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Government United States Your Rights Online

FBI Admits It Controlled Tor Servers Behind Mass Malware Attack 292

Posted by timothy
from the something-you'd-wish-was-hard-to-believe dept.
MikeatWired writes "It wasn't ever seriously in doubt, but the FBI yesterday acknowledged that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting last July, days before the servers of the largest provider of ultra-anonymous hosting were found to be serving custom malware designed to identify visitors. Freedom Hosting's operator, Eric Eoin Marques, had rented the servers from an unnamed commercial hosting provider in France, and paid for them from a bank account in Las Vegas. It's not clear how the FBI took over the servers in late July, but the bureau was temporarily thwarted when Marques somehow regained access and changed the passwords, briefly locking out the FBI until it gained back control. The new details emerged in local press reports from a Thursday bail hearing in Dublin, Ireland, where Marques, 28, is fighting extradition to America on charges that Freedom Hosting facilitated child pornography on a massive scale. He was denied bail today for the second time since his arrest in July. On August 4, all the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting — some with no connection to child porn — began serving an error message with hidden code embedded in the page. Security researchers dissected the code and found it exploited a security hole in Firefox to identify users of the Tor Browser Bundle, reporting back to a mysterious server in Northern Virginia. The FBI was the obvious suspect, but declined to comment on the incident. The FBI also didn't respond to inquiries from WIRED today. But FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brooke Donahue was more forthcoming when he appeared in the Irish court yesterday to bolster the case for keeping Marque behind bars."
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FBI Admits It Controlled Tor Servers Behind Mass Malware Attack

Comments Filter:
  • by Zemran (3101) on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:16PM (#44846107) Homepage Journal

    Land where Freedom will not be tolerated.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:18PM (#44846113)

    Remember when we used to think that U.S. LEOs still had some sense of ethics and would never actually send child porn to anyone to make a case? Now we know that, at least for a while, the FBI was running the servers. The FBI was responsible for serving up, by all accounts, half the *.onion-based child porn sites in the world.

    Is this the first time they crossed this line? Or have they done so before?

  • by arbiter1 (1204146) on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:18PM (#44846125)
    Its called "unauthorized access of a computer" which is a federal offense.
  • by russotto (537200) on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:21PM (#44846135) Journal

    Nope, the NSA controlled the servers, it led to an NSA controlled IP address and they have the hackers needed.

    Don't be ridiculous. The NSA hackers were probably laughing and pointing at the FBI and snickering about how they were amateurs. Remember the NSA has only gotten caught when they've been betrayed, not because their technical means were discovered.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:37PM (#44846217)

    No, actually, you're wrong. You should be allowed to post any content you wish. In this case, though, you should be mentally equiped with the moral, ethical code that would tell you that child porn is wrong. Of course, that observation only moves itself along to yet another point.. That is the failing of society and culture to properly cultivate those skills. A conversation beyond the scope of /.

  • Re:Tormail... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:43PM (#44846255)

    You're a fool if you actually believe their attack was against pedophiles.

    Lets just face it already. Our government is out of control and it won't be easy to stop now that things are so far in motion.

  • by return 42 (459012) on Friday September 13, 2013 @10:54PM (#44846295)

    First they came for the pedophiles on Freedom Hosting, and I said nothing because pedophiles are scum.

    Then they came for the drug dealers on Silk Road, and I said nothing because drug dealers are scum too.

    Then they came for the leakers on {Wiki|Live|you pick one}Leaks, and I said nothing because I don't have time to read that stuff anyway.

    Then they passed a law against using privacy tools such as Tor, Mixmaster, proxies, and crypto, because terrorists 9/11 OMG, and I said nothing because I have nothing to hide.

    Then I tried to fly to my Dad's funeral and found out that I'm on the no-fly list. I still am. No one will tell me why, and there's nothing I can do to change it.

    Then the police broke down my door because I had set up my wireless router wrong and someone had done something illegal over my connection, and it took me three years to get the charges dropped, and I lost my job and had to file bankruptcy, and I never did get my computer back. And what happened to the government agents who had wrongly prosecuted me? Nothing whatsoever. And what compensation did I get? The court ruled that the government had not violated its rules and therefore I was not owed anything. Have a nice day.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @11:00PM (#44846325)

    Uhh ... given that he who was the gold makes the rules, if there was a court order allowing it, or a clause in some law allowing it, it was authorized, just not by the owners of the computers.

