Interesting and worrying news broke earlier today, as a statement was released saying the Tor network has been compromised by unknown assailants. The reason why this is both interesting and worrying for us, is because a ton of recently released cryptocurrencies rely on the Tor network to protect users’ privacy.
Even though there has always been vast opposition against using Tor for such purposes, it seems those concerns are proven valid. The biggest concern people have with Tor is the fact is is created and managed by people who allegedly have close ties with the NSA and other United States intelligence services. If this would be true, there is no such thing as user privacy.
However, let’s assume this is not totally true, and just focus on the news that was released earlier today. Even though the breach of the Tor network happened earlier this year, it is possible that only user information was gathered. Should this not be the case, there is a real possibility of the entire Tor network being compromised.
‘Anyone who used Tor between early February and July 4th of 2014 “should assume they were affected” by the attack, says the Tor team. But they don’t know what exactly that means. The attackers specifically looked for who was retrieving the public keys to hidden services, but they “likely were not able to see any application-level traffic (e.g. what pages were loaded or even whether users visited the hidden service they looked up),” says the blog post. “The attack probably also tried to learn who published hidden service descriptors, which would allow the attackers to learn the location of that hidden service.” It’s possible, but less likely, that they also attempted to identify users who were just browsing the ordinary web through Tor. ‘
As far as to who the assailants actually are, speculation is running wild at this point in time. I’m not going to point any fingers, as there is no point in speculating on who might have done it. The breach is the main concern, or it should be, for every Tor-integrated cryptocurrency user.
It will be interesting to see what cryptocurrency developers will try next in order to provide user privacy for their coin. Will they stick with Tor integration, or will alternatives be used? Or maybe this will for once and for all be the end of anonymity features for cryptocurrency, and efforts can finally be focused on features that actually matter again.
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