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[tor-talk] Tor exit node operator arrested in Russia - a solidarity Tor Relay Challenge launched

Tor exit node operator arrested in Russia - a solidarity Tor Relay
Challenge launched
Fr 14 April 2017 by xeniax, serrObengbi, 1up


Run a Tor relay or exit node in solidarity with Dmitry Bogatov!

On April 12, Russia celebrated Yuriy Gagarin’s first flight in space. In
the meanwhile, a young Russian scientist, mathematician and FOSS
activist Dmitry Bogatov spends the Space Day in detention center. His
involvement in decentralized web projects, his interest to privacy and
anonymity, his activities as an administrator of tor exit node have
brought him under suspicion of the FSB. Accused of “incitation to
terrorism” because of some messages posted from his IP address, he will
stay detained till June 8 at least, and risks up to 7 years in prison if
the Investigation committee ‘proves’ his guilt.

Though, the very nature of Bogatov case is a controversial one, as it
mixes technical and legal arguments, and makes necessary both strong
legal and technical expertise involved. Indeed, as a Tor exit node
operator, Dmitry does not have control and responsibility on the content
and traffic that passes through his node: it would be the same as
accusing someone who has a knife stolen from her house for the murder
committed with this knife by a stranger. In the past other exit node
operators in Russia had conversations with police. For example, Sergey
Matveev aka Stargrave been witnessing several times on the cases related
to the crimes commited under his IP adress (mostly, related to financial
fraud and hacking). Though, as Sergey states himself, he “has never been
accused, but was only a witness”, as his cases were not related to
“extremism” On 2016-02-02 his devices were seized for 2 weeks for
inspection but he has never been detained, after explaining to the
police how Tor actually works.

Russia counts 230.000 Tor users everyday and only 46 exit nodes. Tor is
extremely popular after a bunch of laws restricting usage of Internet
and enforcing the lawful interception procedures (obliging ISPs to store
all metadata for 3 years, and the traffic - even though encrypted - for
6 months). However, the Bogatov case has had an influence on the
perception of Tor by ‘end users’. We’ve observed several group chats on
Russian most popular IM app, telegram, dedicated to anti-Putin protests:
these chats gather from +500 to +1500 users, and a lot of them use
different privacy enhancing tools. The Bogatov case was discussed
widely. These discussions have shown that users do not fully understand
the difference between running a relay and an exit node, and also
between relay operators and tor browser users. They perceive Tor as
being vulnerable to deanonymization. Misunderstanding, lack of feedback
from Tor community or ‘expert’ users underrepresented in these chat
rooms leads the discussion to a very dangerous direction: “we do not
care about hiding things, because the police will anyway find everything
about us - even Tor is not secure”.

Tor activists have launched a flashmob - “Run a relay in solidarity with
Bogatov”. By April 13, in only 1 day, 18 new relays have been set up in
different countries, wearing names like freeBogatov and KActionLibre,
referring to Bogatov’s handle famous in FOSS and GnuPG forums. Bogatov’s
personal exit node that he had been running from his own house was also
wearing the ‘kaction’ name. It is the first flashmob that uses relays as
form of international solidarity and the nicknames of relays become a
means to transmit a message: Bogatov is part of the community, he is a
valuable, trusted person who has been contributing to various open
source projects and is recognized as a professional. Tor community also
works on technical proof/explanations to help users and Bogatov’s
lawyers to understand that, by the very architecture of Tor network,
Bogatov can not be responsible for the things he is accused of. He also
has alibi: he was absent when the messages were published, and video
recordings from surveillance cameras are in posession of Bogatov’s
lawyer. Another proof of Bogatov’s innocence is the fact that the user
continued posting incendiary messages after Bogatov has been arrested.
Also, the style of writing, the language, orthography do not correspond
to Bogatov’s style - this can be proven by psycholinguistic expertise.
However, FSB does not want to stop the process - they investigate the
version of “terrorism”, that would mean a very hard penalty for Dmitry,
and also does not correspond to technical, legal, psychological, social
situation. The judge also claimed to not trust Dmitry because of his
”high skills in new technologies” that may potentially help him “erase
traces of his crimes” - to prove this weird hypothesis, the
Investigation Committee has withdrawn all the technical equipment from
Dmitry’s apartment - from USB drives to laptops, smartphones and cameras…

If you can, run a relay or an exit node and give it a name that contains
Bogatov or KAction (Bogatov’s handle). By running more relays we
increase anonymity and also show solidarity and demonstrate the power of
shared responsibility.
Tor relays are publicly available for everyone to use

The IP addresses of the Tor relays (middle relays and exit nodes) are
publicly available and can be freely used by the tor users. The fact
that relays are a publicly available resource doesn’t minimize or
threatens the anonymity of a tor user in fact it can be used as a proof
that an IP address of a server was a Tor at a given time.

Currently running Tor relays are enumerated to Atlas, a web application
to learn about currently running Tor relays. In a similarly way the
ExoneraTor service maintains a database of IP addresses that have been
part of the Tor network. It answers the question whether there was a Tor
relay running on a given IP address on a given date. ExoneraTor may
store more than one IP address per relay if relays use a different IP
address for exiting to the Internet than for registering in the Tor
network, and it stores whether a relay permitted transit of Tor traffic
to the open Internet at that time. Exonerator is a web service that can
check if an IP address was a relay at a given time.

A different type of relays; bridges are Tor relays that aren’t listed in
the public Tor directory. That means that ISPs or governments trying to
block access to the Tor network can’t simply block all bridges. Bridges
are useful a) for Tor users in oppressive regimes, and b) for people who
want an extra layer of security because they’re worried somebody will
recognize that it’s a public Tor relay IP address they’re contacting.
Further reading

    What is a Tor relay
    The Legal FAQ for Tor Relay Operators
    How is Tor different from other proxies?
    What security protections does Tor provide?
    Interactive visualization that explains various Tor/non-Tor scenarios

Short version

Run a Tor relay or exit node in solidarity with Dmitry Bogatov!

Tor activists launch a call to run relays and exit nodes in solidarity
with Dmitry Bogatov, a FOSS contributor, GnuPG and privacy advocate and
math teacher arrested and detained in Russia. By now 26 relays have been
set up in different countries.

Bogatov will stay in detention till June 8 at least. He risks up to 7
years in prison as he is accused of having published messages with
incitations to terrorism. A user ‘Airat Bashirov’ was indeed posting a
number of messages inciting to organize mass rallies and protests, using
Bogatov’s home IP adress. However, as a Tor exit node operator, Bogatov
can not have access or be responsible for the content that passes by:
Tor’s technical architecture is in itself a proof of his innocence.

As an active FOSS contributor, he also has a support from the peer
community and has a strong alibi - he was in the sport center and then
in the supermarket at the moment when the messages were published.
Moreover, after Bogatov’s arrest the same user continued posting
incendiary messages.

If you can, run a tor relay or an exit node and give it a name that
contains Bogatov or KAction (Bogatov’s handle). By running more relays
we increase anonymity and also show solidarity and demonstrate the power
of shared responsibility.
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