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The EFF Reflects On ICE Seizing a Tor Exit Node 252

An anonymous reader writes "Marcia Hofmann, senior staff attorney at the EFF, gives more information on the first known seizure of equipment in the U.S. due to a warrant executed against a private individual running a Tor exit node. 'This spring, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a search warrant at the home of Nolan King and seized six computer hard drives in connection with a criminal investigation. The warrant was issued on the basis of an Internet Protocol (IP) address that traced back to an account connected to Mr. King's home, where he was operating a Tor exit relay.' The EFF was able to get Mr King's equipment returned, and Marcia points out that 'While we think it's important to let the public know about this unfortunate event, it doesn't change our belief that running a Tor exit relay is legal.' She also links to the EFF's Tor Legal FAQ. This brings up an interesting dichotomy in my mind, concerning protecting yourself from the Big digital Brother: Running an open Wi-Fi hotspot, or Tor exit node, would make you both more likely to be investigated, and less likely to be convicted, of any cyber crimes."
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The EFF Reflects On ICE Seizing a Tor Exit Node

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  • Re:Intimidation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday August 26, 2011 @08:40AM (#37217640)
    An employee at an ISP could download child pornography and disguise it as traffic from a customer. Why, then, does ICE not seize the ISP's equipment as part of their investigation, just to see whether or not that is the case?

    The way you know that this has nothing to do with legitimate investigatory techniques is that ICE threatened the guy when they returned his equipment, telling him that he have to deal with more law enforcement harassment in future should he continue operating a Tor exit. This is a straightforward case of harassing the exit node operator because ICE was unable to defeat Tor. Aside from the minority of law enforcement officers who understand that law enforcement agencies benefit from Tor, law enforcement officers in general disdain Tor and think that it is a tool for criminals.
  • Re:Intimidation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday August 26, 2011 @08:43AM (#37217650)
    So why not treat corporate ISPs the same way -- after all, one of the ISP's employees might be using the ISP's equipment to download child pornography, and attempting to disguise that as if it were one of the ISP's customers. Why is ICE not seizing routers and other equipment from ISPs as part of its investigation?

    Right, because individual citizens are not supposed to be providing communication services, only registered corporations are supposed to be doing that sort of thing.
  • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Friday August 26, 2011 @08:52AM (#37217728)

    Does anyone know what the legal issues about TOR are in Europe?

    European law makes the last 'named' user of an internet connection responsible for any transmissions via it. So, if running a TOR exit node from your home, your name would be the last name on the list (after your ISP, etc.). As a result, if a offence is committed via your connection, then you as the last named party are the person responsible for it.

    The only defences are:
    1. That you can provide proof of identity of the person who did commit the offence, or other strong evidence that you were not responsible.
    2. You can prove that the use of your connection was unauthorized (and that you were not negligent in securing access to your equipment).

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:34AM (#37218062)

    every criminal could simply operate a Tor exit node and be out of reach of investigation.

    Or they could just use Tor, and avoid being investigated in the first place. Which is what happened in this case.

    The "every criminal will use this excuse" theory is baseless. If an IP address is the only evidence that someone committed a crime, then that person should not be convicted -- and we should be examining what sort of laws led to a situation where IP addresses are the only evidence needed for a search or arrest warrant. I share an Internet connection with several other people; should we all be arrested if the IP address happened to be an endpoint of illegal data? There are dozens of people who have SSH access to my research group's server, and it is possible that any of them could use that server as a proxy -- should the server and all of our computers be confiscated, and all of us arrested, if the IP address shows up during an investigation?

    IP addresses are not a form of identification, and even less so when a Tor exit node has that IP address. Anyone could be a criminal, but we should have higher standards for evidence when it comes to issuing warrants and confiscating equipment.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 26, 2011 @10:10AM (#37218448) Journal

    I'd say the truly sad part is all this Gestapo crap is a complete waste of time because the cops know that isn't where the target is. I have a friend that works state crime lab and according to him after those big busts around 5 years ago actual predators simply stopped using the Internet for CP. he said the only ones you catch that way now are social retards that touch nobody but themselves and are whacking off to the same shit that has been floating around since the 80s.

    So what do the real child molesters use? USPS of all things. They only use the net long enough to set up a trade on a back alley board which according to my friend there is ZERO chance of a cop infiltrating because the entrance fee is video of you molesting a kid with an object of their choosing and they don't give enough time to fake the video.

    After that it is all encrypted DVDs and mail dumps. So many DVDs go through media mail nobody is ever gonna notice and if they don't get a response within x amount of time they consider that link dead and move on. According to my friend they are quite worried that terrorist types are taking notes from the CP scum as their system is damned near foolproof. the only reason they even know of it is every once in a while a kid that one of them was abusing will tell and they'll find the discs, not that they can read them of course. And with guys looking at 500+ years for all the abuse and no prosecutor EVER gonna make a deal with a serial child rapist good luck on getting one to flip.

    So in the end all you get is what my friend calls the "Social retards" that are completely harmless. One they busted had been so isolated from humans, even going so far as to have all his food delivered, that they had to tranc him like an animal to get him out of the building. According to him the ones they get now are a complete waste of money as you are throwing guys that if you threw them in a room with a kid would go hide in a corner into a cell for 60 years at taxpayer expense while the ones who actually rape children are nowhere near there. but the politicos want the "catch a predator" style headlines so they waste the cash.

    So just as in TFA we piss money down a rathole all in the cause of "doing something" even if that something is completely fucking pointless and doesn't actually solve anything. Welcome to Amerika, where your rights can be shot to shit as long as its "for teh childrenz!"

  • by hawkeyeMI ( 412577 ) <brock&brocktice,com> on Friday August 26, 2011 @10:16AM (#37218514) Homepage
    I run an exit node on a VPS. Apparently it'd been used by some guy to try to get a teenaged girl to send him naked pics. They subpoenaed everything back to my business cable connection at home and then called up my company (i.e. me) about it citing a scary amount of information about me. I explained to the detective what TOR was (I already have the standard exit node info page up as recommended on the web server), and he'd already heard it from someone else (a civil lib organization running TOR exits used by the same guy). They dropped it there. Scared me a little and I contacted the EFF, who did not hesitate to offer support should something worse happen in the future. EFF is one of the only organizations I donate to, ever, and I donate a decent chunk of change every month. I'm a proud supporter and it's good to know they're there to support me too.

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