Most Americans have blind faith in our government when it comes to Internet security. We even authorize the U.S. government to listen to our phone calls, read our emails, and dig through our text messages. But what does the FBI do when it encounters resistance? They build a virus.
Freedom Hosting – Anonymous Hosting Services
Freedom Hosting, founded and run by Eric Eoin Marques, is a web hosting service for websites that require large amounts of security to access. The hosting company allows access to its websites only through “Tor Networks”.
Tor networks and services are used by websites to avoid surveillance or safeguard an Internet users’ privacy to an extensive degree. More often than not, the intention is to protect a user with a legitimate and legal purpose. Some examples of these websites include Human rights activists, environmentalists, and even communication involving government whistleblowers.
Tor networks also provide services to circumvent restrictions company websites have on competitors. For example, if you work for an Internet technology company, your company website may divulge strategy information to most users. However, your company also cloaks this information when your website is viewed by a known competitor. Tor exists to get around these restrictions.
Secret and Unethical Use of Tor
Freedom Hosting was not being investigated for protecting legal practice of U.S. civil rights. The company was being closely watched by the FBI for child pornography allegations. Due to the access restrictions and security for the Tor networks, the FBI found it difficult to get the evidence and information it needed.
Mozilla Firefox Provides the Solution
Mozilla confirmed the code exploited a critical memory management vulnerability in Firefox that was publicly reported on June 25, and is fixed in the latest version of the browser. – Kevin Poulsen. Wired. September 2013.
The FBI, determined to see through to the demise of Freedom Hosting, created a malware program designed to exploit a Firefox vulnerability. The attack on Internet security by the FBI was apparently first noticed in August, when websites that were hosted by Freedom Hosting, including legitimate websites, began displaying a “Down for Maintenance” message.
Now, the operator of Freedom Hosting, Eric Eoin Marques, awaits extradition to the U.S as he sits in jail in Ireland. He is being charged with child-exploitation in Maryland.