TOR And The Deep Web: The Battle Between Government Intrusion And Privacy.

TOR And The Deep Web: The Battle Between Government Intrusion And Privacy.

Joe Bowman

The rabbit hole that is the Internet goes much deeper than most people know. In fact, the World Wide Web as we know it represents just 4% of networked web pages — the remaining 96% of pages make up what many refer to as the “Invisible Internet,” “Invisible Web” or “Deep Web.” This massive subsection of the Internet is 500 times bigger than the visible Web and is not indexed by search engines like Google. It’s the digital equivalent of a thriving city that’s been domed over and cordoned off. These sites are locked down so tightly that you need a special browser to access them. It’s called the Tor browser, and it offers you an entirely new way of connecting to the Internet. Conventional web browsers like Chrome and Firefox make no effort to conceal your location or identity, Tor is built upon the idea of preserving anonymity as aggressively as possible. For example, Where Google helps you find the needle, Tor lets you explore the haystack. There is lots of promise in Tor’s value – people use it to protect their communications, to research sensitive topics, and to access information they might otherwise not have access to (if a country is behind a firewall, for example). By guaranteeing such a high level of anonymity, Tor lends itself well to information freedom activists and those who simply want to take their Internet safety to the extreme.If you’re not already familiar, the free method of searching the Internet that’s so anonymous and secure the National Security Agency wants to destroy it. TOR or the Onion Router, has become a serious pain the the ass of the government surveillance apparatus as documents obtained by The Guardian indicate that   both the NSA and its British partner GCHQ  have been unable to crack it. 

So what is TOR and how can you use it? Basically, TOR is a network that bounces your searches and communications all over the Internet via several different computers making them hard to track. You access TOR using a special browser or an app. The NSA has had such a hard time trying to crack TOR that it actually created a top secret presentation called TOR Stinks. TOR Stinks was among the documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian. Its author wrote: “We will never be able to de-anonymize all TOR users all the time.” That means the NSA will never be able to identify all TOR users.
 
How TOR works:

The most interesting thing about TOR is that it was developed by the US government, specifically the State Department and the Defense Department. The idea was to create a secret and secure means of communication for spies and dissidents.TOR works by creating an encrypted packet of Internet traffic that is bounced through a number of nodes or servers. TOR users use a special Firefox web browser that sends all of the traffic through the TOR network. This is hard to track because it isn’t moving through normal channels. A TOR user in Nebraska might have her Internet traffic routed through a node in Manitoba and another Node in Great Britain which would confuse a person trying to locate her. It isn’t perfect but it’s a pretty good way of covering your tracks online. A good way to think of TOR is as another secret Internet inside the Internet. It’s currently used by spies, dissidents, journalists and special operations soldiers such as those in Delta Force. These are called “Darknets” and they’re often used by criminals as well as the government. The NSA has made a number of efforts to crack TOR. It’s tried to insert malicious code into TOR’s browser bundle.  

 The NSA had been using a hole in Firefox to infiltrate TOR but that’s recently was plugged. The TOR website is a great resource that provides connections to a wide variety of excellent tools for thwarting surveillance efforts. If you’re serious about anonymity online, it is the place to begin. It appears there is an effective and low-cost method that enables the average person to avoid most surveillance. That method was created with our tax dollars, and another government agency is using our tax dollars in an attempt to destroy it. It is possible for average people to frustrate the NSA with TOR. Nothing that any article or claim (to date) has stated has boasted the ability to actually crack TOR itself. The figures are staggering as to the computing power that would be necessary to do that – as in, still, for all intents and purposes, at the current point in time – TOR remains impossible to crack. When government agencies bend the rules to a breaking point we all lose – as individuals, communities, and a nation. 

Reasonable, common sense, legal, and Constitutional law enforcement and intelligence gathering when done with the ‘Golden Rule’ in mind can yield results that bring honor and respect to the agencies in question and, surprise, may even restore some semblance of faith in governance that is vital to a nation that is suffering from an unquestionable level of distrust of government. As far as anonymity in all respects, all the time, in every detail on the net — it is a pipe dream similar to the car lover who installs every single alarm, lock, light and deterrent, and bets his life on never losing that car. If someone wants the car bad enough or your identity bad enough, they can get it. Private browsing and private internet communications, I believe are constitutionally protected rights like many privacy issues such as the U.S. mail that the gov. is barred by law from breaching/violating absent probable cause to believe a crime is being committed and the subsequent written affidavits and submission of said to a court of law for review and then and only then the issuance of a warrant for the seizing of that protected property. Playing fast and loose with citizens rights is a dangerous, highly illegal, slippery slope that throws away the gift, the treasure of our once great constitutional republic. For those in government, please, please do what the constitution and your oath to it demands and what you know in your heart is the right and decent thing to do. Drag netting the public at large is not even a  productive way to engage in intel-gathering or law enforcement. Aside from everything stated thus far, it is counter-productive to the end goal of protecting the nation. If the end goal is something different, it’s time for further discussion about the government’s domestic surveillance goals.

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2 Replies to “TOR And The Deep Web: The Battle Between Government Intrusion And Privacy.”

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