Raided for hosting a Tor node? New precedent set

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Over the last 48 hours the alleged owner of Silk Road 2.0 has been arrested in San Francisco and named as Blake Benthall, a former SpaceX employee who left the firm in February. I got alerted to this event via the Tor subreddit where an eastern European (he didn’t disclose what country) said his house had been raided, two computers seized and told he is an ‘international suspect of fraud and money laundering’ and could face a maximum sentence of fourteen years in prison although no charges have been pressed at this point.

It’s unclear whether he was running and exit relay or not and said he followed a tutorial to get things setup so it’s normal to think he was unsure of the fine details. However this incident seems to have set a dangerous precedent: running a Tor node can potentially land you in hot water with law enforcement.

There are various Tor nodes a person can run, these include exit and non-exit nodes. The Tor legal FAQ is quite insistent that if you host a non-exit relay you are safe from law enforcement however you should be ready to get legal help if you run an exit node because that is the node the server will see the IP address of.

The details of the raid are quite sparse and it’s not known if the raid was directly connected to the arrests regarding the Silk Road founder. The person in question said that the country they reside have ‘anti-gay’ laws, of course Russia pops to mind but other countries in the region have similar discriminatory laws or have thought about implementing them. On the take down page of Silk Road are flags of the countries involved, the Lithuanian and Bulgarian flags are included amongst them.

Rexirtnium, the user in question says he’s ‘broke’ and therefore may be unable to get adequate legal support, he petitioned users on the subreddit asking what to do and if he should get try and get press attention. Hopefully he gets the help he needs and feel free to contact him if you can help, providing they keep logged into the account, it seems to have been setup for that particular post.

This turn of events is a wake up call to people running exit nodes. Make sure that you have the EFF or other similar groups and a lawyer on speed dial just in case you wind up in the same situation.

Free and Open Source software advocate. I’ve been enthusiastic about new technology for over half a decade and now I’m just waiting for the technological singularity. Post-Snowden, I’ve developed a dislike for surveillance meaning I use FLOSS religiously over proprietary alternatives. Amateur Astronomy is also a hobby of mine!

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