Boondoggles

Feds Gave Tor Project $1.8M While NSA Actively Tried to Destroy It

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The Tor Project is a great way for people to cover their tracks on the Internet. Because of this, some in the federal government, specifically the National Security Agency (NSA), really dislikes Tor. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the project actually received over $1.8 million in federal money last year.

The Tor Project, which provides free software to users interested in surveillance- and censorship-resistant web activity, recently released its financial statements and reports for 2013, and sources began taking note yesterday.

The documents show that the State Department directly granted the organization $256,900 as part of its mission to fund "international programs [that] support democracy, human rights and labor." Additional indirect funding from State Department money added up to $882,313.

The Department of Defense didn't provide any direct funding, but through SRI International, "a non-profit research and development centre that aims to bridge the gap between abstract research and industry" according to The Guardian, the Tor Project landed another $830,269. SRI's funding went toward "basic and applied research and development in areas relating to the Navy command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance."

Additional funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Science Foundation added up to a total of $1,822,907 either directly or indirectly from the federal government.

This is a boost over 2012, when Tor received a total of $1.2 million in federal money, all of which was indirect, notes The Guardian.

Tor has rockier relations with other tentacles of the feds, though. BBC provides some history:

Tor was thrust into the spotlight in the wake of controversy resulting from leaks about the National Security Agency and other cyberspy agencies. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed the internal memos and who now has asylum in Russia, uses a version of Tor software to communicate.

Documents released by Mr Snowden allege that the NSA and the UK's GCHQ had repeatedly tried to crack anonymity on the Tor network.

Tor was originally set up by the US Naval Research Laboratory and is used be people who want to send information over the internet without being tracked.

Part of the network's success lies in the fact that it "has gone mainstream in the past few years, and its wide diversity of users — from civic-minded individuals and ordinary consumers to activists, law enforcement, and companies — is part of its security." 

Tor made headlines earlier this month when a yet-unidentified whistleblower leaked information suggesting that the NSA is still trying to crack the network and snoop on anybody who uses the anonymizing network as well as people who simply browse websites that regularly discuss Tor…like Reason

Watch Reason TV's interview with the Tor Project's development director:

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52 responses to “Feds Gave Tor Project $1.8M While NSA Actively Tried to Destroy It

  1. Haha.
    Now extrapolate this to all government activities.

    How’s the efforts to arm and raise the profits of Narco-gangs we are fight tooth and nail to destroy?

  2. I had a conversation a while back from someone who had been involved in the development of Tor.

    She told me that the reason why TOR gets funding on behalf of the Navy is that the NCIS and/or Naval Intelligence (she used the terms interchangeably) were looking for a secure way to communicate with sources.

    Of course, any system that exclusively serviced those sources would mean that any network sniffer could figure out who the sources were… in some very unfriendly countries.

    So, the Navy supported TOR, reasoning that a widely used platform would provide the haystack that they could slip their needles through unobserved.

    The NSA’s activities purposed to crack TOR don’t really go against the Navy’s mission; they don’t want other countries’ security services finding their needles. They couldn’t care less about the NSA knowing about them.

    1. that they could slip their needles through unobserved.

      Wink wink, nudge nudge.

  3. This just in: The federal government isn’t a single entity but thousands upon thousands of separate agendas.

    1. All staffed by specialists at wasting money.

    2. The NSA itself has a mission of both OPSEC and SIGINT. They do sometimes conflict.

  4. We had to destroy the city network to save it.

  5. I find it kind of funny when people talk about how Tor lets them be “anti-government” while surfing the web from the Tor Browser or using the Stem library to code stuff for Tor.

      1. Drive by troll.

  6. So how much did they give to the Snow Dog?

  7. Seeking the ability to crack the encryption on the communications of suspected bad-guys does not equate to “actively trying to destroy it”.

    1. Okay that just completely vitiates the entire point of TOR. Like a car without gasoline it is pointless.

      1. You do realize that breaking one encryption key doesn’t break them all, right? Sort of like when one car runs out of gas, they don’t all stop working.

        1. Except it’s not just breaking the encryption of ‘the bad guys’. Only a tool actually believes that.

          1. I only believe what I know to be fact. No government agency has the resources to monitor all communications, or all encrypted communications, or anything even remotely close. That’s a fact.

            1. Uh it’s already been made clear that the NSA is recording all the conversations in a massive dragnet and will subject those who mention Tor to deeper study. Do try to keep up.

              1. Bullshit. It’s technically impossible to record all conversations, emails, texts, internet traffic, etc. It would take an entire redundant Internet to do so, and a few million analysts, to analyze them all, and that simply doesn’t exist, except in the minds of paranoid lunatics.

                1. It won’t be analysed but much is being recorded. Reason has gone over this several times. Please keep up.

                  1. There’s a huge difference between “recording all the conversations in a massive dragnet”, and recording “much”. “Much” is 0.0001 percent when you’re talking about 800 billion conversations a day.

        2. You do realize that breaking one encryption key doesn’t break them all, right?

          Unless they are throwing supercomputers at it and doing it the hard way you are wrong.

          The NSA more then likely are looking for little errors (memory leaks) in the program and braking it that way…which means yes if they can break one code then they break them all.

          1. What’s a ‘memory leak’?

            I guess this is a Cold War arms code race between the open-source Tor community and the NSA and others like it.

            1. The Heart Bleed bug is probably what he was meaning by memory leak.

              More generally, it’s side channel attacks. Bugs/flaws/problems/intentional designs that leak a piece of information, or make the random number not as random as you think it is.

