Russia Prepares To Block Tor And Anonymizing Proxies

from the don't-give-them-ideas dept

As more and more countries start introducing Web blocks, some people console themselves with the “at least there’s always Tor” argument. Politicians may be slow, but they are not all completely stupid, and they are beginning to get the message that Tor and other anonymous services potentially render their Web blocks moot. It’s then not a huge leap for them to move on to the next stage — banning or blocking Tor — as Russia now seems to be contemplating, according to this article on Russia Today:

The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has personally ordered preparations for laws that would block the Tor anonymity network from the entire Russian sector of the Internet, a Russian newspaper reported.

FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov announced the initiative at a recent session of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, saying that his agency would develop the legislative drafts together with other Russian law enforcement and security bodies, the widely circulated daily Izvestia reported.

In fact, according to the Izvestia story (original in Russian), along with Tor, all anonymizing proxy services would be banned too.

No prizes for guessing what’s behind the latest move:

The news was disclosed after the Russian civil movement ‘Head Hunters’ wrote a letter to the FSB with a request to block Tor, as it is one of the favorite software tools for distributors and users of child pornography. The FSB replied that the request was directed to the wrong body, as crimes against public health and morals fall under the Interior Ministry’s jurisdiction.

However, the FSB graciously decided to get involved anyway:

The FSB official said that the agency initiated the move as internet anonymizers were used by weapon traffickers, drug dealers and credit card fraudsters, giving the FSB an obvious interest in limiting the use of such software.

In other words, banning Tor and anonymizers is a real crowd-pleaser, since politicians can point to lots of bad people that use them. Just like they use the Internet, or postal service: and just as there are lots of good uses of the postal service and the Internet, so Tor and anonymizers are also vital for a wide range of non-evil people, notably activists and political dissidents, both of whom are already under pressure in Russia. But what is a bug for some is a feature for others: blocking Tor — “for the children” — would also have the knock-on effect of making it even harder for dissidents and political groups to access information and organize in secret.

Assuming that the proposed law is passed, as seems likely, the worry has to be that other countries will take note and start to think about following suit, probably playing the same populist card of fighting child pornography that Russia’s ‘Head Hunters’ are now employing.

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Comments on “Russia Prepares To Block Tor And Anonymizing Proxies”

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50 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Fear not, the US will soon follow.

It’s interesting though. I suppose Ed Snowden is using all sorts of routes to conceal and anonymize his activities online for very good reasons which probably includes TOR and such proxies/vpns and whatever. Can you see where I’m getting at?

The for the children mantra is getting tired already. It’s about time they used the correct term: blatant censorship.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Blocking TOR

Sheesh. Are you kids surprised that TOR can be blocked? — It has easily identifiable (to a computer) characteristics; probably all major ISPs have deep-packet-inspection gadgets by now.

So another of your piratey dodges falls to the two-edged sword of tech.

Oh, and that’s besides TOR almost certainly being a honey pot which is actually sending everything in plain text to NSA.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Blocking TOR

It means that such blocks tend to be ineffective as there’s no central hub to shut down and the code can be changed quickly to route around any blocks. Not perfect perhaps, but a long way from being controlled by the US government – even if the original code was untrustworthy by default association, it could be changed to something trustworthy by those with the inclination to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blocking TOR

Actually, TOR is a US Military project, if you consider that the idea it’s based on (the Internet) was a US Military project. Without that technology, TOR couldn’t exist.

And the ultimate karmic justice is that that US has, since the early 20s, created the enemies it fights (from Prohibition, through the Great Depression, wartime, through to Communism, The Movement, Cold War, and in the modern day, Al-Qa’ida and the IRA.)

And neither it nor Russia have learned – those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blocking TOR

Would it kill you to read facts before name-calling and spewing falsehoods? Lying about either technical facts or the people you’re trying to address still doesn’t get you anything other than mockery.

Well, at least you came out with a ridiculous conspiracy theory that didn’t contain the word “Google” for once, so there’s that.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s a good question I’ve been trying to figure out. They can block maybe the ports TOR uses? But that can be circumvented. Block known exit nodes from accessing Russian sites or something?

As for the proxies I’m guessing they are gonna maintain some sort of black list but still, anybody can set up an anonymous proxy in minutes..

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m going to guess that this will be used more as an “aha, we see you have tor/proxies so use that as an excuse to lock you up” rather than actually detecting any particular activity.

After all, such services are often used by people reporting on human rights and other abuses by governments. It would be handy for government to be able to shut down people reporting such things merely by making the tools illegal to operate in and of themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The list of tor nodes is public. Each node downloads the list from the tor directory authorities on startup, and choses the intermediate notes it will use from that list. It is easy to block traffic to these nodes.

