A research team at MIT have discovered a way to bypass encryption service Tor’s security. The team discovered a vulnerability that allowed them to identify a hidden server or data source with 88% accuracy. The attack is called “traffic fingerprinting”. Even Tor developer David Goulet admitted that they’ve known that fingerprinting is “a big issue for hidden servers”. The attack works by collecting and tagging traffic patterns, which are then analyzed to find a target server by circumventing Tor’s inbound and outbound data encryption entirely.

Tor (short for “The Onion Router”) is a service that anonymizes it users so IP addresses cannot be tracked. It is used by everyone from criminal enterprises looking to evade law enforcement to journalists hoping to keep a source secret. But Tor’s biggest contribution to the free exchange of information has been for users in countries with state-run media firewalls, who may potentially face persecution from their web browsing habits. There are an estimated 2 million Tor users worldwide.

MIT's research team also offered workarounds to address the flaw and has said they're working with Tor’s security team to ensure an improved defense.

Cover: Brian Clifton Studio