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Encryption Open Source The Almighty Buck

Tor Project Aims To Eclipse US Government Funding 53

An anonymous reader writes Developed by the U.S. Navy and the recipient of millions of dollars of government grants, the Tor Project is now aiming to ween itself off dependence of U.S. government funds "including setting a goal of 50 percent non-U.S. government funding by 2016." The initiative comes after months of discussion over what some vocal critics deemed a contradiction in funding and purpose.
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Tor Project Aims To Eclipse US Government Funding

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2015 @01:40PM (#49210307)

    An outmoded privacy technique hosted on US servers, developed by the US military, and mapped by US intelligence agencies shouldn't get so much money from the US government? I'm all for reduced government spending but as an issue of principle it seems like bailing water out of a sinking canoe with a thimble.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @02:31PM (#49210551) Journal

      An outmoded privacy technique hosted on US servers, developed by the US military, and mapped by US intelligence agencies shouldn't get so much money from the US government? I'm all for reduced government spending but as an issue of principle it seems like bailing water out of a sinking canoe with a thimble.

      I'd make a slightly more specific distinction: As best we can tell, architectural development of TOR went fairly well as a fed project. It hasn't been wholly without issues; but it has a track record that many projects would envy, and it appears to vex the NSA.

      Operations, though, is a dangerous sore point(even if there were no visible fed money at all): It isn't news that TOR becomes markedly more vulnerable if the adversary has control of a sufficiently high percentage of nodes, nor is it clear that such a flaw can be corrected even in principle. It also isn't news that the TOR network is not terribly large by the standards of somebody with actual money to spend on hosting. The fed money I'd be deeply worried about isn't the Office of Naval Research, or whoever was funding it as a way for diplomats and CIA agents to access the net less obviously, paying a few programmers, it's the potential for a relatively modest amount of spending on boring commercial VPS instances through an array of suitable shell companies bringing the whole place down by brute force.

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @04:23PM (#49211043) Homepage

      You're just engaging in low-information thinking.

      Tor wasn't created for "privacy," it was created to help political dissidents in authoritarian regimes to communicate with each other and the outside world without their government being able to identify and punish them. Which I guess is a type of privacy. But politics was the goal, not privacy; specifically, encouraging representative government in places where it is banned and discussion of it stifled.

      I'm for privacy, but looking for it in the wrong places is your own fault. Just like, if you have contraband in your pocket that you want to keep private, and you accidentally drop it in front of a cop: that is your own fault, your privacy wasn't violated, you simply didn't defend it rigorously.

      • Also, while I'm not inclined to be a grammar Nazi, the word in OP should be "wean". Ween is something altogether different.
  • Conspiracies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @01:48PM (#49210341) Homepage

    ...what some vocal critics deemed a contradiction in funding and purpose.

    The project is funded by these guys, to protect those other guys, who are separated by a large number of bureaucratic layers from those different guys, who want to undermine the project so they can snoop on yet-another group of guys.

    Am I the only one who thinks "the government" is actually made up of lots of independent minds, each with their own idealism and morality? A functional conspiracy to secretly undermine a project like Tor would need to involve a significant portion of the American population. Heck, Slashdot's hivemind isn't even that consistent.

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      ...what some vocal critics deemed a contradiction in funding and purpose.

      The project is funded by these guys, to protect those other guys, who are separated by a large number of bureaucratic layers from those different guys, who want to undermine the project so they can snoop on yet-another group of guys.

      Am I the only one who thinks "the government" is actually made up of lots of independent minds, each with their own idealism and morality? A functional conspiracy to secretly undermine a project like Tor would need to involve a significant portion of the American population. Heck, Slashdot's hivemind isn't even that consistent.

      If I never see the word hivemind again, it will be too soon. Grow up.

      It doesn't matter how the government is structured. You will never find one agency working at cross purposes with another for very long. Not if someone can play the security theater card.

      Why did NIST use lame random number generators? They aren't even vaguely related to any three letter spy agency! Where was your government fire walls then?

      Those who will not learn from history are bound to repeat it.

      • If I never see the word hivemind again, it will be too soon. Grow up.

        The Green Brain by Frank Herbert is one of the great works of modern fiction. When you're old enough, you should read it. I'll warn you though, there is a hive mind involved.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        It doesn't matter how the government is structured. You will never find one agency working at cross purposes with another for very long.

        Ah, if only Government was half as organized as you think it is....

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      A functional conspiracy to secretly undermine a project like Tor would need to involve a significant portion of the American population.

      Or one government department spending a whole lot of taxpayer money on a project intended to negate the success of another department who spent a whole lot of taxpayer money on the project targetted for negation. It wouldn't be the first time.

      They don't need to conspire against ToR... they just need to find as many flaws in the software as possible, keep them secret,

      • They don't even need flaws, since it wasn't designed to offer the privacy people are wishing it provided. They simply need access to enough of the network, and they can see who is doing what.

        The purpose is to facilitate political dissidents under repressive regimes, the design is based on the idea that the repressive regimes are somewhat isolated, and they'd never have the global access in order to figure out who is doing what. Cheap cameras and hard drives probably have tipped that balance, though, since a

    • "Am I the only one who thinks "the government" is actually made up of lots of independent minds, each with their own idealism and morality?"

      That is the exact argument always levied against government conspiracies. It has been debunked thanks to the work of wikileaks, Mr. Snowden, and CIA revelation dumps. Anyone who didn't buy that argument, worked from the assumption you could trust those individuals to behave like any random stranger from the private sector showing up at your door at night, was sane, and
    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      Am I the only one who thinks "the government" is actually made up of lots of independent minds, each with their own idealism and morality? A functional conspiracy to secretly undermine a project like Tor would need to involve a significant portion of the American population.

