        I suppose this makes me cowardly.... and means they are winning.

        • Is there a way to make it impossible to determine who is running the node? Such as someone drops the node in a park and walks away?

          As things are right now, anyone caught running an exit node in any country could face harassment by hostile intelligence agencies. As a result no one really wants to run them. What can you do if you run a node and you get a knock on your door from the Secret Service or FBI? You'll be forced to cooperate.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Buy a server using an anonymous payment method, run the exit node on it, pay no more than monthly in case it gets taken down (ISP is uncomfortable, etc.), accept donations using an anonymous payment method. You can spend the received money anonymously, or otherwise carefully clean them before accessing with your personal identity.

            I do something like this for I2P and Freenet and never tried running a TOR exit node this way, but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

            • by crazyjj (2598719) *

              I'm pretty sure no ISP in their right mind is going to rent servers to anonymous buyers. That's pretty much begging for an FBI/Interpol/whoever raid. A Tor exit node would be the LEAST illegal thing such a service would be used for.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        By that line of argument you don't even need Tor, since as long as there are millions of dissidents in China there is nothing the government can do to get rid of all of them.

        The problem is that for any individual the concern isn't whether the government will ruin the lives of all the exit node operators, but whether their own life will be ruined.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I mean, even if you are paid much more than $100 a month, being legally and financially responsible for the shit that goes on through your server (since you are the EXIT node) could get you sent to jail for life and cost you huge amounts of money. Sounds completely insane for anyone to willingly run such a thing.

      It's great for FBI,CIA,MI5 etc. It concentrates a lot of questionable traffic to very few nodes and make anyone connecting to these nodes immediately suspicious. Running a node for money would mak

      • Most connections from exit nodes are perfectly legal. For example a Chinese guy wants to access Slashdot. The traffic in the US is legal and it's just his traffic which is encrypted and going to a different node which is where he has a problem if it's discovered.

        Let's be clear. The mere fact that you aren't doing anything doesn't make you immune from the police. There are so many laws and regulations set up for corporate interests that it's likely that you are breaking something; merely not running an

        • by elucido (870205)

          Most connections from exit nodes are perfectly legal. For example a Chinese guy wants to access Slashdot. The traffic in the US is legal and it's just his traffic which is encrypted and going to a different node which is where he has a problem if it's discovered.

          Let's be clear. The mere fact that you aren't doing anything doesn't make you immune from the police. There are so many laws and regulations set up for corporate interests that it's likely that you are breaking something; merely not running an exit node will not protect you. Filtering the traffic on exit nodes can very much reduce anti-social (potentially illegal) traffic. As long as you are only accepting a partial contribution and your costs are more than $100 you can treat this as an expense payment rather than a profit. This is likely to be seen very differently in court than profiting from an activity. Furthermore, the explicit involvement with the Tor project could help make it clear you did things for political reasons rather than in order to facilitate illegal activities. Overall, bearing in mind INAL, INAL in your country and, ICNYL (certainly not your lawyer), I don't see that this much increases the risk of a person running an exit node.

          There's plenty of reasonable FUD to spread about tor; it could be very risky to use tor from China since the traffic isn't that well hidden; you have to be very careful about your end point security; in less-democratic / less free countries you may be arrested for running an exit node even if you had no intention of supporting illegal activities. There's no need to make up extra FUD

          But it would still make you a target of China. Do you want to deal with that? If it's illegal in China then the Chinese government will eventually figure out who is running the exit node.

      • by elucido (870205)

        Why would they care about who is connecting those nodes? They would just target the node operators and watch them to determine who connects and what goes on.

        Once again I don't see how being a node operator for Tor can possibly be good in this environment. If there is another scandal and something goes forwarded through your node anyone from Putin to Obama could want to make you comply.

    • Sounds completely insane for anyone to willingly run such a thing.

      Some people are brave enough to run servers that will help political dissidents in China, Africa, and elsewhere.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        That's not brave unless you yourself live in those areas.

      • by elucido (870205)

        Sounds completely insane for anyone to willingly run such a thing.

        Some people are brave enough to run servers that will help political dissidents in China, Africa, and elsewhere.