    Sorry, but I'm failing to follow your point here. Since when is an electronic device a waiver to standard privacy and due process?

    Perhaps if the FBI were trying to break into my car I would understand this analogy better, but my point still stands. A "computer" is not automatic grounds for illegal wiretaps (and when I use the term "illegal", I'm referring to my Constitutionally protected Rights, not some secret court horseshit that "authorized" a waiver around said Rights, which remains illegal no matter who granted it.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @11:29PM (#44846439)

    No, you're wrong as well. Focusing simply on the child porn in this case is basically ignoring the larger picture and the people who were NOT engaged in illegal activities in this matter. It becomes a far less trivial thing when innocent people are involved, especially since they moved to a system like Tor because they couldn't trust their own government, who just proved their lack of trust right.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @11:57PM (#44846555)

    yes! stand up for rights and freedom regardless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @11:59PM (#44846559)

    "The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." -- H. L. Mencken

  • by cheater512 (783349) <> on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:00AM (#44846567) Homepage

    A US court order might as well be toilet paper in France or anywhere else in the world. No US court has the authority to authorise that.

    In fact many countries would take that as an act of war.

  • by flayzernax (1060680) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:25AM (#44846637)

    The presidents of European nations all heal to the same masters as ours. Seen a NYTimes photo of Turkeys elected leader. Same suit, same tie, same generic lapel pin, on the same side. They are uniformed soldiers doing their duty. If there's any outrage from a local or lower government official it will just be to placate the masses, save face, the end of said officials careers. Might as well be clones IMO.

  • by flayzernax (1060680) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:28AM (#44846645)

    Its not the first time I have read about it. I read about an incident similar to this several years ago in a mainstream news outlet... NYTimes, Time, or some other magazine.

    The problem is that it occurs more then once every few years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @12:39AM (#44846669)

    Is there any example of the FBI or NSA misusing any of the data they are supposed to collecting?

    Yes, there is []. The Special Operations Division of the DEA used NSA intercepts to target people for arrest. "After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as 'parallel construction.'"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:01AM (#44846733)

    I have no strong feelings on this controversy.

    Paedophiles, huh?

    So you have no strong feelings against YOUR rights being violated as long as it's to catch paedophiles.

    Greeting citizen, you have passed the first step towards being permitted to remain a citizen.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:31AM (#44846863)
    Yes, that is the implication. If they take away your right to speech by targeting the pedos first, then yes. It's your rights that are gone, and if you don't speak up for the social democrats or gypsies, there won't be anyone left to speak up when they come for you.

    That saying was just a re-telling of "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:32AM (#44846869)
    This is why the ACLU gets so much bad press. They tend to protect the rights of everyone by protecting he rights of the worst of us.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:01AM (#44846973) Homepage

    You seem to have forgotten that the FBI has to broken computer laws in 'other' countries. The mind boggles as this FBI agent turning up in a foreign court after breaking computer laws, claiming evidence obtained by hacking computers. The judge in that Irish court has to be the biggest lame duck in history. As soon as the FBI agent admitted what they did, the judge should have ordered the agent arrested and held for trial. The law is the law and US law is not law in Ireland and the FBI has zero right to break Ireland's computer laws. Any evidence obtained, well, might as well be fantasy father than fact as there is no way for a court to tell what was real and what was fabricated on an 'illegally' hacked computer.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:06AM (#44846983)

    "Uh... why would the FBI care about being caught?"

    Because they illegally interrupted service of hundreds if not thousands of other customers of the hosting service.

    See 18 USC 242, "Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law" []

    When there is danger of infringing on the rights (which includes contracts) of innocent parties, law enforcement is, at the very least, required to use "narrowly tailored" means to effect their business.

    They used pretty much the opposite of "narrowly tailored" means. They just took over the whole hosting company and surveilled ALL the users.

    Definitely a no-no. Definitely illegal.

