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The feds pay for 60 percent of Tor’s development. Can users trust it?

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Just what you didn't want to hear.

The feds pay for 60 percent of Tor’s development. Can users trust it?

This week, we learned that the NSA had managed to circumvent much of the encryption that secures online financial transactions and other activities we take for granted on the Internet. How? By inserting backdoors into the very commercial software designed to keep sensitive medical records, bank files and other information private.

The NSA’s sustained attempt to get around encryption calls into question many of the technologies people have come to rely on to avoid surveillance. One indispensable tool is Tor, the anonymizing service that takes a user’s Internet traffic and spits it out from some other place on the Web so that its origin is obscured.

So far there’s no hard evidence that the government has compromised the anonymity of Tor traffic. But some on a Tor-related e-mail list recently pointed out that a substantial chunk of the Tor Project’s 2012 operating budget came from the Department of Defense, which houses the NSA.
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Seriously? Is there never going to be any good news?

More at the link.


FWIW, me being both a closet BOFH and a professional cynic, I never really did trust TOR - nor did I use it much because of that.

It just sounded too good to be true (and was capable of being used for far too much mayhem) to be left alone and generally remain unchallenged as much as it was. That always says "honeypot" or "Coventry" to me.

What's the "Coventry" reference?

Story of an alleged cover-up from WWII. See here.

Coventry and Ultra

In his 1974 book The Ultra Secret, Group Captain F. W. Winterbotham asserted that the British government had advance warning of the attack from Ultra: intercepted German radio messages encrypted with the Enigma cipher machine and decoded by British cryptoanalysts at Bletchley Park. He further claimed that Winston Churchill ordered that no defensive measures should be taken to protect Coventry, lest the Germans suspect that their cipher had been broken.[19] Winterbotham was a key figure for Ultra; he supervised the "Special Liaison Officers" who delivered Ultra material to field commanders.[13]

However, Winterbotham's claim has been rejected by other Ultra participants and by historians. They state that while Churchill was indeed aware that a major bombing raid would take place, no one knew what the target would be.[20][21]

Peter Calvocoressi was head of the Air Section at Bletchley Park, which translated and analysed all deciphered Luftwaffe messages. He wrote "Ultra never mentioned Coventry... Churchill, so far from pondering whether to save Coventry or safeguard Ultra, was under the impression that the raid was to be on London."[22]

Scientist R. V. Jones, who led the British side in the Battle of the Beams, wrote that "Enigma signals to the X-beam stations were not broken in time," and that he was unaware that Coventry was the intended target. Furthermore, a technical mistake caused jamming countermeasures to be ineffective. Jones also noted that Churchill returned to London that afternoon, which indicated that Churchill believed that London was the likely target for the raid.[23]
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BBC did an article on it here.

True or not, "Coventry" has become the term usually applied to the practice of taking a hit in order not to reveal you have prior information about it. It's a good albeit expensive strategy. Because misplaced confidence in flawed security or encryption systems is easily twice as dangerous as not having any at all.

@Ren - I'm amazed there's a conspiracy story you didn't recognize immediately. (You must be up to something pretending your didn't recognize it right away!  :huh: ) :P


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