back to article Dark web doesn't exist, says Tor's Dingledine. And folks use network for privacy, not crime

A Tor Project grandee sought to correct some misconceptions about the anonymizing network during a presentation at the DEF CON hacking convention in Las Vegas on Friday. Roger Dingledine, one of the three founders of the Tor Project, castigated journos for mischaracterizing the pro-privacy system as a bolthole exclusively used …

  1. macjules Silver badge

    Intelligence agencies didn’t need to set up their own stepping-stone nodes he said, since they could – if they wanted to – just monitor those who did run them

    Wait. Is he actually inviting the NSA to spy on Tor?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, I think he's just outlining a fairly obvious point and correcting a myth about the reach of intelligence agencies.. There is far to much hyperbole about their true capabilities ((from press exaggerating and sensationalising it).

      I still remember a tale from my youth in the 90's, stating they ran vast underground data centers that could monitor millions of phone calls per-second and listen for certain keywords (which is b*llocks, as we all know voice recognition is barely tolerable now, but it was really sh*t back them)..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We don't know much about their abilities however...

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Which could in turn be just a cover for a working quantum computer. Remember, black projects don't exist as far as the outside world is concerned.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            A working quantum AI computer called Hollybuddy, that runs on zero-point energy, and of course the Utah data centre is linked to Fort Meade via entangled particles. Or so my sources tell me.

            1. jake Silver badge

              I parsed that as...

              ... "leaked to Fort Meade". Is there such a thing as a predictive parser? Or have I been paying too much attention to politics & privacy recently, thus leading to a mild case of paranoia?

              I think I'll spend the afternoon weeding the veggie garden.

            2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

              "Or so my sources tell me"

              Your sources are wrong. The data centre runs on electrons entangled with electrons in a black hole which has infalling matter from a close-orbiting star. Let's stick to real, sober science rather than out of the tree ideas like extracting zero point energy from the vacuum.

              1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                Re: "Or so my sources tell me"

                Are you sure? *I* heard it was notched quanta, powered by giant mutant star goats.

          2. Chemical Bob
            Black Helicopters

            "https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

            Which could in turn be just a cover for a working quantum computer"

            Which could be used to break encryption and monitor communication...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "We don't know much about their abilities however..."

          Well here's what we do know... The 5-Eyes repeatedly lie about the scope of monitoring against 'own' Citizens / Whistleblowers / Protestors / Activists / Investigative-Journalists etc... So you don't have to be ISIS to be a person-of-interest... Look at how Trump wanted to 'out' his Twitter critics...

          1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

            Re: "We don't know much about their abilities however..."

            They dont monitor their own citizens because that is "wrong"

            They do however monitor each other's citizens and share that infomation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Monitors

        that could monitor millions of phone calls per-second ?

        It is more than that now. They use machines that run on Gallium Arsenide or even Graphene. These can run something like teraherzt frequencies. Also all data that originates from above the 49 parallel runs below it and then back above to avoid a little legal limitation on what is allowed to be mirrored.

        1. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: Monitors

          > run on Gallium Arsenide or even Graphene. These can run something like teraherzt frequencies

          These are easily defeated with a special Al2O3 coated head covering device.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Monitors

            Those are easily countered by bean counters who argue that Gallium Arsenide is far too expensive and they will have to make do with two cans and a length of string.

            FTFY

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Monitors

              By the addition of dihydrogen monoxide and sodium chloride they could double its capacity.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Monitors

          no need for that. Current systems can record the tracks of millions of people, and follow closely tens of thousands...and tbat was 7 years ago when I had direct contact with these systems...it is just a matter of processing power...CUDA is magnificent for this...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          When he mentioned Gallium Arsenide

          That was the first red light for me.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        intelligence agencies

        They do monitor at least tens of thousands, and that is fact. I know it firsthand, and tbat is not a us capability, but another country.

        These people have all their interactions with technology recorded, also tbe mobile phones a

        that are near them, mails, calls, game chats, payments, car movement, mobile pbone movement... so a network is built an ppl get points (terrorist , political views, etc) people adjacent to them.in the network also get points. This is standard, not science fiction.

        Now, tbe problem is you cannot follow everyone everywhere, still not enough procssing power, bjt we are slowly getting there.

        1. DrRobert

          Re: intelligence agencies

          I can't follow you even when your text is on my screen. Well done, your communications are secured.

      4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        as we all know voice recognition is barely tolerable now

        I'm sorry; I didn't get that. Please say the reason for your call. You can say things like, "I have a question about my bill," or "I need technical support."

        "AGENT"

        I'm sorry; I didn't get that. Please say the reason for your call. You can say things like, "I have a question about my bill," or "I need technical support."

        "OPERATOR"

        I'm sorry; I didn't get that. Please say the reason for your call. You can say things like, "I have a question about my bill," or "I need technical support."

        "@#$% YOU!!!"

        I'm sorry; I didn't get that. I'll connect you with an agent. All agents are currently busy. Please try your call again at another time. Good-bye.

        {click}

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I'm sorry; I didn't get that. Please say the reason for your call. You can say things like, "I have a question about my bill," or "I need technical support."

          > "AGENT"

          And your point was to show us you're bad at speech recognition?

  2. DJ Smiley

    Considering you can't track 'users' on tor, you're only tracking connections of said users.

    Now, 1 user can be many hundreds of connections, and also 3% of a networks connections are 'bad'.... that's quite high now you're considering how many connections signify how many users...

  3. Rol Silver badge

    He was contracted to help develop the network by The United States Naval Research Laboratory, who among other things specialise in tactical electronic warfare.

