The NSA seems to be getting the horns in the virtual bullfight with TOR-O. The Onion Router (TOR), an open-source network, remains unbreakable as the NSA and GCHQ are not able to breach the network’s ability to maintain anonymity. Sort of. In the saga of the NSA versus TOR-O, the government was able to crack a tiny hole that compromised some TOR users; however, the TOR network maintains unbreakable as its walls and methods remain untouched.
The attacks upon the impenetrable network by the NSA have sparked national attention, especially from those who wish to maintain their anonymity on the network. The NSA is said to have communicated internally that “TOR stinks!” and that breaching the network is near impossible.
TOR is a tool for those who do not wish to be censored in political campaigns or activist groups; however, it is also a tool that can be used for pedophile and fraudulent activities; but let’s face it; TOR is merely the vehicle in which users exercise a basic amendment right. Should production of cars stop because pedophiles have used them to transport children?
Leaked information from whistleblower, Edward Snowden, points to the fact that the NSA has used their own method in exploiting installation of software installed by TOR users and, in turn, attacking their Firefox web browser upon identifying them. Such trickery is called computer network exploitation (CNE) and this is done through a process of locating TOR users. It is a virtual fight of sorts that continues as NSA versus TOR-O – a fight that will most likely perpetuate forever unless the NSA can find a loophole to destroy the open-source network.
The question is how does the NSA have capabilities to monitor or find TOR users? In order for a department to scour an expansive world of users for a network such as TOR, the whole department would have to be dedicated in such an effort, which is not far from the truth as also leaked by Snowden. The NSA project against TOR is operated by systems intelligence directorate (SID), an operation that, with their own network team, relies on partnerships with telecommunication companies nationwide.
Google has been a target of the NSA, according to documents provided by Snowden. Google, an Internet behemoth, was in the midst of a potential infiltration as its private networks were under surveillance.
On the other side – a much darker side of the TOR issue – the NSA does seem to have its uses in ensnaring users related to child pornography rings; however, the underlying issues always seem to conflict with users and Internet sites that are not involved in such heinous activities. While some are praising methods of breaching TOR’s network system, breaching networks of Internet giants such as Google will be deemed acceptable and labeled under an action that departments like the NSA have the right to take, which has been done before.
The bigger issue lies in the fight for no censorship or for more surveillance by the government – this is what it comes down to in the continuing bullfight of the NSA versus Tor-O.
Written by: Dianna Coudriet