      Your description applies to any organization of any size. The organization that you work for may have taken actions that you don't agree with, despite you possessing your own idealism and morality. You may have even actively participated in these activities, knowingly or not. In many (most?) large organizations, a few people make the big decisions and the ranks below them make those happen.

      It's almost as if the idealism and morality of any organization is largely irrelevant to the actual actions of that org

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      And being the devil advocate here. What if tor was created and they pretend to not see a lot of stuff only to...wait, maintain some level of control of what is done and more importantly, prevent something more evil, or more efficient, and more importantly out of their control comes up?
  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @01:49PM (#49210345) Homepage

    Tor Project Aims To Eclipse US Government Funding

    That's quite an aim, considering how much funding the US Government gets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davester666 ( 731373 )

      Not really. The gov't doesn't actually "get" that much money. It prints new money for most of what it spends.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Aighearach ( 97333 )

        That's pretty derpy. The government prints the bills, but they don't "print money" except in places like Zimbabwe. I'll admit it is a popular theme in right-wing media, though. So perhaps you've just been overly propagandized.

        It is the banks that "print money" in the sense you meant it, not the government.

        http://www.bankofengland.co.uk... [bankofengland.co.uk] is the document that most of us read last year. It was a bit of a bombshell, mostly because it admits things already known but in the past officially denied. But the old p

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        It prints new money for most of what it spends.

        The actual federal budget revenue for 2014 was $3.02t, expenditures $3.5t, and a deficit of $483b. Under which accounting system is $483b "most" of $3.5t?

    • They don't have to overtake the US government's entire budget, just the amount they're willing to spend on Tor.
  • I would like to know what the US Gov's real objectives are in funding Tor in the first place. Call me cynical but I have a hard time believing its truly altruistic.

    Its already known that the NSA and GCHQ already have found at least partially successful ways to identify Tor users
    http://www.theguardian.com/wor... [theguardian.com]
    That leak is old, so you can bet they've made progress since then.
    Tor is probably still better than nothing but not much. Or is it? maybe just by using Tor at all you are making yourself more likely

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @04:52PM (#49211141) Homepage

      The purpose isn't secret and never was. The objective is to allow political dissidents under repressive regimes a method of communicating politically online without getting in trouble by their governments. Hopefully this would lead to grass-roots "regime change" around the world.

      That is called "politics," and altruism isn't the purpose, or the claimed purpose. The claimed purpose is that it is in the national interest of the United States for other countries to adopt similar concepts of democracy and free expression. That it is also believed to be good for the locals is nice, but not the objective.

      Why did some people ever think it was about anything else? I'll bet the slashdot articles about Tor during the time period you signed up explained it just the same way I did; as a thing to enable political speech and encourage Democracy.

      People are sure soft in the head to have just somehow decided it was for some other purpose, with no source document saying it was that other thing. Some guy on the internet says, "it is for privacy, you know, so you can hide from the gubermint." Vaguely true, yes, but not generally true. Which government, and for what purpose? That is the critical part. People who want to avoid the US government should probably avoid projects sponsored BY the US Government for the purpose of spreading American values. ;)

      • The objective is to allow political dissidents under repressive regimes a method of communicating politically online without getting in trouble by their governments.

        you mean regimes unfriendly to the US

        Hopefully this would lead to grass-roots "regime change" around the world.

        you mean overthrow of regimes unfriendly to US foreign intrests, and nothing else. Why don't you just come out and say "TOR was designed by US intellegence for the sake of helping spies communicate, the the grand goal of trying to overthrow unfriendly governments".

        The US track record on this shows that populist intrest is rarely a motive behind involvement or regime change. Generaly either self-intrest, or intrest of corporate patrons.

        People who want to avoid the US government should probably avoid projects sponsored BY the US Government for the purpose of spreading American values

        At the same token its a Free Softwar

        • The objective is to allow political dissidents under repressive regimes a method of communicating politically online without getting in trouble by their governments.

          you mean regimes unfriendly to the US

          Don't be silly. If a regime is unfriendly to the US, but allows freedom of expression to their people, then Tor in no way works against them. So no, they would not be the target. Also, if a regime is repressive, but friendly to the US, it would still work against them because the US can't put the cat back in the bag after releasing it.

          I'll stick with, I meant what I said and I said what I meant. It is meant to disadvantage governments that discourage free expression; regardless of their allegiances.

          You're t

          • I'll stick with, I meant what I said and I said what I meant. It is meant to disadvantage governments that discourage free expression; regardless of their allegiances.

            Except its made by the government in charge of the world's largest prison system, and by far the largest per-capita incarceration rate. Irony being duly noted. Despite what you think, the US Government does not tollerate dissent.

            Nor is the US Government populist, and rarely do they sponser populist regimes overseas unless they are wealthy enough to buy senators. They are notorious for astro-turfing revolutions for gain though.

            I do agree, there are many benefits to TOR. However much of the code should be

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would like to know what the US Gov's real objectives are in funding Tor in the first place.
      Call me cynical but I have a hard time believing its truly altruistic.

      Its not altrustic. Tor was created to provide cover for spies. [networkworld.com] The fact that other people can get benefit out of it is actually good for the spies, if only spies used Tor they would stick out like a sore thumb. The more 'normal' traffic, the easier it is for them to blend in.

  • Ween? (Score:5, Informative)

    by scottme ( 584888 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @03:19PM (#49210733)

    the Tor Project is now aiming to ween itself off dependence of U.S. government funds

    I think you mean wean [reference.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The U.S. government is not happy with how TOR is being used, so the TOR project is seeking alternate funding for a project the U.S. government wanted, funded but didn't quite think about all the probable use cases, correct? Ok, great! Makes perfect sense for a U.S. government funded software project.

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