Tor Exit Node Operator Charged With Distributing Child Porn

from the clueless-police dept

Not this again. Last year, we wrote about how Austrian police had seized computers from a tor exit node, showing little comprehension of how tor worked, and why the operator of the node was not responsible for the content accessed. We wondered how difficult it would be to teach law enforcement how tor worked. Apparently, those in Austria still need more help, as it's being reported that another Austrian tor exit node operator has been charged with child porn distribution. The guy, William Weber, has a blog post with some photos.
Seven LKA officers, two police offers, and a court-appointed expert witness started a search of the flat, without respecting my privacy or property whatsoever. Paper documents in a cupboard were read, and no care was taken of my cat (who I was allowed to lock into another room later). My storage cubes (HP MicroServers) were confiscated without any regard for the hardware – the power cords were simply ripped out / hard shutdown, instead of properly shutting them down by the operating system. My main PC was shut down normally, as far as i could determine. After finishing the search in my living room, they continued in my bedroom, where they confiscated my legal firearms, as well as my cable TV receiver, and my Xbox 360. Despite my statement that all firearms and ammunition were legally owned and registered, having passed all background checks, this was doubted by one of the LKA officers due to the caliber.
He indicates later that there was at least some knowledge of tor, so hopefully this gets sorted out:
After this, I had them show me the offending IP address, which I identified as belonging to me in the specified timeframe. I explained that this was a TOR exit node under my control at this time. I attempted to explain what TOR is, and they appeared to be familiar with it, as the atmosphere suddenly became more friendly. They probably understood that it was very unlikely they had a child pornographer sitting in their office.

Some questions about my motives followed, which I attempted to answer – but this seemingly failed. I could not make them understand why I would “waste” resources and bandwidth (translating into money) to run a TOR node. I informed them that I was already contacted by the Polish police in May about this IP, regarding hacking attempts originating from it. Back then I had already explained to Polish police that this was a TOR exit node, and that no logfiles were held. After the report of hacking attempts, I shut down the TOR node on this server, but apparently this was too late and they were investigating (and/or wiretapping) already.
Obviously, there are reasons to investigate possible child porn distribution, but it still seems ridiculous that law enforcement still seems skeptical of tor exit nodes and assumes that they must be used for nefarious intent. This isn't the first time of course. Last year, here in the US, ICE seized a tor exit node as well. While it eventually returned the equipment, it warned the guy that "this could happen again." And, of course, just this week, we wrote about a German case where a court actually held someone responsible for the transmission of encrypted traffic on a tor-like system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 1:10pm

    They want to ban Tor and any kind of proxies ie VPN.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      FuzzyDuck, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:49pm

      Re:

      You can send stuff anonymously through the mail too. So let's sue the post office for distributing child porn. It's practically guaranteed that the post office has done so.

       

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    Ah.

    So that whole “wasting resources and bandwidth (translating into money) to run a TOR node" thing translates across cultures.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 1:54pm

    Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    I'm short on sympathy, as usual.

    Listen. There MAY be "legitimate" uses for TOR, but as the obvious purpose IS to avoid some sort of laws, if police find the trail ends at you -- due to deliberate suppressing of logs on a system having purpose of hiding identity -- then you're left holding the bag, and jurors ain't gonna believe you're (totally) innocent. Smear tactics do work: you'll get a "probably guilty of something" verdict, is all.

    Besides that, nothing will matter to the state except that you are HIDING something from them: that's a far greater "crime" to a state than anything actual. You self-identity just by operating these. So beware.

    Now, I'd like to point out to those who believe these networks do provide anonymity is that's only true IF none are operated by gov't or its contractors, AND in any event, exit points are as easily found as any IP, so it's a simple matter to shut down ALL of those (in time). You guys who think you'll "route around" the police state keep assuming that the state will act lawfully and pretty much as at present.

    Mike here quite unusually fails to mention his favorable prior pieces on "deep dark network" though is on the automatic related links.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Gee, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 1:59pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      Actually all nodes would need to be controlled by the Gov for them to track the real source.

       

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      identicon
      MrWilson, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

      "but as the obvious purpose IS to avoid some sort of laws"

      So basically your entire premise is flawed since it is based on this false assumption. Privacy is not against the law in all countries.

      "You guys who think you'll "route around" the police state keep assuming that the state will act lawfully and pretty much as at present."

      And you keep assuming that the police state will be able to keep up with all the people who will come up with multiple ways to route around the police state.

      The only practical way to achieve the perfect surveillance state that would fulfill your dire prediction is a totalitarian big brother regime across the entire world, which will never happen. That would require cooperation of everybody and humans have a millennia long history of not getting along.

      There is always an analog hole. There is always a steganographic solution that will work for a time. There will always be someone who is cleverer than the people the government hires or manipulates.

      Your doom-saying would make for a great dystopian story. I suggest you put your efforts into writing fiction for publication instead of writing fiction for trolling here.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        ME, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 1:49am

        Re:

        Without even knowing you I can tell you are extremely naieve, and almost certainly American.