The way around that is to use bridges (https://www.torproject.org/docs/bridges.html.en). They are not listed publicly, and can obfuscate the protocol further to make them even harder to detect. See that page for details.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Russian sector of the Internet"

“Russian sector of the Internet”

That shows a disturbing worldview.

There are no “national sectors” on the Internet. It is fully transparent. Without looking, I have no idea which country the http://www.techdirt.com servers are in. Where I work, we use servers located in another country, while our target users are in our country, and they do not notice.

Their mentality seems to be stuck in the bad old times where each country had its own separate national network.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

I have to kind of laugh at the justification for this. Here we have the Russian government who has been silencing it’s political critics and throwing them in jail or charging them with some crime to silence them.

This has also been the case with Journalists who are not government friendly as well as civilian protesters of the Russian government policies.

The you have the Russian governments crackdown on the internet and copyright enforcement and how they seem to be hell bent as stopping that courtesy of the pressure they have had on them from the Hollywood paid for Obama Government.

The irony is stunning that the Russian government will crack down on this but yet do nothing to those in Russia who are running Bot Net, committing financial crimes ranging from credit card fraud and bank fraud to pilfering business accounts through ACH fraud and fraudulent wire transfers that seem to go to Russia all the time and I wont even bring up the spam and pill operations that are ran for there.

But yet they choose to do nothing about the aforementioned groups committing those crimes in not only Russia but many other countries as well. But I guess if you kick back enough to certain people, the Russian government wont bother you.

Once again it shows us all that many governments around the globe will seek to change the rules in the name of saving the children or what ever other cause they want to label it as all in the name of increasing their powers on keeping tabs on not only their citizens but their critics as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

and the USA and the UK will be falling over themselves to introduce exactly the same measures! governments everywhere are dismantling the Internet and removing freedom and privacy of ordinary people. you can bet your arse that there will be no ban for businesses to use anonymising services. and, yet again, this has all been brought about because the US entertainment industries and Hollywood refused to join the digital age! they have bribed politicians everywhere to get laws introduced that will enable the holding back of innovation and technical advancement, just to keep those industry heads receiving the same level or better income and control that they have been receiving for years. governments are doing all they can to aid in this because they dont like not being in control of citizens and fear the people learning more than the governments want them to learn. if the people can be kept in the dark, governments can do what they like, undetected. they also think they are entitled to receive much more money from the internet, but even if they do, no one outside of government will be any better off. i wonder what excuses are going to be used when there is something similar to what is happening in Egypt and Syria atm. i suppose then, as it may suit someones needs or aims, the Internet will be open again. in the meantime, it is going to be shut down, in the form we know and how it was meant to be, until it is controlled completely. with security agencies taping in to telecoms companies whenever they want, i am surprised there hasn’t been more done, quicker, to censor and restrict the net. good old USA does it again! cant handle it so fuck it up completely! cant do better than that!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Show's that Snowden is for political gains

and not anything to do with “right” it’s Russia taking an opportunity to give the finger to the US, Snowden is no more than a pawn in a much larger game.

It also shows that not only it about NSA and ‘freedoms’ it’s about if you have some power, you use it, that includes EVERYONE, including you !!!

You don’t like censorship yet if you are given the power to censor you will use it, happens here on TD every day.

So if the freedom loving Masnicks on TD will employ the tools in their power to block, censor and supress speech or freedoms YOU WILL !!!

So will the US, Government departments, foreign Governments, security organizations, Tech Dirt, PJ from Groklaw, Masnick.

You all do it, but I guess when you do it ‘it’s right’ but if anyone else does it, it’s criminal and evil..

How many phone calls or emails have you not been able to send or make because of the NSA ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Over time, all this is logically going to force an increasing number of people to actually learn more about the Internet, which will logically increase the number of people that will be able to contribute to its anonymity and freedom. In other words, more control, more hackers. In addition, due to the very nature of the fight (i.e find one way to defeat control vs. control everything), elegance will remain on the side of the opposition and brute force will remain on the side of the Empire.

RonKaminsky (profile) says:

Makes any moral dillema less of a dillema

If anyone had previously been considering running a darknet node, but was concerned over inadvertently aiding activities they did not approve of (whatever your personal “bete noir” is), these kinds of national initiatives (bans like Russia and China, fishing/snooping like US) may make it easier for them to decide in favor of the benefits of the darknet vs. whatever detriments they see in it.

I know it’s for sure pushing me in that direction.

Truth Teller says:

As if it even matters

Blocking TOR means nothing. There are plenty of other proxy sites online already and blocking one just creates many more.
There will always be a way for people to get what they want on the internet, obviously however that means that lowest of humanity will get their fix but it also means that “data crusaders” will be able to expose much needed truths.
It’s not a black and white issue.

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