Saturday, July 5, 2014

German IT specialist who ran a server that hid people's IP addresses -- spied on by NSA

A German student who ran a server that hid people's IP addresses to help them stay anonymous was targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). What are Germany's means for holding the NSA accountable?
German student Sebastian Hahn helped run a server in Germany's southern city of Nuremberg which was used for the global Internet portal Tor. By routing search requests or e-mails via multiple encrypted servers, Tor allows users to stay anonymous, and hides their true whereabouts. Hahn's server was exceptional in that it helped administer thousands of other Tor servers.

Many people who want to protect their privacy online make use of Tor. For those living under a dictatorship or otherwise oppressive government, tools like Tor are crucial - as it's forbidden to even Google terms like democracy or press freedom.

According to research by two German public broadcasters, WDR and NDR, the NSA observed Hahn's server to the extent that everyone who used the server automatically landed on the surveillance agency's spy list. As a result, anyone intending to hide their tracks - or even test the Tor service - would be caught in the NSA's surveillance net.

Needless to say, the revelation has caused outrage among Germans, who due to their history including the Stasi and Gestapo are particularly sensitive to such topics.
NSA operation hardly a surprise

However, Helmut Aust - an expert in international law teaching at Humboldt University in Berlin - said the revelation hardly came as a surprise. It's exactly "the logic of intelligence operations to take a closer look where messages or content is encrypted," he said.
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