Feeds

Tor at heart of embassy passwords leak

Popular privacy program (mis)used to spill state secrets

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Tor advertises itself as a means for people and groups to improve their privacy. And when used properly, the distributed, anonymous network does just that. But a Swedish security consultant has used the very same system to gain access to login credentials for a thousand or so individual email addresses, including those of at least 100 accounts belonging to foreign embassies.

Dan Egerstad, who made waves last week posting the login details to embassies belonging to Iran, India, Japan and Russia, among others, has finally identified how he got access to the information.

He says he used software downloaded from the Tor website to configure several servers designed to bounce sensitive traffic around the internet before it ultimately is routed to its destination. The Tor servers try to make it harder to trace the originator of traffic in much the same way an agent under surveillance might quickly drive in and out of a parking garage to throw off pursuers.

Tor has taken pains to warn its users that people running so-called exit nodes - which are the last Tor servers to touch a packet before sending it on its way - "can read the bytes that come in and out there." They go on to say: "This is why you should always use end-to-end encryption such as SSL for sensitive Internet connections."

In all Egerstad appropriated the login details for about 1,000 email accounts, which besides embassy officials, also belonged to employees of powerful companies, including one corporation that does more than $10bn in annual revenue.

"When they're putting in the passwords, I can see everything they're doing," said Egerstad, who attached a packet sniffer to siphon the passwords as they traveled over one of several Tor servers he ran. "I can see what they're surfing."

The posting of 100 official embassy passwords has made Egerstad a pariah in many circles. Publishing information that allows any old criminal to infiltrate sensitive government networks is a touchy thing, and many, including several Reg readers, have denounced it.

Indeed, Egerstad's Deranged Security website was unplugged late last week. His web host said the move was prompted by "American law enforcement officials," who demanded the site be taken down. The web host wouldn't even grant Egerstad access to his HTTP files so he could move them to a different provider. (He has since moved a bare-bones version of the site to a different server.)

But Egerstad remains convinced he did the right thing, saying it was the only way to call attention to problem that Tor officials have already warned about previously.

"Tor has been around for two to three years," he says. "I'm pretty sure these people [who have been exploited] haven't started using it overnight. The question is how many people have set up these servers just to get this information. I'm sure there are hundreds." ®

Please direct news tips, story ideas, inside scuttlebutt and other security-related intelligence to this reporter by using this link. Confidentiality assured.

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs
BadUSB instructs gadget chips to inject key-presses, redirect net traffic and more
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?