        It's not a matter of being brave enough. How can it be done in a safe and effective way? If you want more people to do it then figure out how to make some best practices so it's safer. As things are right now Tor is the wild west and anything can happen to anyone "brave" enough to run an exit node. If running an exit node produces bad luck for whoever runs it, no one will want to run exit nodes. So how can we disconnect the individual ownership from the exit node? Libraries? Universities? What?

      • by SuperQ (431) *

        And if you're not brave enough to run it yourself, you can donate to exit nodes like NoiseTor - http://noisetor.net/ [noisetor.net] or to Tor itself.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Yeah, I would probably only run such a thing if I had a solid institutional arrangement that would back me up on it and divert any liability to the institution rather than me personally. A university may be able to get away with running an exit node, for example. But it's not clear this level of funding would incentivize those kinds of operators. Is a university's decision to run or not run an exit node going to turn on whether they get $100/mo funding?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Tor has been out for ten years. Could you post some links to articles where people were held legally and/or financially responsible for what passed through their exit node?

      • by rbrausse (1319883) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @12:12PM (#40765399)

        [anecdote]

        I had legal troubles* as someone used my exit node for downloading child pornography. after nearly 2 years the prosecutor closed the proceedings as he found nothing punishable.

        *) including some officers searching my flat at 7 am and all my hardware was confiscated

        • by allo (1728082)

          > *) including some officers searching my flat at 7 am and all my hardware was confiscated
          and this is how it works.
          Now you're afraid to run a node, because this can happen again. And a lot of others reading your message are afraid and do not even start.

          We need so many nodes, that its infeasable to search every flat of a node-owner. Something like tor included into the default-config of a popular adsl-modem or something like this.

          • by rbrausse (1319883)

            Now you're afraid to run a node, because this can happen again.

            yes. I knew something like this could happen (and was in a way prepared - the police visit was surprising but not completely unexpected), but lawyer and new computers were expensive...

            Sure, it is cowardly - blame me as I blame myself :)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Luckily not all countries have a judicial system as fucked up beyond all recognition like the US has.

    • they can aid dissidents in China, Syria, Iran, Cuba, etc.

      and they can keep an eye on kiddie porn assholes

      sound like an exotic weird idea? Tor was started by the government, specifically the US Naval Research Laboratory

      heck, i can see the Chinese government running their own exit nodes for keeping an eye on political dissidents

      all your Tor is belong to government

      • by elucido (870205)

        they can aid dissidents in China, Syria, Iran, Cuba, etc.

        and they can keep an eye on kiddie porn assholes

        sound like an exotic weird idea? Tor was started by the government, specifically the US Naval Research Laboratory

        heck, i can see the Chinese government running their own exit nodes for keeping an eye on political dissidents

        all your Tor is belong to government

        That might be true but what about all the innocent civilians who think they can run exit nodes too? They all get brutalized by pissed off governments?

        • son, if you are running a Tor exit node, you're not an "innocent civilian" according to any government

          benign neglect is what you can hope for in the west. a knock on the door by nice policeman or worse in china or iran

    • I mean, even if you are paid much more than $100 a month, being legally and financially responsible for the shit that goes on through your server (since you are the EXIT node) could get you sent to jail for life and cost you huge amounts of money. Sounds completely insane for anyone to willingly run such a thing.

      Even if you aren't held legally responsible some vigilante types will hold you morally responsible. Once again it's a bad idea to run a Tor exit node. So who exactly is running them and how do they keep themselves safe?

    • by SuperQ (431) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @12:15PM (#40765449) Homepage

      Hi, I help run an exit node. Specifically NoiseTor - http://noisetor.net/ [noisetor.net] Yes, we do get police/FBI/etc calls regularly. Most of the time it takes a few min of explaining what tor is, we have no logs, and there's nothing we can do to help track down where the traffic came from.

      It's invaluable to run exit nodes, and the risks are fairly minor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How is it that they let you get away with just saying that? Then what stops me from distributing terrorist child porn warez from my home PC and then saying it was a Tor exit node when they call? In fact, they probably would never call me. They would contact my ISP, which would cut me off and tell them my home address and all information about me and then the police would come straight to my house without any warning. Why are they so kind to you?

      • by flok (24996)
        Fairly minor? Not if you live in the Netherlands where they bring you a visit taking with them all your hardware and never returning it.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I note that your exit node configuration is based on whitelisting specific ports and is not simply open. That probably is greatly reducing the kinds of run-ins you're going to get with the usual suspects - I doubt many people have their bittorrent clients and such set to run on port 80.

