The NSA has hacked into the internet privacy tool called Tor in order to find out the names and identities of users. In what some would call an act of ultimate irony, the NSA has successfully discovered a portion of people who use Tor to protect themselves from things like, say, the NSA hacking into their private information.
The New York Times reports that the NSA has been secretly hacking into the back-end databases of privately-owned companies to steal information and even sets standards for technology that include built-in weaknesses. This revelation flies in the face of people who deny the NSA hacks into private computers directly or uncovers information only about terrorists. The NSA has also purposely given Tor users computer viruses in an attempt to get them to cease use of the program altogether.
There’s been no word from the NSA on how, exactly, this hacking is not completely illegal or how it differs in any way from common criminals who give people computer viruses. The attempts to hack into the Tor system have been going on for many years but have been unsuccessful until recently.
NSA staff seems to think the whole thing is a big joke. Gizmodo.com reports that an NSA presentation was entitled “very naughty people use Tor.” Another one was called “Tor Stinks.” Is that supposed to be funny? Because the American public isn’t laughing. Instead, we’re wondering why we’re being subjected to Big Brother, a Big Brother who uses the cutesy language of Santa Claus and yet behaves more like his German counterpart, Krampus, a demon who comes into children bedrooms at Christmastime for the sole purpose of terrorizing them. Unfortunately, the NSA makes Krampus look like an angel.
These “very naughty people” to which the NSA refers include those who wish to protect their online privacy, such as people who suffer from diseases and use chat rooms for support. Others who may be concerned about sensitive information, like political activists and journalists, are also included in this “very naughty” classification.
Law abiding citizens who simply want a little bit of anonymity in discussing sensitive issues are now subject to being considered “naughty” by the NSA and having their web movements followed and scrutinized.
It seems that some representatives in our government agree that the NSA’s actions are reprehensible. For example, at a State Department event that addressed such surveillance techniques, the following opinion was given:
[T]he technologies of internet repression, monitoring and control continue to advance and spread as the tools that oppressive governments use to restrict internet access and to track citizen online activities grow more sophisticated. Sophisticated, secure, and scalable technologies are needed to continue to advance internet freedom.
The fact that the NSA hacks into the internet privacy tool Tor to find users on a regular basis should be of great concern to all Americans. The potential for abuse is staggering and even putting that idea aside for a moment: who wants the government nosing into our most private details? It’s wrong. It’s potentially illegal and it is the way that oppressive regimes operate. It undermines freedom, violates the fourth amendment and is outrageous thug behavior from an organization we pay to protect us, not violate us.
By: Rebecca Savastio