Cops call for Tor to be switched off

Japanese authorities are approaching ISPs in a bid to get them to switch off the Tor network.

According to the local press, the National Police Agency (NPA) have been saying that Tor stops them identifying cyber criminals.

Hackers are making Japanese coppers a laughing stock. Just last year a hacker, going by the name Demon Killer, took remote control of systems across the country and posted death threats on public message boards. The police thought that it would be easy to arrest people based on the IP addresses from which the messages were posted. One of the people arrested even confessed. However, after the arrests the death threats continued – and police had to apologise to the people they arrested.

Eventually they did catch Yusuke Katayama but when his PCs were investigated they found he used Tor to anonymise his online activities. A panel formed by NPA has compiled a special report which claimed that Tor is being used by people for financial fraud, leaks of confidential police information and child abusers.

It appears that the police have not quite worked out what to do about Tor. They don’t seem to have a problem with the service, which can be used by those living in oppressive regimes to carry out activism online.

The special panel’s report notes “abuse” of Tor has to be blocked, but the meaning of ‘abuse’ is not clear. Parity News thinks that the only way for the police to stop abuse of the Tor network is to shut it down completely. However we would have thought that if it was that easy, some regimes would have done so a long time ago.

Tor directs internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers to conceal a user’s location. This makes it a nightmare to trace and we are not sure how getting an ISP to block it is possible.

It could be that the naivety of the Japanese police regarding what they can do to tackle cyber crime has struck again.