- Recent court documents revealed that the U.S. government funded research to try and break the online anonymity service Tor.
- Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense,Carnegie Mellon University carried out the research, which attempted to deanonymise users of the service.
- Ironically, Tor is also funded by the U.S. government, initially developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, according to The Guardian.
Tor encrypts communications and then relays it between multiple users in order to disguise the origin of the communication. The Carnegie Mellon connection was unveiled in response to a court case in which a Tor users’ IP address was discovered.
As part of its research, Carnegie Mellon apparently attempted to find the source of various communications, despite Tor’s ability to hide that information. When it located some alleged illegal activities as part of its research, Carnegie Mellon then worked with the FBI so that the agency could subpoena information for an investigation. The judge in the case ruled that “the IP address of an internet user cannot be deemed private information,” even if that user is running anonymity software.
Carnegie Mellon said it regularly works to identify vulnerabilities in software and computing networks so that they may be corrected.
Privacy of electronic communications is a huge issue currently, as the federal government and Apple continue their standoff over Apple’s refusal to create what the company calls a "backdoor" into the iPhone operating system to help with the ongoing investigation into one of the San Bernardino attackers.