        In case you hadn't noticed, since the American government flew planes into their own buildings to create a "new world order", secure the oil from Iraq, and begin a war on the premise of a lie and multiple murders, we are in fact living in a totalitarian society. Conspiracy theory? Where is one little piece of plane wreckage from the Pentagon?

        Anyway, I have had this discussion with many brainwashed Americans who unbelievably, despite the incredible evidence to support the government's guilt, blindly believe they are still the good guys.

        Since 9/11 new anti-terrorism laws were passed in almost every country, which breesch privacy laws once enjoyed. In short governments can now do whatever they like to you, and whenever they please, all in the name of anti-terrorism. Now I believe this is called totalitarianism - don't you?

         

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    •  
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      Rikuo (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      As usual, you're a complete and utter fucking moron who doesn't do the least bit of research.

      Newsflash, dipshit, TOR was originally developed by the US Navy. I'm pretty sure hiding from law enforcement was pretty far down the list of priorities for them.

       

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        identicon
        Milton Freewater, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

        "Newsflash, dipshit, TOR was originally developed by the US Navy."

        Listen, Rikuo, there MAY be legitimate uses for TOR, let alone "legitimate" uses, but we haven't really given the subject a second's thought and we don't really understand anything on this blog. Nevertheless, here's a post.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      "Besides that, nothing will matter to the state except that you are HIDING something from them: that's a far greater "crime" to a state than anything actual. You self-identity just by operating these. So beware."

      Sooo....in your world the government has access to every aspect of your life and you have NO privacy because you have nothing to hide right?

       

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    •  
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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      There MAY be "legitimate" uses for TOR, but as the obvious purpose IS to avoid some sort of laws


      No, the obvious purpose is to avoid surveillance (which, imho, is an entirely legitimate purpose), not laws. There's a huge difference. I know quite a few Tor users, none of whom use it for illegal purposes (to the best of my knowledge).

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 1:16am

        Re: Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

        I am using TOR right now and if reading Techdirt is a crime than I am a criminal.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 3:50pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      Yeah, it's to avoid some sort of laws, which to you is a big no-no.

      So you're in agreement with regimes like China and Iran cracking down on dissidents, right? Because they use Tor, and they use it to avoid some sort of laws...

       

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      Violated (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 4:13pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      You overlook that TOR when used by the majority is for nothing unlawful when most of them connect to a TOR entry node and leave by a TOR exit node simply to do some anonymous web browsing.

      Indeed anyone who values their privacy and anonymity these days is recommended to use both TOR and VPN. If you see how everyone tracks what you do these days then it is scary. So what is wrong with people taking up their rights to privacy and anonymity?

      Then here you are saying that the whole TOR network should be destroyed simply because a few criminals hide in the one place law enforcement cant catch them. Indeed conduct their whole business out in the open for all to see.

      In the end if you have seen what I have seen with the Government spying on everything you do including going through your email then a peaceful life under Tor does seem better even with the black market. They pushed and we pushed back.

       

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    •  
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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 10:17pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      OoTB, I would think you would love TOR. It's a damn good way to surf the web without the evil big search monitoring you.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 8:40am

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      The White House has many times suggested people use Tor and other such programs to help spread world freedom. Why are you against Freedom OOTB?

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 12:38pm

      Re: Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

      "Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas". I call it...THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT!

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 2:53pm

    Gov hiding from Gov

    "...TOR was originally developed by the US Navy. I'm pretty sure hiding from law enforcement was pretty far down the list of priorities for them..."

    Actually, if my father's stories from his (low level) work in Army Intel are true, branches of the DOD take considerable effort to hide from other branches of the Government. Might explain a little of the explanation for the recent "cyber security" legislation/order as well.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

    WELL IF HE HAS NOTHING TO HIDE...

     

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  •  
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    Violated (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    Tor versus Idiots

    It is stupid to seize Tor exit nodes when this is like ripping out the cables of the Internet or taking down a whole ISP in the name of CP moving over its network.

    Naturally all data over Tor is hard encrypted and so no exit node owner can know what lawful or unlawful data is passed over the network. That is the very application of Tor created by the US Government for untracked communication.

    The charges against him are clearly misplaced and only an idiot would lay false charges on an innocent person. Also to seize his Cable TV receiver and XBox 360 shows supreme technical incompetence where I could pick out a 10 year old who can identify valid hardware better. As I am sure the seizure order did not include unrelated consumer electronics then they should ensure the return of those falsely seized items as a matter of priority.

    I always find it a shame these days that these people don't do their homework on what Tor is. Or how about nipping around his house saying "We have a few concerns can I come in to discuss these?" Two simple acts to save the victim a whole lot of problems.

    Well it is certainly true that Core servers within Tor host child porn, guns, drugs and even hitmen but the Police are of course not attacking these sources. Neither is it possible in any easy way to do so due to constant hard encryption along with the multiple onion layers.