    • Is it "legal" until you take/make money to provide the service?

    • by gilgongo (57446)

      For the last few years, I've run one of the faster exit nodes in the UK. I think I've had two, maybe three, complaint emails forwarded by my ISP in that time. I just send them to my standard boilerplate [62.197.40.155], CC the ISP, and never hear back.

      Bottom line: anyone wanting to do something really nasty won't use Tor - they'll use something much more suitable for their task, like a botnet for one thing.

    • by zoloto (586738)
      The amount of FUD is amazing in this post and it's modded to +4 Insightful?

      What's wrong with people and modpoints lately? This is garbage!

      I've been running an exit node FROM MY HOME for the last 3 years with ZERO problems from both police AND my isp.

      You sir are talking SHIT.

    • um no you ar prtected by safe harbor laws the same reason your isp and the back bone are not liable for your copyright infringement, a tor node is simply a dumb pipe system with a shit ton of encryption and obfuscation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:10AM (#40763223)

    From wiki:
    "The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a bipartisan panel of eight private citizens appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate (the U.S. Secretary of State is an ex officio member of the Board), is the oversight body for official U.S. international broadcasts by both federal agencies and government-funded corporations. In addition to VOA, these include the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB, which includes Radio and TV Marti) and grantee corporations: the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN, which includes Radio Sawa and Al Hurra television in Arabic); Radio Farda (in Persian) for Iran; Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, which are aimed at the ex-communist states and countries under oppressive regimes in Asia. In recent years, VOA has expanded its television coverage to many areas of the world. This governing body was established in 1993 to replace the Board for International Broadcasters, which was created in 1973 to manage broadcasting companies previously funded by the CIA."

    More from Cryptome: http://cryptome.org/2012/07/tor-exits-usg-funds.htm

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      VOA = Voice Of America
      Essentially the propaganda arm of the US Government wants to fund exit nodes, tread lightly folks.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      That's pretty interesting. I would've guessed the U.S. government is overall against Tor, as a complication for its law enforcement, and would be more likely to harass it than support it. Either it means that the "good" parts of Tor from the US govt's point of view, its potential usefulness to Iran/Chinese/etc. dissidents, is overriding the "bad' parts, or else it's different branches of the government working at odds (not impossible either).

      • I would've guessed the U.S. government is overall against Tor

        The project was started by the US government, as a way to help covert agents hide their activities.

        a complication for its law enforcement,

        Only shallow-minded cops think that; cops who actually specialize in investigating criminals over the Internet know better than to leave a police IP address in a server log. To put it another way, if the police are investigating a child sex abuse forum where most of the participants are using proxy servers or Tor, the police need to use Tor as well, or they will be detected before any useful evidence can

        • by oakgrove (845019)
          You bring up a good point about the cops hanging out in pedo forums etc. The way I see it, that's where the real action is for law enforcement. You will never nab the sickos by poaching exit nodes and putting people in jail because some kiddy porn or whatever went through it. That would be stupid as the real criminals are the ones actually consuming and creating that content. The government should be happy that tor exists. It gives them a honeypot where they can do real police work. Go to a pedo forum
          • You bring up a good point about the cops hanging out in pedo forums etc. The way I see it, that's where the real action is for law enforcement. You will never nab the sickos by poaching exit nodes and putting people in jail because some kiddy porn or whatever went through it. That would be stupid as the real criminals are the ones actually consuming and creating that content. The government should be happy that tor exists. It gives them a honeypot where they can do real police work. Go to a pedo forum and blend in. Get people to trust you and get some pics with identifying exif data, or whatever and make a bust. Rinse and repeat. You'd be a fool to go after the exit nodes. It would be like busting your informants. The bottom line is many criminals are stupid and despite using tor they will fuck up. Old fashioned police work does not mean being stupid and taking down the exits. I hope I haven't been unclear.

            It's true that you will not nab the sickos by poaching exit nodes. However if you make people scared enough that they are afraid to host exit nodes for fear of being thrown in jail for trafficking kiddie porn then the Tor network becomes less usable and the sickos are forced out into the open where it is much easier to find them. This is a much easier strategy than the elaborate tactics you describe.

