An Austrian operator of Tor servers has been charged with distributing child pornography after police found that one of his Tor Project exit nodes transported illegal images

Tor Operator Faces Child Porn Charges After Illegal Images on Exit Node Found

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A 20-year-old Austrian operator of Tor servers has been charged with distributing child pornography after police found that one of his Tor Project exit nodes transported illegal images, according to several reports on Wednesday.

Police from the Styrian Landeskriminalamt confiscated around 20 computers, including HP Storage MicroServers and thin clients, external hard drives, USB sticks, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones in a Wednesday morning raid.

William Weber could face up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

Designed by the US Naval Research Labratory, the Tor network allows users to remain anonymous on the Internet  by encrypting a user’s Internet traffic multiple times and funneling it through a dedicated server with its own IP address, according to Ars Technica. Tor networks are used by journalists, governments, and criminals alike.

“The data is then passed to a second server, which decrypts one layer of the encryption before passing it to a third server. At that point the data is converted to its original form and sent to its final destination. Tor’s onion-like architecture makes it infeasible for the contents to be intercepted by third parties, except by those monitoring an exit node. Even then, it’s hard to know where the traffic originated,” Ars writes.

Weber worries that his arrest could set a precedent that Tor operators be held liable for content that is transmitted through their Tor networks. Like web hosting providers, Tor operators process huge amounts of data and are not necessarily aware of what kind of data their users are transmitting.

Weber told Ars that he ran about five to 10 nodes, from locations in the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Austria, and Hong Kong. He estimated that in all they carried about 30 terabytes of data each day.

Weber is currently accepting donations to finance his legal expenses, including bitcoins. Recently, WordPress began accepting bitcoin payments.

“Sadly we have nothing like the EFF here that could help me in this case by legal assistance, so I’m on my own and require a good lawyer,” he says in a blog post.

Recently, Russia passed a law to protect children from  violent content, suicide, drugs and propaganda, and would require web hosts and ISPs to limit or restrict access to illegal websites.

Talk back: Do you think Tor operators should be penalized for the data that is transmitted through their network? Let us know in a comment.

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About the Author

Nicole Henderson is the Editor in Chief of the WHIR, where she covers daily news and features online. She has a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @NicoleHenderson.

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2 Comments

  1. Maybe Austrian police should also issue an arrest warrant against Barak Obama since it is the US government who invented the tor network and they are partly funding it through grants. What Austrian police has done is no different from going after an ISP because someone used the Internet service they provide to do something illegal with it. It doesn't seem right.

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