back to article That's a Tor order: Library gets cop visit for running exit relay in US

A New England library is calling off its plan to host a Tor exit node after cops, tipped off by the US Department of Homeland Security, paid a visit. The Kilton Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, had been hosting an exit relay on the Tor network since July as part of a pilot program to safeguard citizens' privacy online. …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

    The principle developers of Tor for a decade were DARPA, ONR and the Naval Research Laboratory

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

      A long time ago, tedious anon coward.

      C.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

      Yes, but they were expecting dissidents in countries the USA didn't like to use it, not those pesky ordinary people and others they decide are "terrorists".

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

        Considering that I seem to be a dissident in the USA and busily installing more privacy guards, DHS has a real problem.

        1. i steal your leccy

          Re: The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

          DHS....bought a pair of socks from there once.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Feds have long been supporters of Tor

      It's important to rememebr there is a distinct difference between the good folk at DARPA and the Navy and the people at DHS, NSA & FBI. A very distinct and wide difference.

      1. s5PGmU
        Joke

        Re: "A very distinct and wide difference"

        So DHS, NSA, and FBI have free donuts, but the Navy and DARPA don't?

  2. g00se
    Big Brother

    Criminals could hide communications in pre-arranged books. Better remove the books too...

    1. moiety

      Or you could bludgeon someone with a suitable tome. Then there's paper cuts. It's a real shame the library backed down. Land of the free, indeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Land of the free, indeed.

        Oh yes, you are free to be abused by your government and its agencies.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    > After meeting with the plod, however, the librarians have taken the box offline over fears it was being used for criminal activity.

    So, wait a minute.

    Plod visits the library and warns them off that their exit node *might* be used for crime and suggests that they shut it down and the library meekly complies.

    Wow.

    Perhaps they should lock the doors as well because criminals might decide to meet in the library building.

    Perhaps they should shut down all their community PCs because criminals might use them for criminal purposes.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      They should also watch out for anybody with a big white beard working away on a book about economics - they can really cause trouble

  4. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Tor is just Tor

    Tor – aka The Onion Router

    Tor is just Tor. It doesn't stand for anything any more.

    It is used by whistleblowers, journalists, activists, crooks and lowlifes. All connections leaving the Tor network go through these exit points, which will inevitably carry a lot of traffic that the Feds will be interested in.

    In fact it is used by anybody who wants to. The Feds are interested in e-mail, phone calls, and basically any traffic. Tor is not unique in this regard. One can, like with anything that one doesn't know about, make assumptions about what actual traffic is going through Tor and how much of it is related to illegal activity. Mostly because of the nature of the Tor network, there is no data available on traffic content, though several authors with dubious intent have tried to paint the situation as being whatever their paranoid minds can imagine. They don't, however, have scientific credibility. The Tor network itself is neutral, and that in itself is something that does not sit well with the current government.

  5. Steven Roper

    The problem with any anonymising system

    is that it must be absolute and indiscriminate in order to be effective, because if it can be broken for one purpose it can be broken for any other. If it can be compromised to catch scammers, paedophiles and terrorists it can be compromised to catch whistleblowers, activists and dissidents. The flip side of that coin of course is that such systems protecting whistleblowers, activists and dissidents will equally protect the aforementioned scammers, paedophiles and terrorists.

    There are other ways of identifying and protecting against criminals than tracking them through anonymisation services. Terrorists have to physically plant their bombs in public places and can be observed doing so. Paedophiles will try to lure children to rendezvous points and can be intercepted by operations like Perverted Justice. Police forces around the world will have to develop alternative methods such as these to track criminals, because compromising or suppressing anonymisation services in the name of reducing crime is simply not an acceptable solution.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next:

    All cars to be impounded, criminals might use them too you see.

    MOVE ALONG CITIZEN...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next:

      Civil engineering firm plans to build bridge. Warned off by cops that it might be used by criminals to transport stolen goods.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Next:

        Indeed "Criminals could be using it!" has always and will always be one of the dumbest arguments for more or less anything.

        Caps, bike helmets, cars, motorcycles, shoes, clothes, coffee, lighters, baseball bats, etc... oh lets not forget money.

        Pretty sure everything could have some kind of duel use.

        1. Lyndon Hills 1
          Joke

          Re: Next:

          Caps, bike helmets, cars, motorcycles, shoes, clothes, coffee, lighters, baseball bats, etc... oh lets not forget money.

          Pretty sure everything could have some kind of duel use.

          baseball bats maybe, but I can't see how you could fight much of a duel with money

          1. Tony Haines
            Holmes

            Re: Next:

            //but I can't see how you could fight much of a duel with money//

            Works quite well.

            "Best dollar 80 I ever spent."

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTfNcrQqgX0

  7. Breen Whitman

    Libraries have something even more dangerous: books.

    The US Govt should just throw every one of them on a fire.

    Except the only book you need - the Bible.

    1. Kumar2012

      are you kidding? The first two things the government would like to throw on a bonfire are the Bible and the Constitution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Constitution, yes; Bible, no. The Bible and its ilk are too useful as control mechanisms.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    safeguard citizens' privacy online

    bzzz, not allowed, aka I'm afraid you can't do that Dave

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with anonymous ..

    .. is that it is at present synonymous with 'unaccountable".

