The Guardian has released new documents from Edward Snowden showing how the U.S. National Security Agency targets internet anonymity tool Tor to gather intelligence. One of the documents, a presentation titled "Tor Stinks," bluntly acknowledges how effective the tool is: "We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time. With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users, however, no success de-anonymizing a user in response to a TOPI request/on demand." (Other documents: presentation 1, presentation 2.) The NSA is able to extract information sometimes, though, and Bruce Schneier details what we know of that process in an article of his own. "The NSA creates 'fingerprints' that detect http requests from the Tor network to particular servers. These fingerprints are loaded into NSA database systems like XKeyscore, a bespoke collection and analysis tool which NSA boasts allows its analysts to see "almost everything" a target does on the internet. ... After identifying an individual Tor user on the internet, the NSA uses its network of secret internet servers to redirect those users to another set of secret internet servers, with the codename FoxAcid, to infect the user's computer. FoxAcid is an NSA system designed to act as a matchmaker between potential targets and attacks developed by the NSA, giving the agency opportunity to launch prepared attacks against their systems." Schneier explains in a related article why it's important that we figure out exactly what the NSA is doing. "Given how inept the NSA was at protecting its own secrets, it's extremely unlikely that Edward Snowden was the first sysadmin contractor to walk out the door with a boatload of them. And the previous leakers could have easily been working for a foreign government."
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