Tor Compromised?

July 9, 2021

I read “Tor Encryption Can Allegedly Be Accessed by the NSA, Says Security Expert.” I was stunned. I thought that the layers of encryption, the triple hop through relays, and the hope that everything worked as planned was bulletproof. And who funded Tor in the first place? What’s the status of the not-for-profit foundation today? Why were some European entities excited about cross correlating date and time stamps, IP addresses, and other bits of metadata? I don’t have answers to these questions, nor does the write up.

The article presents this information:

A security expert by the name of Robert Graham, however, has outlined his reasons for actually believing that the NSA might not even need tricks and paltry exploits in order for them to gain access to Tor, according to a blog post on Erratasec. Why? The security expert notes that this is because they might already have the keys to the kingdom. If they don’t, then they might be able to, according to arsTechnica.

Let me see if I can follow the source of this interesting assertion. TechTimes (the outfit publishing the “Tor Encryption Can” story cited above) quotes a security expert. There was a source called Erratasec. Then there was a story on ars Technica.

Now I think that Tor software and the onion method have security upsides and downsides. I also know that what humans create, other humans can figure out. I think the point of the write up is that anyone who uses Tor should embrace the current version.

Can NSA or any other intelligence entity figure out who is doing what, when, and why? My view is that deobfuscation methods are advancing. The fact that bad actors are shifting from old-school Dark Web sites to other channels speaks volumes. Bad actors have been shifting to messaging services which feature end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and do not require a particularly hard-to-complete registration process. But this shift from the “old” Dark Web to the “new” Dark Web began several years ago.  Bad actors have been aware that other secure communications options were Job One for years. My thought is that this story in interesting, just not focused on what is actually further consumerizing criminal behavior. The action has shifted, and the US may not be the leader in making sense of the new types of communications traffic.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2021

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