Feeds

German police raid home of man who operated Tor server

Server carried 40 GB per day, including suspected bomb threat

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A German operator of a Tor server used to anonymously route traffic over the net said he was arrested in a midnight raid on his residence that stemmed from an investigation into bomb threats said to have passed through an internet protocol address under his control.

Alexander Janssen said he had just returned from a night of drinking when someone knocked "very hard" on his door. Police then entered his Dusseldorf apartment, cuffed him and said he was suspected of posting bomb threats in a German forum related to law enforcement. He told police he operated a Tor server, which typically funneled 40 GB of data per day, but the officers proceeded to search his attic, office, car - even through the undergarments of his terrified wife. He was later taken to a police station and interrogated.

Janssen says he was ultimately released by a federal German official who acknowledged police had made a mistake. But the experience has weighed so heavily on Janssen, who says he works as an engineer for a big IT company, that he has decided to abandon his Tor activities.

"I can't do this any more, my wife and I were scared to death," Janssen wrote in a detailed blog entry. I’m at the end of my civil courage. I’ll keep engaged in the Tor-project but I won’t run a server any more. Sorry."

A blog post by Chris Soghoian, a graduate student in the school of Informatics at Indiana University, points out this isn't the first time anonymity technology has been targeted by law enforcement. Last year, German authorities seized 10 Tor servers in an investigation related to child pornography. And in 2003, he says a German court ordered developers of a separate anonymity system known as Jap to build in a back door that authorities could access when conducting investigations related to national security.

"This event does raise some interesting legal questions," Soghoian writes. "If 40GB of other people's Internet traffic flows through your own home network, can authorities, be they the RIAA or FBI reasonably link anything that has been tracked to your computer's IP address to you?"

But while Tor can be certainly be used to cover up crimes, Janssen's account of the experience serves as a potent reminder that what law enforcement officials don't know about the internet can have profound consequences. Not only did it lead to officers raiding the home of an innocent individual, it is also be seen as a setback, however small, for grass-roots projects such as Tor, that aim to shield individuals from prying eyes. ®

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

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.