              An example of the random number issue, and almost certainly an attack, is the DUAL_EC_DRBG in a NIST standard. Essentially, it’s a pseudo-random number generator. It uses some initializing values. If you can choose those values (in the standard), you can predict what it will output. NSA gave some values, NIST unquestioningly put them in the standard. A correct way to do that would have been to pick the values at random, recorded, in front of trusted people.

          2. You are wrong. Finding a weakness may present a way to actually break the encryption, but it doesn’t break every key, and it doesn’t remove the necessity of breaking every key individually.

            1. What if it breaks multiple keys?

              1. How? What if the Queen of England had balls?

                1. I’m not an expert but I don’t just assume that a Tor vulnerability exploit will be discriminatory in who it compromises.

            2. You are wrong. Finding a weakness may present a way to actually break the encryption

              You keep trying to frame the argument into a little box of cracking encryption.

              Only an idiot would try to crack the encryption when they can simply crack the program that is encrypting, decrypting and sending the keys. And yes if crack the program that is doing that (tor) then you do not have to crack the encryption as the keys are there for the taking. or hell just read the same decrypted text that the user is reading.

              So yes if you crack tor you crack all the encryption sent through it.

              1. Looks like you sent Mouse heading for the hills…

              2. “crack the program”? You have no idea what you are talking about.

    2. Destroying the anonymity protections of a program used to protect anonymity is effectively destroying it.

  8. Nevermind that using Tor makes you a target for the NSA, as only suspicious people actually want privacy.

    1. Don’t forget Linux.

      Use or even just Google search Linux and you get targeted.

      Only suspicious people would want to use a free OS…and only terrorists would want to try out Valve’s new video game controller on Linux based SteamOS.

      1. I intend to build my own computer in the near term. Should I Linux? Will games work? Is it secure? Stable? I don’t want to go through a bunch of BS just to get it to work.

        1. Should I Linux?

          If you hate windows and macOS with the hatred of a white hot sun then yes. Otherwise probably not.

          Is it secure?

          No idea. I suspect you have to know what you are doing to keep it secure. I use Linux at home and as far as I know I have not been broken into. One thing that does not happen is weird adware/malware that always gets into windows never happens to me on Linux.

          Will games work?

          Sure look on steam they have a section just for games that work on Linux. It is not a huge selection but it is growing. video card support is a crap shoot. If you use linux do not use an AMD video card. Get Nvidia it is better supported.

          Stable?

          Sort of. Sometimes my web browser window does not start and I have to shut it down in a task manager and then restart the browser.

          1. Crap. That doesn’t sound like the computer experience I want. OTOH, Microsoft is damn intent on pushing me and the rest of their customers away. I hear they are pulling support for Windows 7. I am not getting Windows 8 and as for Apple ha ha no. I am not a hipster fag.

            1. Windows 7 support will run for at least another year for corporate users – by which time Windows 9 will be out and hopefully better than 8.

              1. by which time Windows 9 will be out and hopefully better than 8.

                No.

                The problem with windows 8 is its very weird and very unintuitive desktop GUI.

                Microsoft will not be fixing that. Ever.

                1. I hear that’s just one of W8’s many, many problems. They thought that background programs you can’t turn off was a great idea. They thought the Xbone was a great idea. You’re right they’re never fixing it. They’ve gone just about full retard and I would dump any MS share I own.

                  1. Actually the Xbone is a great idea poorly implemented with bad timing.

                    The combination of the Kinnect with natural language processing (which requires an always on camera/microphone connected to an always on net connection) really would be a transformational change in human machine interface, the first one which actually beats the keyboard/mouse combo we have been stuck with for 20 years now.

                    Microsoft was smart enough to recognize that but too dumb to focus the design on user need instead caring more about piracy prevention and finances and then they got hit with the whammy of Snowdens revalations about the NSA spying on us and people quickly realized the dangers of basically giving the government and the police the ability to monitor everything that happens in your house with both video and sound.

                    1. Actually the Xbone is a great idea poorly implemented with bad timing.

                      Also the targeting of it at gamers and forcing them to pay $100 more for it didn’t help either.

                      It is interesting watching the surge in sales now that they removed it and cut the prices by $100.

                      I don’t imagine many game developers putting in Kinect features in their games going forward.

            2. I hear they are pulling support for Windows 7.

              W7 isn’t going End of Support until 2020. 2015 is when they stop adding features. FFS, they only EOL’ed XP this year, they’re not going to kill off W7 for a long time.

              Rundown: http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft…..000031348/

              MS Lifecycle Dates: http://windows.microsoft.com/e…../lifecycle

          2. I agree with Corning mostly. Except for the stability part. A good linux install will be way more stable than windows.

            There will be some learning curve/frustration/wtf. So be prepared for that. If you try it, I recommend Mint. The newest Ubuntu out of the box seems like it’s emulating Windows 8 to some extent, which really ticked me off.

        2. One thing you can do it just install it on a USB flash memory stick and boot up from the USB to try it out.

          1. Thanks I will give that a try someday. Is it as simple as having the USB stick in the USB port on start up?

            1. You probably have to change the BIOS settings of the computer so that it tries to boot up from USB before it tries to boot up from the hard drive.

              If you have never changed the boot order on your BIOS that can sound scary…but it really isn’t.

              If you are building your own PC it will probably be a good idea to understand how to configure your BIOS anyway.

      2. We need paranoid linux…Doctorow had that right except he was using x-boxes (shuder).

        1. No network card, no usb/firewire, only a rom chip.. and volatile memory. The all new Commodore-64.. now with Linux.

  9. I vote we call this effort at government-on-government action “Fast and Furious”. Cause it makes about as much sense as providing illegal arms to bandits whom another agency is trying to nab.

    Or something.

    Stupid government.

  10. Also

    All ur encryption are belong to us

    1. Somebody set up us the Torbomb.

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