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Tor Network May Face Disabling Attack

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The Tor Project has learned that there may be an attempt to incapacitate our network in the next few days through the seizure of specialized servers in the network called directory authorities.

These words were the introduction to Possible upcoming attempts to disable the Tor network, an announcement made early Friday evening, Massachusetts time, where the Tor Project headquarters is located.

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The fourth quarter of 2014 has been rough for Tor. First Operation Onymous caught a few darknet market operators, and everyone involved got trolled by European Cyber Crime Commission head Troels Oerting. Then a nasty spat erupted between Pando writer Yasha Levine (@YashaLevine) and the Tor development team over their government funding.

And now they face what may be an existential threat, because if enough Directory Authorities are taken, the network will be badly degraded, both operationally, and even worse in terms of user confidence.

Also read: Avoiding Tor Panic

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Losing Directory Authorities?

the onion routerThe internet was started by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, with the intent to create a packet network that could withstand the disruption of a nuclear attack. Forty some years later this network treats censorship like battle damage, routing around it, and the Tor anonymity network permits one to go even further, all without leaving much of a trail.

Tor’s resilience is based on the idea that there are no single points of failure, but there is a hierarchy of participation. Users of the network run a local Tor daemon that provides them access. Many individuals run relays, which permit users to connect, and some are configured to permit exit traffic as well. Relay operators with plenty of bandwidth and long term uptime will also provide directory services.

Tor’s Directory Authorities are similar to the root servers for DNS in that there are few, just eight globally. These servers are hand selected rather than gaining status based on their uptime, which is how other important roles in the network, like directory services, are delegated. If enough of them disappear all at once, this will be a major disruption for the Tor network.

Pando Sniping

There has been a call between Paul Carr (@paulcarr) of Pando and Tor Project director Andrew Lewman, not long after a peacemaking attempt by Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton), and things seemed to have calmed a bit. Even so, Carr is busy this evening lampooning the entire spectrum of people involved, from Tor itself to the conspiracy theorists who believe that Pando is a CIA front.

Paul Carr Comments On Tor

Paul Carr Comments On Tor

This at least seems to be headed back towards actual reporting and good natured ribbing, rather than the extreme trolling cage match between the two groups that prompted Norton’s diplomacy effort.

Watching & Waiting

One of the documents from the Snowden leak, Tor Stinks, described how the NSA can at most de-anonymize a small fraction of users, and they can not pick specific targets, it’s a fairly random thing. Since then it appears that a 0day exploit was used as a component of Operation Onymous, and now it seems the Tor network may face an outright beheading.

This potential shutdown has to be seen against the backdrop of not just Operation Onymous. The Sony intrusion and the comically thin information the FBI is using as the basis to claim North Korea was the culprit are very reminiscent of the Sixteen Words in George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech.

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

There will be an immense amount of egg on the face of every politician and security pundit who pushed ‘proportional action’ against North Korea if it turns out that the source of the attack was actually longtime Sony foe Lizard Squad (@LizardUnit). Among their prior antics are an instance where they posed as ISIS supporters and faked a bomb threat to an airliner in order to interdict a Sony executives travel plans.

All we can do now is wait and watch for signs that the Tor network’s performance is degrading.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Black Dynamite

    December 20, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Privacy, freedom, and the U.S. Government do not mix.
    BD

    • rich godman

      December 23, 2014 at 7:16 am

      You guys should have taken McGruff the Crime Dogs sage advice.

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Coders Safeguard Vulnerable Ethereum Wallets Following Security Breach

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hacker extortion bitcoin

Ethereum suffered large-scale security breaches last week after anonymous hackers targeted vulnerable wallets in the network, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. However, it didn’t take long for a volunteer group of coders to “rescue” the funds in 500 at-risk wallets before the same attackers could get to them too.

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White Hat Group Takes Charge

The so-called White Hat Group showed initiative by “rescuing” the funds using the same techniques the thieves employed to compromise $32 million USD worth of ether from three multi-signature wallets. As of Monday, the White Hat Group of ethical hackers was in possession of $86 million worth of ether and an additional $122 million in tokens.

Tokens are digital assets that are sold during an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraising event. They have proven to be extremely popular.

Tens of millions of dollars worth of ether and tokens have already been returned to their owners. The White Hat Group says it will issue full refunds by the end of July.

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Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also breached last week, resulting in the loss of more than $7 million worth of ether.

Security Breaches Nothing New in Crypto World

For all its benefits, cryptocurrency has been vulnerable to several high-profile security breaches. Last summer, Hong Kong-based Bitfinex was the target of a major attack that resulted in the theft of around $70 million worth of bitcoins. In response, the exchange announced a controversial plans to “socialize” its losses among all users. Each Bitfinex trader was docked 36% as a result.

Bitcoin prices declined sharply following the attack, stopping what had been a blistering summer of gains.

Ethereum Enterprise Alliance

For anyone doubting the potential of the ether, take a look at the list of companies participating in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The EEA is a forum that connects Fortune 500 companies, startups and academics with ethereum subject matter experts.  The EEA is made up of multinational banks and some of the world’s biggest technology companies.

The forum has made cyber security a top priority, according to a May 22 press release. In the release, companies like Infosys, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Synechron and others expressed their intent to contribute to the future of ethereum’s security.

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Hacking

Hackers Only Need Seconds to Figure Out Card Details

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Experts from Newcastle University in England has found that hackers only need six seconds to figure out the card number, expiry date, and security code for a Visa debit or credit card by simple guesswork, according to a report from The Telegraph.

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According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, in the U.K. the number of bank account fraud cases reported up to June 2016, from the beginning of the year, amounted to over 2.3 million.

The researchers found that all that a hacker needs is a computer and an Internet connection. It is believed that hackers simply utilize what is known as a Distributed Guessing Attack enabling them to get around security features that help prevent online fraud.

By using the Distributed Guessing Attack, the system was unable to detect multiple attempts made by hackers.

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Process of Elimination

As such, within a matter of seconds hackers were able to determine the correct information on a person’s card by a process of elimination.

Only recently Tesco bank account customers were subjected to hacking after criminals were able to gain access to their accounts. It is believed that these hackers may have used the Distributed Guessing Attack to siphon money from peoples’ accounts.

Payment Cards Remain Vulnerable

Unfortunately, even though Visa debit and credit cards remain popular and convenient forms of payment, they remain vulnerable as well.

And hackers know this, which is why reports of online card fraud are becoming more prevalent in today’s technologically-advanced world.

Visa states though:

The research does not take into account the multiple layers of fraud prevention that exist within the payments system, each of which must be met in order to make a transaction possible in the real world.

However, while this may be the case, it seems something is amiss if cybercriminals can simply determine a person’s card details in six seconds through guesswork.

Bitcoin to the Rescue?

The digital currency bitcoin, however, may provide an answer to this problem.

As a type of digital currency that is held and created electronically with no central bank governing it, bitcoin is considered the cash of the Internet.

Due to its popularity more people are turning to it instead of fiat currency.

It was recently reported that Sweden is considering the issuance of its own digital currency, ekrona, in an effort to address the significant decline of the use of cash in the country.

Whereas India has announced that digital currency will become the new normal in the country as it attempts to reduce the amount of cash transactions with the banning of its biggest banknotes, the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

While these are just a few instances of how bitcoin is revolutionizing how we see money, many are quickly catching on to how safe and effective bitcoin is as a form of payment in a world where hackers are gaining easy access to a person’s Visa debit and credit cards.

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