Feeds

German police raid home of man who operated Tor server

Server carried 40 GB per day, including suspected bomb threat

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
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
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
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
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
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.