DOJ defies court order to turn over spyware code used against Tor

The DOJ filed a sealed motion requesting a federal judge reconsider an opinion that the FBI must reveal code used to subvert the Tor network’s anonymity protections.
The DOJ filed a sealed motion requesting a federal judge reconsider an opinion that the FBI must reveal code used to subvert the Tor network’s anonymity protections.

Fresh on the heels of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) decision to withdraw from a losing legal battle against Apple over unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, the law enforcement agency is locked in a showdown against the Tor network in which the FBI faces a role reversal.

In February, a federal judge issued a court order compelling the FBI to reveal code used to subvert the Tor network's anonymity protections. The judge behind that decision, Robert J. Bryan, sided with the defense's request to review the FBI-issued spyware to assess whether the Network Investigative Techniques (NIT) conducted any attacks beyond those that the warrant authorized. According to a Motherboard report, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a sealed motion on Monday requesting that the judge reconsider his opinion.

During the government's temporarily paused battle with Apple, the Justice Department initially sought to turn public opinion against Apple by arguing that the tech company's motivation in defying a court order is based on “concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy”.

In an odd reversal the Justice Department has become more comfortable with the idea of defying court orders.

In previous child pornography investigations, the FBI has used vulnerabilities to seize control of Tor servers and used spyware to hack TorMail accounts.

A recent report on the dark web found that out of 2,723 active sites of the dark web, 1,547 sites were used for illicit services, including pornography involving violence against children and animals.

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