March 30, Wednesday. 6:15am. Jan Bultmann and David Robinson, cofounders of the Seattle Privacy Coalition (SPC), were woken up at their condominium by a team of six detectives from the Seattle Police Department.
The Stranger, Seattle’s weekly alternative newspaper, reports that they had a search warrant to look for child exploitations in the couple’s condominium at the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood.
Apparently, US police are engaged in continuous action of raiding the homes of the people who operate Tor exit nodes.
Why exactly is this the case?
Tor Anonymity Network
The Onion Router, or simply Tor, is an anonymity network and service that helps users defend themselves against network surveillance and traffic analysis to learn their browsing habits and location, which is free for those who wish to protect their digital privacy.
From being treated as “second-class citizens” of the web and getting blocked by more than a million sites, now privacy activists and those who run the Tor server to provide exit nodes are at risk of a police raid at any moment.
Why, when everyone has the right to his or her own privacy?
The Dark Web
This section of the internet is not discoverable by the typical Google search or directly entering the URL of a website.
While some people use the Tor network for legitimate reasons in respect to their privacy concerns, many other users who venture into the Dark Web take advantage of this anonymity online.
This is why it’s become the perfect hiding place for cybercriminals for a secret underground marketplace, listing thousands of counterfeit goods, narcotics, drugs, chemicals, firearms and offering services like sports betting, hacking, and gambling.
The police searched the home of the privacy activists, and examined their computer electronics and equipment while the couple was made to sit outside the apartment.
The ending? No child pornographic materials were found, no arrest took place, and no assets were seized, as acknowledged by the SPD.
More issues arise as it was revealed that the police served the warrant and the search was performed while they are conducting investigation on child exploitations, with information sourced from the National Center for Missing and Exploiting Children.
Despite that fact, this experience shook the couple, with the thought that officers usually go into a raid with weapons drawn.
Though they did not this time around, sure enough, the sudden storming was quite upsetting for Bultmann and Robinson who feel extremely violated.
They expressed themselves on the hints and comments being made about their cars, jobs, histories, which clearly reveal that they have been thoroughly researched. How’s that for privacy?
This isn’t the first time they’ve been singled out for their activism, but the couple still plans to continue operating the Tor network, and currently worried on any spyware that might have been installed in their equipment by the police themselves.
Tor Exit Node Operators
The Tor technology is comprised of software that redirects Internet traffic and anonymizes through a worldwide network of relays, made up of volunteers who set up their computers to function as Tor exit nodes.
This offers at least three layers of encryption, thus the source and Tor path’s final destination is rendered completely anonymous.
Some People Use Tor
Since some people likewise utilize Tor to encrypt their traffic and disguise Dark Web activities, once the US law enforcement traces the said user’s IP address, it then reflects the IP address of the exit node Tor has randomly assigned.
The police would tend to think that whoever is operating the exit node is the culprit, confusing them with cybercriminals.
Well, it seems Seattle police is slowly realizing along their expedition that IP addresses don’t always lead to the perpetrator and ultimately closing the case.