TOR Project Head Alleges FBI Paid Carnegie Mellon for Hack in Connection with Silk Road 2.0 Investigation
Roger Dingledine, director of the TOR Project, a free online software that protects the anonymity of its users online, claims that the FBI paid Carnegie Mellon University $1 million to reveal the identities of its users as part of the FBI’s Silk Road 2.0 investigation. Silk Road 2.0 was formed as the successor to Silk Road, described by the FBI as a website “designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement.” Last year, Carnegie Mellon was scheduled to host a speech on how to break the TOR Project’s software at the Black Hat hacker conference; however, the talk was cancelled. Subsequently, an anonymous source provided federal investigators with the IP addresses of online users tied to Silk Road 2.0 raising suspicions that Carnegie Mellon acted as the anonymous source. Dingledine’s accusation further alleges that the hack by Carnegie Mellon was part of a much broader breach made in cooperation with law enforcement in which the institute hacked a large number of TOR Project users, then sifted through their profiles in order to determine which had committed crimes. This allegation, if true, may implicate legal issues regarding online privacy rights.
DOJ Decides Not to Support FCC in Efforts to Preempt States Laws Limiting Municipal Broadband Projects
On Monday, November 9, the Department of Justice announced that it will not support the Federal Communications Commission in its legal efforts to combat state laws that restrict community-based broadband projects. Community broadband projects allow municipalities to establish their own broadband services outside of the private market to ensure access to fast, affordable Internet service. The current legal battle centers on a February vote by the FCC to “preempt state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories.” The FCC derived its authority for this action from Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which empowers the agency to utilize “measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment” in order to “encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans.” However, such authority is limited by considerations including public policy and necessity.
If upheld, the FCC’s decision could be expanded to apply to 17 other states where similar restrictions on local broadband projects exist. The FCC’s legal brief can be read here. Ars Technica provides further commentary.
D.C. Court of Appeals Permits Continuation of Bulk Domestic Phone Data Collection
Following a ruling Monday, November 10, by Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that blocked the bulk collection of domestic phone data by the NSA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed the order on Tuesday. The decision was issued in response to an emergency motion to stay by the government, which cited national security concerns if the program were disrupted. The NSA is currently in the process of transitioning to an alternative method of phone data collection that relies on a 4th Amendment probable cause standard. The current surveillance program is set to expire on November 29.