    No reasonable person is in favor of child pornography. But law enforcement is not allowed to break the law in order to enforce the law.

  • by TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:16AM (#44847015) Journal

    if you are concerned about the low number of people protesting or not protesting maybe you should consider that your opinion is not widely shared with the majority.

    Based on the people I know, the lack of protests is actually because of two things:

    1) They rely on mainstream media outlets for news, and those sources only cover government misbehavior on the late-night news (and then it's often to discredit the opposition), if at all -- they only hype the stuff that will bring them ratings in the short-term, which is primarily entertainment shows like Dancing With The Twats.

    2) Most of the people that are aware of it at this point are demoralized and feel hopeless. The past decade has shown us that writing our representatives or peaceful 1-2 day protests will be ignored regardless of size (Iraq War protests), and the OWS protests showed that sit-ins/lie-ins or anything lasting over a day will be met with aggression & violence by police while politicians ignore it & the media discredits the protesters.

    So what effective options do we have left? What can we do that will actually make a difference, and not merely result in our faces being pepper-sprayed or bashed in?

  • by return 42 (459012) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @03:11AM (#44847127)

    You're probably on that list for being an opinionated online malcontent.

    And for openly giving money to WikiLeaks :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @03:11AM (#44847129)

    Now you touch the point the FBI relies on... Yell childporn and most people shy away. Defending rights and such is nice and well, but who want to be seen as defending childporn. And so people happily ignore the rights of other users being ignored. It works equally well with terrorism. The RIAA screaming how illegal downloading supports terrorists. By now any bittorrent traffic is seen as something illegal.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @03:38AM (#44847187)

    There is no "right" to molest children.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @04:00AM (#44847237) Journal

    So the FBI had a treasure trove of evidence that would lead to the prevention of actual children being abused, and instead of tracking down all those leads they decided to prosecute the people who provided them that treasure trove.

    There. FTFY.

    Were I director of the FBI, I'd be obtaining warrants based on this info left and right. That would be perfectly legitimate; but NooooO. They have to go after the network instead. Why? Is it possible that they actually depend on pedos? Kinda like the DEA--make drugs a public health issue rather than a law enforcement issue, and they're out of a job. Get the actual kiddie porn producers off the street, and a lot of FBI agents might be out of jobs too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @04:31AM (#44847317)

    Is this the first time they crossed this line? Or have they done so before?

    Why would the FBI would draw up lines that they'd constantly be on the wrong side of? US federal law enforcement agencies are no better than the other criminal gangs they're overtly trying to distance themselves with PR and rhetoric, but their actions are clear and consistent indicators of their moral bankruptcy and their contempt for the laws they're paid to enforce.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @05:07AM (#44847433)

    straw men much?

    Nor is there a right to trample over the rights of everyone to get a very few...

  • by Pav (4298) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @06:35AM (#44847669)

    Murderers have rights. Pedophiles have rights. Rapists have rights.

    They have rights because the best of us and the worst of us share these rights. The powers-that-be want to nibble away at rights of the seemingly most deserving parts of the community, but we'll ALL suffer if these rights cease being universal. As someone else here quoted : "The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." -- H. L. Mencken

  • by Flentil (765056) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:30AM (#44847831)

    If you blame drug dealers for messing up your brother's life, you also have to blame bartenders for all the alcoholism, convenience store clerks for all the smoking related deaths, farmers for the obesity epidemic, etc, etc, etc. Or you could just admit that your brother made his own choices and it's no one's fault but his own.

  • by Pav (4298) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @09:24AM (#44848183)
    Noone said they did, so pack away that straw man. ;) The argument is our privacy is sacred, and even though it can sometimes shield the guilty it shields the innocent from tyranny too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @05:57PM (#44851869)
    Tracking down root suppliers is difficult, time-consuming, and potentially even dangerous. It also has the possibility of actually reducing the amount of crime. On the other tentacle, busting users is easy because they're ubiquitous and seldom much of a threat. Even better, no matter how many you arrest, harass, or fine, it's unlikely to do much to the demand and is thus unlikely to negatively impact the perceived need for and importance of your job.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.