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back to article FBI seizes Mixmaster servers

Non-profit Riseup claims the FBI has seized a Mixmaster server from a colo shared by Riseup Networks in New York City. The organization has issued a media release linking the siezure to investigations into Mixmaster as part of its investigation into ongoing bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh. The university has …

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Scare tactics

The FBI's dislike for any and all anonymisation techniques is well known (take TOR for example). I think they might be using distant link with existing investigations to scare people out of running this kind of services. "See what happens when you share a server with a Mixmaster node"-style.

That, or I'm off my meds again.

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Re: Scare tactics

I go with option 1, your meds seem to be doing the job just fine!! :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Not the first time.

Couple tor servers got seized, including one in Germany, as I recall. Likewise, machines hosting thousands of websites completely unrelated to the one under investigation got seized before, too.

Were they right to do it? Their view would be "yes"; they didn't know seizing it would be useless, which they'll insist would be true even if told beforehand. And the collateral damage is of course no skin off their nose. Knowing that came in mighty handy for the big content maffia in their action against that heretic megaupload. The problem with heretics isn't that they're wrong, it's that they might be right. And megaupload had just cooked up this advert in which big name music stars supported them. Coincidence? You have to ask? But I digress.

Anyway, the FBI, or any other law enforcement for that matter. That attitude, partly out of distrust, partly out of ignorance, is going to be a problem going forward. Not just for tor or mixmaster servers. For anybody who runs servers to host multiple sites, and anybody with sites on a shared hosting server. And virtualised servers. And cloud instances. What're they gonna do, shut down an entire amazon datacentre?

I think that even US federal law enforcement will have to learn to be less blunt, ignorant, and indiscriminate going forward. Eventually. You just know the only way they'll do it is kicking and screaming, over many many lawsuits. In that, the cost of having law enforcement around can be a real drag.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not the first time.

Closest analogies I can think of are:

1)

Group of 4 students share flat. One student is suspected of burgulary. Police kick everyone out of flaf while they search the place.

2)

as above but one is supected of the murder of another student. Police remove occupants and seal flat for detailed forensic analysis.

I can understand that more traditional policing might see the computer facilities shared by multiple users in the same way. And that donn't know there's no evidence until they examine the server in depth. and even if a small amount of evidence was found it might still need to be retained in case the defence wanted to challenge that in court.

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Re: Not the first time.

Sorry but those analogies don't quite work because once the flat is searched the students get to return home. Well, the ones not being charged with anything that is.

Based on past cases in the news it seems extremely unlikely that the server will be returned.

All emails, websites and mailing lists will be gone unless there are backups.

So back to your analogie the students don't go back to their flat, they have to get a new flat. They might be able to replace some posessions via insurance but not everything, recent purchases not listed in insurance documents would be tough to claim for (no flat, no reciepts) and those assignments that were started recently so not on any backup would have to be redone. And there isn't 4 people affected, I think a number of around 300 was mentioned.

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Unhappy

Although not for some years, I used to be a regular mixmaster user, with encrypted responses going to a particular Usenet news group. It was a legitimate usage. I think that attacking these sorts of privacy facilities will cause more damage than good.

I could never feel safe using them again; I think that the FBI lack the cultural awareness that would make them resist such a step which, in any case, is a matter of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

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Abuse is the problem

> I think that attacking these sorts of privacy facilities will cause more

> damage than good.

Abusing mixmaster causes a damage (or the damage). If abused, police have to react. They have to, that's their job.

when it comes to computers' communications, I found a good analogy (but there are many more in all spheres of life) in an IRC command "wallops". From the ircII help file:

WALLOPS:

Usage: WALLOPS <message>

Sends a message to all operators currently on irc.

This command has deteriorated to the point that it

is no longer useful, and most OPERATORS have removed

it from the server all together. A classic example

of a good idea abused till it's worthless.

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Re: Abuse is the problem

"Abusing mixmaster causes a damage (or the damage). If abused, police have to react. They have to, that's their job."

