Feeds

Tor at heart of embassy passwords leak

Popular privacy program (mis)used to spill state secrets

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.