We all know that the National Security Agency (NSA) hates Tor. Tor stands for everything the NSA is against, such as anonymity and information security. It comes as no surprise to find out that the spy agency has been attacking the Tor network:
The National Security Agency has made repeated attempts to develop attacks against people using Tor, a popular tool designed to protect online anonymity, despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US government itself.
It’s pretty funny when one government agency is focused on destroying something originally created by another government agency (Tor was originally funded by the United States Naval Research Laboratory). Fortunately the NSA has met with very little success:
But the documents suggest that the fundamental security of the Tor service remains intact. One top-secret presentation, titled ‘Tor Stinks’, states: “We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time.” It continues: “With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users,” and says the agency has had “no success de-anonymizing a user in response” to a specific request.
Another top-secret presentation calls Tor “the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity”.
There has been a lot of speculation about Tor’s security. Even now people are arguing over whether or not the Tor Stinks presentation is still accurate. It is possible that the NSA has developed a way to successfully remove a Tor user’s anonymity since the presentation was leaked. So far we’ve seen no evidence of this though. The two primary stores involving Tor, the take down of Freedom Hosting and the apparent arrest of Dread Pirate Roberts, were both accomplished using old fashioned investigative work. This leads me to believe the the Tor Stinks presentation is still accurate and that the NSA hasn’t found a reliable way to attack a Tor user’s anonymity.
Once again, we can speculate about the powers of the NSA. The problem is we can’t work off of speculations. I agree with Bruce Schneier who said we should “trust the math.” Unless we have evidence to the contrary we can only assume that Tor works. With that said, it’s never good to rely entirely on a single tool. Tor is great but you should also take other precautions to protect your anonymity online (for example, Tor doesn’t do you a lot of good if somebody has already managed to install a trojan onto your computer).