Hmm. They could have reacted when I was involved in a certain case, in which a man with a firearm in the US indicated he wanted to do dire things to someone to whom he'd taken exception... ...a decade ago or more. There have been many other examples, and you won't be surprised to see that whilst I in principle accept the validity of your argument (on their behalf) I do not accept it as both true and valid. Pursuing the logic of argumenta to similar extremes, it's time to go round up all politicians because a few of them caused massacres, it's time to round up all police officers because of corruption, the beating of people like Rodney King, it's time dispossess all bankers, time to deal with all women as potential sex abusers, given that there has been for decades a growing body of data and since we treat males as potential paedophiles, time to treat all women as spouse beaters, it being that the data are similarly also becoming clear [...]

One thing that will happen is that modern encoding and distribution techniques will be employed and the task of tracking down such people will become even more difficult. There is probably a disquieting corollary inasmuch that super anonymous facilities will attract super nasty abusers, and thus an arms race between the snoops and the privatists will begin. This will make a rod for their backs.

I can't accept the argument in spite of the fact that I have been subjected to harassment by someone abusing such facilities. In a sense it's the Assange argument, and I even handedly reject both types of claim, pro or contra official or private facilities.

One footnote; someone else has already noted that the Feebs only had to image the server, not take the drives. That said, after such a raid I cannot feel confident, and the same was the case with the anon.penet.fi remailer hosted by Julf between 16 and 19 years ago, a service that was broken by $cientology ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penet_remailer ). Although Julf left the dotted IP number in the path statement, which defeated his aim to a substantial extent, damaged the principle of privacy he espoused. I watched a lot of this happen, and I did so with mixed feelings, as much as I now do. On balance I see privacy as being worth a king's ransom, something not to be tossed aside lightly and, be it noted, I have argued strongly against Assange whom I consider to be an abuser and want prosecuted: I have been a whistle blower, once. The case involved the death of a vulnerable man at the hands of people who failed to care. I would not have been involved had anonymity not been available, simply because there would have been repercussions on the part of people who did not GAD about nice things such as laws, and later went on to prove this on a greater scale.

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Re: Abuse is the problem

I correct myself; Julf did strip out the IP #, but did not strip out the Message-ID: which, in Usenet, betrays the account to a substantial extent. Yes, I've just been browsing my records.

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Silver badge

I think they lack the techniccal awareness. There is no need for them to confiscate an entire freakin' server for goodness sake. The only part they'll be analysing is the hard disk drive so take the servers offline for a day or so maybe, and backup the hard disk to tape drive then take it back for analysis.

They only confiscate the entire server to bully people.

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Anonymous Coward

@wowfood

The three or four FBI folks I met 10+ years ago -- they were giving a free technical seminar at a college -- seemed to know their stuff quite well.

They had laptops with VMs on them, they set up a demo infrastructure, and ran through some of the threats that they had seen "out there".

They had what I felt was a strange attitude; they did not offer specific methods of countering the attacks they demo'd -- they felt that was our problem.

I don't know how thoroughly the technology awareness/competence I saw permeates the FBI in general, nor how much it is stymied by managment politics.

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FAIL

90 bomb threats since February? That's not a credible threat, it's a knob. Disregard utterly.

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Liability and negligence

Yeah, it's likely someone being a bellend.

But, it doesn't mean they can discredit the threats entirely. If one of the 90 are real, and they're ignored and someone does bomb the college, guess what? They're liable and guilty of gross negligence.

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Anonymous Coward

Ditch the physical server

I'm curious as to why these services are even on a physical machine these days. I would have it hosted as a VM with a backup image ready to fire up somewhere else. Or at worst multiple VPS...

I'd love to see the carnage the FBI could cause trying to take all the host machines the VM could live on. Would be fun to migrate the machine from data centre to data centre and see the wake of destruction as the FBI chase it around the world

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Re: Ditch the physical server

I was thinking the same thing.

Reminds me of the old story about Robin Hood and Friar Tuck (on CP-5, iirc).

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Anonymous Coward

Its at times like this you seemuch more priority is given to the fishing expeditions of the state over the rights of individuals or groups.

Compensation should be paid by the state to those whose lawful use was denied by this action.

anon - natch

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The story

Here is the a link to the people that were arrested.

http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/12110/1225624-455.stm

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Remember

The business of the police is to police and not to understand the finer technical details of their actions.

Policepeople are required only to have the flimsiest grasp of technology. Any deeper or wider knowledge is required in the people the police hire to do forensics.

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