Future of Tor- challanges, alternatives and predictions
May 9th, 2017
Since the WikiLeaks file dumps exposed commonly used CIA exploits, concerns have been mounting around government surveillance, begging the question of whether there should be any expectation of privacy in the digital world. For Tor and other software network servers, the ability to provide these anonymous networks in a secure way is increasingly more difficult, which begs the question, What is the future of Tor?
Any conversation about preventing government overreach or misuse of power also involves discussions around the strength of encryption and the increased volume of encrypted traffic, which protects privacy and offers stronger security for e-commerce.
In addition to encryption, having the ability to maintain anonymity in the free exchange of goods and ideas benefits everyone from casual web browsers to enterprises, military, media, and government agencies.
With the advent of new technologies that make it easier for governments, ISPs, and major conglomerates like Google and Facebook to collect and sell user information, more users are turning to the Darknet.
A haven for privacy advocates, the Darknet is also a place where, under the cloak of anonymity, disgruntled employees can sell corporate information, putting enterprise security at risk.
Downside of Tor
Even though Tor is the most common network today, it has it’s fair share of flaws and vulnerabilities, some of which carefully guarded by law-enforcement agencies.
The FBI recently dropped a case against a child porn website in order to avoid exposing a TOR vulnerability it is utilizing to spy on cybercriminals and terrorists.
But the FBI exploit is not the only case Tor Sites and users were exposed- Alex Mufett, A security researcher had reveled in a tweet on April 21st that through a simple search on shodan.io, an IP address search engine, can expose hundreds of unindexed Tor sites and their IP addresses.
Tor still reigns king
Still, Tor, the most popular browser by which users can access the Darknet, is host to millions of users who are not engaging in illicit exchange. Instead, they are safeguarding their intellectual property or exercising their right to engage in peer-to-peer file sharing in private.
In the Darknet, reputation is everything, and Tor’s reputation has it ranked as the leading gateway to the darknet, ahead of other technologies like I2P, FreeNet, and ZeroNet.
Renowned as a privacy network, Tor is not the first, nor will it be the last network used to anonymously conduct undercover law enforcement operations or security research. In safeguarding identities, users of all kinds are able to partake in the exchange of valuable information. The ability to create hidden services also provides a refuge for those living under strict government regimes.
The ability to freely exchange ideas and communicate in private in order to develop intellectual property is critical in today’s digital age, but it is possible that access to anonymous communication online is going to change.
Whether the use of Tor, or its replacement, increases or declines, capabilities available to users in the dark or open web will expand. As technology evolves and software advances, users should experience better search ability with different ways of protecting privacy.
In addition to the expansion of cryptocurrencies and marketplaces on the darknet, there will also be an increase in the the number of illicit users. Much of the criminal activity is now and will continue to take place on the open-web through social media or dodgy sites hosted in 3rd world countries. IntSights today collects and analyzes intelligence from all of these sources.
A change is coming, but we are ready
IntSights continues to keep a close eye on the development of Darknets like TOR, I2P, Telegram, and others, ensuring that they will be able to monitor and extract intelligence from them in the future.
IntSights predicts that the Darknet as we know it will not hold forever, but is prepared for the inevitable changes that will come in Tor, other Darknets, and in the open web. IntSights has built its platform and collection capabilities to be as flexible and future agnostic as possible, and has the proven ability to adjust to new platforms and overcome technical hurdle.
This post was written by Roei Amit, Cyber intelligence analyst at IntSights
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