Talking Tor and related matters on ABC The World Today

ABC logoMid-morning today I received a phone call from ABC journalist David Mark, who was after a backgrounder on the Tor network the lunchtime current affairs program The World Today. His call brought me the news of what appears to be a significant win in the battle against online child exploitation.

Fourteen arrests were made as part of Operation Round Table, which according to the (American) ABC, was an investigation led by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Postal Inspection Service and federal authorities in Louisiana.

The roughly 250 victims were spread across 39 states and five other countries — Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Most were boys between 13 and 15. Two victims were 3 or younger, authorities said.

The pornographic images were shared on an underground website on the Tor network, an online anonymity network that masks the location of servers and conceals an Internet user’s location. The subscription-based website operated from about June 2012 until June 2013, had more than 27,000 members and shared more than 2,000 webcam-captured videos, mostly of young boys, authorities said.

There’s further material in the (Australian) ABC story, Australian victims among 251 identified in ‘members only’ child porn website.

The World Today ran Mark’s four-minute story, including comments from US secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson, and federal attorney-general for Louisiana Kenneth Polite, as well as my own small contribution.

Play

The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, served here directly from their website —– where you can also read a full transcript.

If you’d like some more information on how Tor works, and how users’ mistakes can lead to their anonymity being rather less effective than they’d hoped, my Crikey Clarifier: how the FBI hacked users of Tor, the ‘secret internet’ from August 2013 could be a useful starting-point.

CSO: Voluntary filtering removes the controversy

My first op-ed for CSO, “The Resource for Data Security Executives”, has just been posted. It’s voluntary ISP-level internet filtering, but a different angle from my Crikey piece earlier today.

After nearly four chaotic years, Australia’s internet filtering scheme is finally coming together in a way that makes sense technically and politically, if not necessarily for effective child protection.

The chaos wasn’t all communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s fault. The “clean feed” was announced as Labor policy back in March 2006 by then-leader Kim Beazley. ISPs would filter out the nasties hosted overseas, where they couldn’t be hit with a takedown notice from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

But Conroy’s name was on Labor’s Plan for Cyber-safety published just five days out from the federal election in late 2007, and once in government it was Conroy’s job to explain that plan and sell it to voters. Everyone presumably imagined it’d be a protect-the-kiddies no-brainer.

Problem was, neither the plan not Conroy’s explanations were clear…

As I say, it’s my first outing for CSO, but if all goes according to plan there’ll be more. And in case you’re wondering, CSO is a job title. Chief Security Officer.

Crikey: Internet filtering isnt compulsory, but…

Over at Crikey I’ve written a summary of what’s happening with Australia’s internet filter.

Australia’s mandatory internet filtering by internet service providers (ISPs) won’t happen for at least two years. But we’re getting filtering anyway. Voluntarily. By ISPs. Next month…

Telstra and Optus are expected to have their filters ready within weeks, although the situation with Primus is unclear…

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) is also about to release a voluntary industry code that would see an estimated 80% to 90% of Australian internet connections filtered by the Interpol blacklist over the next year. Attempts to access domains on the list would be redirected to an Interpol block page.

Overall, I reckon the process that’s now unfolding could well result in the gvernment’s planned mandatory ISP-level filtering disappearing off the table entirely.

As a bonus link, here’s Interpol’s explanation of their “worst-of” blacklist of child exploitation material.

Patch Monday: ISP filtering goes ‘voluntary’, plus updates

Australia’s mandatory internet filter is at least two years away, but Telstra and Optus are only weeks from implementing their “voluntary” equivalents. Where are we up to with this controversial issue?

That’s what I covered in yesterday’s Patch Monday podcast for ZDNet Australia. And as I explained on the weekend, I’m returning to my habit of doing a blog post here for each episode.

For this internet filtering update, I spoke with Peter Black, who teaches internet and media law at the Queensland University of Technology; network engineer Mark Newton; and Lyle Shelton, chief of staff for the Australian Christian Lobby.

You can listen below. But it’s probably better for my stats if you listen at ZDNet Australia or subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe in iTunes.

Since this podcast was recorded, we’ve discovered that Primus isn’t so sure about voluntary filtering any more. They were the third ISP to commit to the plan last year. However the Internet Industry Association (IIA) has said most Australian ISPs will filter via the Interpol list this year.

Previous podcast on this issue covered the meaning of the Refused Classification content category, Senator Conroy’s announcement of the strategy in July 2010, and the apparent fact that parents don’t act on their cybersafety fears.

Please let me know what you think. Comments below. We accept audio comments too. Either Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

What now for Senator Conroy and the Magic Filter?

Photograph of Senator Stephen Conroy

After Senator Stephen Conroy’s disastrous week last week — the ACMA blacklist of banned Internet content leaked and shown to be rubbish, the Classification Board’s website hacked and his damagingly poor performance on Q&A — what next? And what’s Conroy’s exit strategy?

Last month, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wondered how we can move beyond criticism of the highly-flawed Internet filtering plan:

We’re all in vociferous agreement about what won’t work. But what will? Can this enormously empowered campaign speak with one cogent voice about what we’re for?

How do we empower parents to make the best choices for their families, and law enforcement agencies to prosecute the creators and distributors of the worst material trafficked over the internet?

Is there a way to adequately prepare children to understand other threats such as cyber-bullying, without asphyxiating the greatest information sharing tool in history?

Can we directly challenge the epidemic of sexualised violence against women and children in this country and place the online tip of the iceberg into its proper context?

All very good questions. And as Warwick Rendell points out, this isn’t just an abstract debate.

Continue reading “What now for Senator Conroy and the Magic Filter?”

Crikey: ACMA’s blacklist just got read all over

Crikey logo

I’m in Crikey again today with an 800-word essay about the leaking of a secret Internet censorship blacklist — exactly what I’d predicted only on Wednesday.

The article is free to read, but here’s a flavour:

Dear Government, look, I hate to say we told you so, but… we told you so. On Wednesday. The more you try to hide your controversial Internet blacklist, the bigger you make it, the bigger the incentive for someone to leak it.

For money. For political advantage. For the sheer bloody fun of sticking it to The Man. And, yes, maybe someone might even leak it because they’re one of that tiny number of sick bastards who get off on child pornography…

American bank robber “Slick” Willie Sutton was (probably apocryphally) asked why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is.” ACMA compiles a virtual bank vault of nasty websites and hands the keys to the makers of filter software and from there, it’s planned, every ISP in Australia — including many low-margin businesses which, let’s face it, don’t have the security procedures of an ASIO or an MI5. As yesterday’s leak to whisteblower website Wikileaks proves.

I go on to analyse the leaked list — I judge it “a pretty shit piece of work” — and drop in a few thoughts from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. Enjoy.

I’ll post my 5-minute interview with Senator Ludlam tomorrow morning.