            • by oakgrove (845019)
              The government created Tor specifically for dissidents to communicate so they aren't going to try to shut it down. This is a case of idiots down the totem pole not "getting it".
            • by allo (1728082)

              i think you're wrong. on tor the sickos think they're safe, on the open net you will not find any sites of them, because they're well hidden. There they are much more paranoid as on the "safe" network tor.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am sure the NSA would love to run an exit node or two since they will be facing some looming funding cuts soon. In this soft economy, a gals gotta make a buck...

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:11AM (#40763233)

    This new version also features 2-3 times more harassment [wikipedia.org] from the government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chrisq (894406)

      This new version also features 2-3 times more harassment [wikipedia.org] from the government.

      Or maybe the government will be providing the exit nodes (via proxy companies). I am sure that the ability to add delays at exit would aid traffic identification [wikipedia.org]

      • by oakgrove (845019)
        Reading your link I see it's mostly talking about sending personally identifying information unencrypted through the network that just gets sniffed when it leaves the exit node. Torrenting through tor is really dumb since many torrenting programs send your ip address to the tracker unencrypted, so duh, the exit node sniffers get that and if you send other traffic through the same node, then, yes, that other traffic can easily be linked to you. The other issue is in your link is pretty much the same thing.
        • To help Chrisq (894406) out, here is a cite:

          Ryan Pries, Wei Yu, Xinwen Fu, and Wei Zhao, “A New Replay Attack against Tor Anonymous Communication Network", in Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC) (Best Paper Award of Information and Network Security Symposium), May 2008.

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  • by Revotron (1115029) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:25AM (#40763325)
    Do not pass go. Collect $100.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't they take that $100 and use it to host exit nodes at various cloud hosting facilities around the world? That would take out some of the liability since only the Tor Project or their sponsors would be on the hook (and they already are for paying the $100)

    • by Revotron (1115029)
      But that means they would be legally responsible when the authorities show up asking questions. The idea here is to pawn legal responsibility off on other people, who will then have to fight to stay out of Federal PMITA prison for being an accessory, or harboring, or whatever charges the DA's dart happens to land on that day.
    • $100 won't get you a lot of bandwidth. What they need to do is buy fios for a whole lot of people and pay for it with the $100 - sort of like FoN. That'll make the number of exit nodes large enough that it'll be hard to monitor all the nodes.

      40-50 preferred exit nodes means that someone sneaky can look at around 2% of the TOR traffic at any given time. As the intercepts in the past have shown, you can get a lot of interesting stuff from that 2%. They need to grow that pool tremendously...and paying for peop

  • Don't worry, most of the fast exit nodes are for sure owned by the intelligence services.
    (at least, they know what's being discussed, even if they don't have the origin)

    As for fast exit nodes, one can get some boxes for cheap from OVH all around the world (they are opening in Canada soon) for example : http://www.ovh.co.uk/dedicated_servers/ [ovh.co.uk]
    (low end dedicated boxes in France start at about 40 USD for 100Mb/s)

  • Here's one idea why this may be: Perhaps some governments are operating faster TOR nodes, knowing that they will attract a larger percentage of TOR users, hoping they can catch more of their own citizens that they want to arrest.
  • Right now most of the evil exit nodes would be people who have evil use for the data. They are willing to put out more money and have more money for making them faster (Evil governments, Org Crime, Ad companies). So right now, getting a faster connection could be a bad thing. This would help even the playing field a little.

    Sill, they need to do a lot more. With the tor network you don't need to control any nodes if you have control of a few routers along the way (Governments). Look up: Wei Yu. Replay Atta

  • Tor: now featuring exit nodes that wrap advertising around your browsing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would 100 a month cover fees to:

    1) incorporate
    2) rent the cheapest local colo I could find in a shared cabinet
    (years ago I used to know one for 35 a month, but that was a sweetheart deal)
    3) Properly have an accountant file the paperwork/taxes
    4) Pay myself $1 / month?

    I'll donate a computer and hardware and maintain it. Might not be high end, but it'll have a gigE nic and whatever the colo will give me bandwidth wise.

    System will be running a locked

  • Would it be technically possible to have a system where people pay to get faster speeds on the Tor network? I would do that.
  • The ones that a huge fraction of all the traffic is going through? Those are the ones most likely to be sniffing traffic and doing MITMs.

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