The Last Chance for Internet Privacy
Edward Snowden shattered the entire world’s belief in privacy online in May 2013 when he released thousands classified documents from the U.S. National Security Agency. The documents detailed American and British spying techniques, as well as described the lengths to which either nation was willing to go in order to obtain more and more information. The resulting fallout threatened U.S. foreign relations with normally close allies such as France, Germany, and Brazil, as well as endangered President Obama’s promise of a transparent administration.
Since then, the debate over privacy on the Internet has only intensified. Out of this debate has come an increased public interest in the software known as Tor. Initially developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2002, Tor is now run by the independent Tor Project as a free, downloadable Internet browser that ensures almost complete privacy on the web. With the software, users’ Internet traffic is directed to the Tor network where it is run through a series of relays before being spat back out. These relays encrypt all information that passes through, and change any attached IP addresses. An IP address is like a computer’s street address. Armed with such a thing, NSA agents could trace Internet traffic back to the original source, back to the original computer. Tor works to prevent traceability by changing the IP address and encrypting its users’ traffic information.
With the release of Snowden’s secret NSA documents came the revelation that the spy agency has attempted to crack Tor before. Fortunately for those wishing to protect their identities online, the agency did not manage to fully infiltrate the network. For now Tor remains safe, but industry experts worry the network’s days might be numbered.