    I frequently go through my 404 logs when people try to reach my site's admin login (which doesn't live at its default place, it's the first thing I change on a setup), and look up the IP addresses of especially the volume offenders (multiple hits in seconds, so running a script). I have seen a clear increase in the use of Tor for hacking attempts :(.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The problem with anonymous ..

      I have seen a clear increase in the use of Tor for hacking attempts

      Since 1983, I've seen a clear increase in the use of the Internet for hacking attempts.

  10. AdamT

    Two things:

    Firstly, the library hasn't backed down (yet) - they've just sent it back to their Trustees (who are probably the group that would face any legal difficulties). Seems perfectly reasonable - if I were just some random employee then that's totally what I would do too.

    Secondly, is there the option of hosting the node but only allowing the exit to see the library hosted content? That should resolve the issue, right? TOR users wherever they are can get to the library content but nowhere else (via the Library node). So no "criminal" traffic can be passing through the libraries systems onto the internet. Or do you think they are arguing that even passing the encrypted TOR in/out stream, which I guess might contain a few instances of naughtiness, is a problem?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two things:

      > Secondly, is there the option of hosting the node but only allowing the exit to see the library hosted content?

      To be honest, despite the downvotes, this is a serious question.

      I know censorship is a bad thing, but if you're hosting a Tor exit node, there are some reasonable precautions that you could take against the obvious problems of underage porn trafficing and suchlike.

      Perhaps they could whitelist the kinds of sites that dissidents might be interested in, information sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, the kinds of things that are regularly cracked down by foreign dissent-hating governments.

  11. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Hmm, things that a criminal might make use of?

    Guns perhaps?

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Going full circle

    Ban cops from using 'warnings' and fear tactics. Criminals definitely use those too.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Going full circle

      Ban the local police from being the running-dog lackeys of the Federal government. We have some historical evidence to suggest that doesn't work out well for ordinary citizens.

      Of course the real problem is that we'd like police departments to exercise critical thinking and conduct themselves in a manner conducive to preserving the civil rights of the people in their jurisdiction. And some do. But far too many do not.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Going full circle

      Nice library you have here, buddy. Be a real shame if anything happened to it...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freedom

    libraries are our most democratic public spaces, protecting our intellectual freedom, privacy, and unfettered access to information

    I thought libraries had been reporting people borrowing certain left wing (US) or right wing (UK) books, since the fifties.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Freedom

      Actually, no they haven't. They are indeed the last bastion of true freedom in the US. These days, it seems the last one as well.

  14. sisk Silver badge

    Is anyone actually arguing that Tor isn't being used to mask illegal activity? If so I'd so those people need to have the stupidity slapped out of them. Now if they're arguing that Tor isn't JUST being used to mask illegal activity, or even that it's not primarily being used to mask illegal activity, that I could understand. Perhaps not agree with, but understand. But to deny that Tor is the home of everything from kiddie porn to hire-a-hitman sites is just idiotic.

    1. phil dude
      FAIL

      innocent until proven guilty...

      Tor is just a communication technology.

      Same as the mobile phones that are used to detonate explosives.

      Same as normal phones used to run criminal enterprises.

      Assassinations have been prevalent for millenia...

      The sess pit of this world that holds those that would exploit children has always existed.

      We are just now hearing about the 1970's abuse, because there was no Tor then, right?

      P.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: innocent until proven guilty...

        sess pit

        Conventionally "cesspit" - one word, spelled with a C.

        That said, etymologically it ought to be spelled with an S, as its root was in Middle English. It's a cognate of e.g. "suspire" - presumably a reference to the outgassing of bacteria digesting sewage.

  15. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Sir

    "It is used by whistleblowers, journalists, activists, crooks and lowlifes"

    Venn diagram please.

    Also, does no-one else see the discrepancy with the cops using Silk Road as an argument against Tor?

    How can they moan about Tor anonymizing stuff when they managed to shut it down and catch a few crooks - kind of undermines the FUD a bit.

    1. phil dude
      Pint

      Re: Sir

      Well we still don't *know* if the Govt was being *honest* in the Silk Road case, about how they found the servers...

      Then again, they caught the guy with the laptop open in a library...hardly high-tech pursuit...

      P.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Sir

        Well we still don't *know* if the Govt was being *honest* in the Silk Road case, about how they found the servers...

        To be fair, we never know that the government is being honest about anything.

        Or that anyone else is, for that matter.

        Psychology and phenomenology will claim (with good reason) that you can't even tell whether you're being honest with yourself. The best we can ever do is try our best to estimate the probability that a claim doesn't contradict the world.

  16. James 100

    "Useful to terrorists"

    That's what infuriated me about one of the UK's kneejerk responses, outlawing supplying "anything useful to terrorists" - which would appear to include selling them lunch, a biro and notepad or a map of the UK motorways. Of course, we have to trust that they will really only use this absurdly broad power for good reasons ... right?

    Yes, with an *anonymous* relay service, there's a risk that as well as the incriminating financial records that prove someone's been cooking the books at some big company as they get leaked to the NYT, you're relaying some dirty old man's child abuse material, a college student's bootleg copy of Adobe Creative Suite, a high school student's MP3s and Al Qaeda's latest operational plans - that's pretty much what the anonymous bit means.

    Governments had the sense to understand this decades ago for postal and package services with "common carrier" laws: when someone is transporting a parcel from A to B, you can't expect them to know if it contains books, drugs or a parcel bomb, so you can't blame them for whatever it is. Sadly, it seems that level of common sense has become extinct in governments now...

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