France reportedly considers blocking Tor, public Wi-Fi in wake of Paris attacks

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France could ban free Wi-Fi networks and Tor in wake of Paris attacks.

OBAMA WANTS HELP FROM TECH: President Obama is urging Silicon Valley to help fight violent extremism by making it “harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.” The comment, made Sunday night in Obama’s oval office address, sets up “renewed debate over personal privacy online,” Reuters reports. “Obama used the address to try to reassure Americans nervous about possible future attacks after the shooting deaths of 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino, California, by a husband and wife with radical Islamist views.The proposals, which are part of an internal document seen by French national newspaper Le Monde, could be enacted in two proposed bills – one on the State of Emergency and the other on combating counter-terrorism in general.France wants to introduce security measures which could outlaw the use of encrypting software for anonymous connections and public Wi-Fi but critics say authorities are using the November 13 Paris attacks to clamp down on internet freedom. The shootings have reinvigorated a long-running debate about Washington’s digital surveillance effort to find and capture violent extremists, with at least one sign of Republican support in the House of Representatives for Obama’s agenda,” the wire service reports.

It would be one of a range of measures passed in response to last month’s terror attacks, and also a difficult-to-enforce attack on internet privacy. They are also proposing that anonymous networks like the Tor browser, used worldwide by human rights activists and criminals alike, be blocked, and encryption keys to communication services (WhatsApp and iMessage are encrypted for instance) be handed over to police by internet service providers – at any time. That software and network sends users’ traffic around the internet before it gets to its destination, hiding the IP address of the computer that originally made the request. According to Le Monde, the document notes that French Department of Civil Liberties and Legal Affairs has questioned whether banning services like Tor in peacetime might violate the French Constitution. To encrypt communications, Tor uses Onion Routing, a software system that allows users to browse the web anonymously by preventing website and network operators from knowing a person’s location and the websites the person has been viewing.

If the French government needs some help in getting their blockade set up, they could always talk to the only other country in the world known to successfully block Tor: China, with its Great Firewall.” ABOUT THOSE PHONE RECORDS: The Associated Press points out that the government’s ability to analyze five years of phone records for the suspects in the San Bernardino attack lapsed just four days earlier. “Under a court order, those historical calling records at the NSA are now off-limits to agents running the FBI terrorism investigation even with a warrant. The Paris attack has ignited debates among governments around the world on whether encryption needs a security backdoor, despite the fact that police have discovered that the perpetrators of November’s Paris attacks used unencrypted text messages to coordinate. It does this by passing the connection between thousands of relay points to make it impossible to pinpoint where it came from. “Encryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” a written report by David Kaye, a special rapporteur in the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in May. But it also allows journalists, whistleblowers and other groups who might want to hide their browsing to do so, and was originally developed in partnership with the US government.

TOR (the onion router) is a volunteer-run anonymising network, which bounces user’s data requests around the globe, making it very difficult (but not impossible!) to find out who’s behind the computer screen. Instead, under the new USA Freedom Act, authorities were able to obtain roughly two years’ worth of calling records directly from the phone companies of the married couple blamed in the attack,” the AP reports. “The period covered the entire time that the wife, Tashfeen Malik, lived in the United States, although her husband, Syed Farook, had been here much longer.

The British government is currently considering draft legislation known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, which proposes among other measures, a way for legal authorities to access encrypted data from tech companies and ISPs, to combat terrorism and crime. In China, connections to known parts of the network are banned — and the country’s “great firewall” also means that it can watch all connections and analyse the traffic for potential browsing.

It is likely that if France follows through on the plans that it would have to institute a similarly large-scale internet surveillance and control plan. In the wake of January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, parliament approved new snooping rules which would allow the government to spy on the emails and phone calls of anyone linked to terror suspects, without authorization from a judge. The measures are far from law yet: Le Monde says that they won’t be presented to parliament until next year, and even then, it will take time to vote and enact. However, the move led to protests, with hundreds rallying in Paris against the government’s plans, while the co-founder of an internet surveillance watchdog slammed the move. “It’s not just about terrorism; it allows the intelligence agencies to resort to surveillance for a broad range of motives: scientific, economic espionage or monitoring social movements,” said Felix Treguer, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net. “So it’s really not just about terrorism and some of the measures really come down to legalizing mass surveillance. Soon after that, the French parliament voted to extend it for three months — and reports have suggested that the country may look to extend it indefinitely.

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