    This does make you wonder if Governments would want the complete closer of the Tor network? It does represent complete anonymity, privacy and unrestricted speech and actions.

    The only thing that surprises me about Tor is that this is all individuals and you don't see say major drug lords starting up a mail order service.

    Tor though does have many lawful uses and it is hard to see any area of the law which could take down the whole network so in that regard there is only bullying and false raids like this one.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    anon, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 5:33pm

    LOL

    They create the need for anonymity and then complain when people use it.

    The law needs to change, privacy must be a priority so that people feel safe using the internet. No more going after people for sharing music movies or books.

    If the laws are in place and people feel safer they will not use things like tor or vpn's or proxies by even 1/100th as much as they do now. That would make it easier to investigate the real criminals.

    Help us feel safe using the internet, make sure wire-tapping laws are creayed to satisfy people that they will not be monitored unless there is hard evidence of a crime before a warrant is issued.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      anon, Nov 30th, 2012 @ 5:46pm

      Re: LOL

      Create laws that remove the need for privacy and the problem goes away to a large extent. Yes there will be people that are paranoid and will always use something to hide there activity even if they are safe but that would be a small minority, as long as the law was very clear you were not being monitored in any way unless the court was given undeniable proof of a crime being committed.

       

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        orbitalinsertion (profile), Nov 30th, 2012 @ 7:11pm

        Re: Re: LOL

        People value privacy for reasons other than laws or shame. Really. And some people practice privacy to a greater extent just for practice, and because what they do is not anyone else's goddamned business.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Dave, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 2:51am

    out_of_the_blue

    Can't something be done about this obnoxious "out_of_the_blue" poster? Suppose he (assuming this moron is a "he") would just change his user-name if completely banned. This is obviously just trolling for the sake of it with nothing constructive to add.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Gothenem (profile), Dec 1st, 2012 @ 3:36am

      Re: out_of_the_blue

      I understand your frustration, but, Mr. Out_of_the_blue has as much right to voice his opinion as we do ours. If we ask that he be removed from this site, are we any better than the **AA asking that file-sharers be incarcerated?

      OOTB is not breaking any laws when he is posting here, so let him post. If you do not like what he says, ignore it.

      Personally, I find him highly entertaining in much the same way that I find several Viral videos entertaining (such as the True Meaning of MPH and the Please Move the Deer Crossing Signs videos.)

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 8:38am

        Re: Re: out_of_the_blue

        In that case, him and AJ should be more grateful and less insulting to Mike and others here. Most other sites ban trolls and shills like them with no objection allowed.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 8:58am

          Re: Re: Re: out_of_the_blue

          Obviously Mike has a soft spot for shills, being one himself.

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2012 @ 9:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: out_of_the_blue

            See this is what I mean, you are being a jackass knowing you have no risks. On a different site, you'd be gone faster then your paycheck from the lobby group arrives.

             

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  •  
    identicon
    Andrew T, Dec 3rd, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Actually - its not so silly

    Although it may be true law enforcement doesn't understand the technology, it may not be so silly to confiscate Tor exit nodes.

    Just as dog owners are accountable for the actions of their dogs (in most jurisdictions) it isn't so far fetched (or even beyond legal precedent) to believe people will be held accountable for what their computers do with their ISPs.

    If someone is going to be so idiotic enough to allow anonymous users (especially ones engaging in kiddie porn) defacto use of their machine and network as a tor exit node, they should be held accountable for abetting a crime.

     

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      Arsik Vek (profile), Dec 3rd, 2012 @ 12:04pm

      Re: Actually - its not so silly

      Just as dog owners are accountable for the actions of their dogs (in most jurisdictions) it isn't so far fetched (or even beyond legal precedent) to believe people will be held accountable for what their computers do with their ISPs.

      Yep, and we should arrest all those folks who leave their wifi open for people to use, when someone else connects and does something illegal. They shouldn't do nice things for other people.

      And anybody whose wifi gets cracked and the hackers do bad things. They should have secured it better.

      And all those people who let their computers get compromised and end up in botnets doing attacks. They're practically cyberterrorists.


      After all, it's their computer and their ISP. They're liable for it.

       

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    identicon
    Walt, Dec 3rd, 2012 @ 11:50am

    How should police respond then?

    I agree that seizing cable boxes is especially lame, but if illegal activity is traced back to an IP, what should the police do except get a search/seizure warrant and go collect up equipment?

    If you "pop around for a chat" as someone suggested, a guilty person will clean up their mess ASAP.

    If I were into something illegal, I would immediately start running a TOR exit so I could blame it on that. I honestly don't know how the thing works in any detail, but it seems like people commenting think that "oh, it was TOR" should just be a "get out of jail free" card something.

    Seems naive to me.

    If you're going to loan your internet connection to total strangers, you should expect bad behavior. And the possibility that the bad behavior will be blamed on you. That's why I have my wireless access point as locked down as is practical. It's not that I don't like my neighbors, I just don't know them or trust them.

     

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