Feds suspected of blindly invading the privacy of Internet users

Ariel Cohen Contributor
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The FBI may be blindly invading the personal Internet browsers of people who wish to remain anonymous.

On Sunday, a pernicious malware appeared on multiple websites, hosted by the anonymous hosting company, Freedom Housing. The malware takes advantage of Internet browsing security on Firefox to identify Internet users who had wished to remain anonymous, and used the Tor Anonymity Network to do so.

This would normally be considered a criminal “drive-by” hacking, and would be solved by police involvement. But this time, the FBI may be the culprit.

Some computer scientists believe that these hackings are a result of the federal law enforcement spyware program known as CIPAV, or the Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier. According to information obtained via documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, CIPAV allows the FBI to gather information by exploiting the browser of a target’s computer, and then send that information to a FBI server in Virginia.

The FBI has been utilizing CIPAV since 2002 to hunt down hackers, Internet sexual predators, extortionists and other such criminals who disguise their location using proxy services and anonymity services, such as Tor.

The hosting company, Freedom Hosting, has been known for allowing child pornography on it servers. In 2011, Freedom Hosting was singled-out for denial of service attacks after being accused of hosting 95 percent of child pornography on hidden services within the Tor network.

Tor networks were created for websites aiming to evade surveillance to protect users’ privacy, such as humans rights groups and journalists. But, the networks’ superior privacy settings have also appealed to criminals.

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