    The only reason us plebs get to have a go on it, is because they need a forest of users to hide the trees that are busily doing the governments work of undermining nation states around the world.

    To think information gathering agencies haven't got a means of analysing their own network is asking too much.

    Of course, now that several of the big illegal operators have perished and their user base been either arrested or awoken from their ignorance with a fright, the forest is thinning out a bit, hence a need to reassure everyone it's safe to go back into the water.

    Now he may genuinely believe every word he says, but what's the betting there are elements of the network he knows nothing about, as his security clearance isn't Satanic Monster level

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    News Media = Liars?

    The dark web seems to have taken a mythic status with the regular, clueless, meda. When it comes to most technical or IT issues they tend to parrot the juiciest press release as fact with no research. It is not that the dark web exists, but its size and extent. Also, how much 'dark activity' is done more openly on something like eBay or Craigslist (I know against the TOS).

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Also worth mentioning that in one of the few smart UK gov reports it was pointed out that the police and similar also depend on Tor, etc, to investigate crime. Pretty hard to use a known police IP address in that line of work to any success, and pretty dangerous to use your home machine...

    1. Aitor 1

      Block

      Another good reason to block known Tor nodes, as I do with all my firewalls and servers..

  7. Suricou Raven

    Been there.

    I've not looked at Tor dark web, but I have on Freenet, and this is what I found:

    - Activists.

    - Religious end-times paranoia.

    - People making fun of religion.

    - Tons of porn.

    - Piracy.

    - Sites advocating for recreational drug use, sometimes with not-entirely-trustworthy instructions.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Been there.

      No cute cats? Most not be a part of TehIntraWebTubes after all.

  8. herman Silver badge

    My dingleding, your dingleding, they all want to play with my dingleding...

    -- With apologies to the ghost of Chuck Berry.

  9. jake Silver badge

    He's right. The "dark net" doesn't exist!

    It's an invention of some journalist who heard about dark fiber somewhere (probably "took a course", and so is now an expert), added two plus two and came up with five.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: He's right. The "dark net" doesn't exist!

      Well, you know what they say about gestalts: more than the sum of their parts.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: He's right. The "dark net" doesn't exist!

      My pet peeve with journalists on this subject is their constant confusion of 'dark net' and 'deep web.' They mean very different things, but journalists can't seem to tell them a part.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dark Helmet

    May the Schwartz be with you.

  11. stephanh Silver badge

    The dark web...

    Isn't that caused by all the "cool" web designers who set their background color to black or something darkish?

    <body style="background-color:black">.

    This is the Dark Web.

    </body>

    A.k.a. the Dork Web.

  12. GrapeBunch Bronze badge
    Coat

    Gone fishing, fishing gone.

    dark * (matter + energy + fiber + web) = Alaska Black God, walking on the waves.

    Mine is the one with the book and hairnet in the pocket.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Gone fishing, fishing gone.

      Maybe the Dark Web is like dark matter: something that's not directly observed, but is needed in order for Web Theory to make sense.

      Disclaimer: Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a physicist...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish that was true..

    the vast majority of folks on the network are using it to anonymously browse public websites for completely legit purposes

    Not the impression I get. I've correlated a number of website logs I have access to (Joomla and Wordpress) and there are a lot of breach attempts from IP addresses flagged as Tor gateways.

    The reason we eventually started filtering out Tor was simple: the number of legitimate website views from Tor was zero. Yes, 0. None.

  14. Cuddles Silver badge

    Nonsense

    "so insignificant, it can be discounted... only three per cent of Tor users connect to hidden services"

    "Only three percent of drivers mow pedestrians down on the pavement while laughing maniacally."

    "Only three percent of plane flights result in crashes."

    "Only three percent of the population are serial killer."

    Three percent can be a pretty significant proportion in many contexts. Given millions of users, even if you assume most of those three percent are still not malicious, that leaves you with at least tens of thousands of drug dealers, pedophiles, and so on, using the service specifically for criminal purposes. We can argue about whether the legitimate uses justify the service despite the potential for misuse, but it's incredibly dishonest to claim the issue doesn't exist at all simply because the majority of users aren't criminals.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Nonsense

      Watt ?

      Feynman, statistics can be turned anyway you want ... BUT, the press is claiming TOR is mainly used by crims, that is what the fellow tried to address ... it clearly is not. He probably went too far in the other direction, negating, he scores a few points, though. The press need to get their act together ... which, for those old enough to remember the hacker/cracker mixup is akin to wishful thinking ... besides, "criminal TOR" sells more than "paranoiac TOR"!

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: "Only three percent of commentards talk bollocks"

      "that leaves you with at least tens of thousands of drug dealers, pedophiles, and so on, using the service specifically for criminal purposes"

      As they also use cars, roads, postal services, PCs, KY jelly, bread, etc. Same argument for security testing tools: some are used by hackers for criminal ends, others by site admins to check their own defences.

  15. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Dingledine quoted [intentionally released] top-secret Five Eyes documents that were backhandedly complimentary about the service. Tor was “the king of high security low latency internet anonymity,” GCHQ said. “There are no other contenders for the throne.”

    Wanted to use the black hawk icon, for once ...

  16. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Doesn't connecting to Facebook over an anonymous network defeat the object of being anonymous unless your using a fake account which is against FB T&Cs? These days Facebook require you verify your account with a phone number so surely this would give away your real identity and location.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TOR,

    I use it to circumvent the nanny state blocks on sites that the government seem fit to impose.

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