The US foreign intelligence service Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is now also providing its own website via Tor’s anonymization network. The onion address allows Tor users to connect to this Onion service without either endpoint being able to determine the identity of the other – Onion’s services are still more widely known under their old name, Tor Hidden Service.
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The CIA claims to give people the opportunity to visit their website safely and anonymously. “We go where the people are,” said the agency’s PR chief, in a press release.
Anonymous applications and the World Factbook
The CIA website can be reached in the Tor network at the address
ciadotgov4sjwlzihbbgxnqg3xiyrg7so2r2o3lt5wz5ypk4sxyjstad.onion. This is evidently the same website that is also offered under cia.gov on the World Wide Web.
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This page contains general information about the secret service, the CIA World Factbook (a regularly updated public publication with statistical data on all countries in the world) and a wealth of previously classified documents from the Agency. However, you can also contact the CIA via the website – for example, because you want to apply for a job there or because you want to convey information to the secret service. The CIA spokeswoman stresses that this is now anonymously possible via the Tor network.
Tor and the US government
Visiting the CIA website should not be different from visiting another website in the Tor network if the Tor browser is used correctly. However, such a visit involves the same risks as visiting cia.gov – connecting your own browser and the underlying system to the servers of a foreign foreign intelligence service.
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An intelligence service whose mission is not just collecting and analyzing information about other states and their citizens. The CIA is also tasked with conducting covert operations in other states. Ever since Edward Snowden, we know that this (along with the sister service NSA) also involves spying on foreign computer systems.
Nevertheless, the official presence of the NSA in the Tor network is something of an accolade for the anonymization network. Although its developer, project manager Roger Dingledine, knows that the service is being used extensively by law enforcement and government organizations around the world, public endorsements are rare. Too heavy the public image of gun and drug-dealing criminals who in the “Darknet” – a term that Dingledine does not like, as he only this year again at the FOSDEM conference stressed – their mischief drifting.
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The development on the Tor project was mainly paid for by the US Navy and the US government organization DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). So, in the end, it’s only logical that US government organs use the technology their government has (albeit indirectly) brought to life.
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