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Is the US government hacking Tor?

Denial by Department of Defense actually raises more questions than answers.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has denied that it is receiving personal data from the users of the Tor anonymity network, speaking to Reuters earlier this week.

Tor recently revealed it had been victim of a traffic monitoring attack that could have been used to uncloak users of the site, amid controversy about a government funded project thought to be aimed at cracking the network.

Lieutenant colonel Valerie Henderson, a spokeswoman for DoD, said: "This particular project was focused on identifying vulnerabilities in Tor, not to collect data that would reveal personal identities of users."

She added that the National Security Agency (NSA) had not received data about Tor users, but did not rule out such activity on the part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Researchers from the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University behind the project were scheduled to give a talk at the Black Hat security conference earlier this month about their work, but it was cancelled at short notice.

Tor is itself funded in part by the US government, but has been used by criminals, journalists and political campaigners to avoid spooks and police.

A report by Wired this week alleged that the FBI has been unmasking Tor users through malware embedded in websites and unknowingly downloaded to peoples’ computers.

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