CIA launches its own site on the dark web in hopes of receiving anonymous tips, weeks after making its Instagram debut
- The CIA will turn to the dark web to help glean anonymous tips and info
- It’s new site will run on the Tor network, known for its criminal activity
- Late last month, the CIA also started its first-ever Instagram page
- NSA whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, says the agency is looking for recruits
While most law enforcement agencies are focused on mitigating the impact of the dark web, the CIA will attempt to use the anonymous network in a novel attempt to solicit tips and information.
According to a press release, the CIA’s new site will exist on the Tor network — an open source software that helps anonymize users communications by relaying their information through thousands of relay points.
‘Our global mission demands that individuals can access us securely from anywhere. Creating an onion site is just one of many ways we’re going where people are,’ said Brittany Bramell, CIA’s Director of Public Affairs.
Tor has been noted for its security and has been used by government agencies looking to anonymize communications and data. File photo
The the Tor network — which stands for ‘the onion relay’ — makes an ideal vehicle for anonymous communications since the messages sent through the network make it extremely difficult to ascertain the start and the end point of information exchanged through the system.
In addition to tips, the CIA says it is also offering other options through its anonymous website that include ‘applying for a job’ and checking The World Factbook — an online encyclopedia of sorts that contains information on governments, economies and people around the world.
Tor may be more well-known for the illicit activities it has enabled through the dark web, but its application toward government intelligence and spying is equally as common.
As reported by PandoDaily, Tor’s creation was not only funded by the U.S. government and created by people who worked for, among other’s, the NSA, but has been used by be U.S. intelligence to mask their identities in the field.
As noted in the report, Tor was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind so that members could communicate privately.
Beyond anonymity of would-be information, usage of the dark web may also be part of a broader shift by the agency to make itself appealing to younger generations.
The onion network, or Tor, is one of the more popular pieces of software that allows users to surf the dark web. The CIA shared an image of an onion on its new Instagram page
The CIA’s announcement follows up a recent decision by America’s top spy agency to start up an Instagram account which posts artistic renderings made by agents in the CIA and staged pictures with puns like ‘I spy with my little eye…’
In a interview with NSA whistle-blower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden, a Motherboard report notes that using tools like social media and other forms of publicity may be an effort to reclaim the agency’s image.
‘They get Twitter accounts. Instagram accounts (with) puppies and everything like that, because they want to be friendly. They want to be on your side,’ said Snowden referencing his former employer.
WHAT IS THE ‘SPLINTERNET’?
Though the dream of the original internet pioneers was a completely open, non-hierarchical internet, over the years barriers have been springing up that restrict this freedom.
Bit by bit, the internet is becoming more cordoned off, experts have warned.
The idea of splitting up the internet into different, ‘balkanised’ or nationalised internets – with a completely separate infrastructure – is not new.
Like Brazil, the Germans took action after Snowden and started looking into the construction of an ‘Internetz’.
This would see the creation of a German-only network, with the possibility of expanding to the rest of the European Union. The current state of this project is unclear.
Another example is the Great Firewall of China.
Though China hasn’t built an entirely separate infrastructure, its internet looks entirely different from what we are used to.
Content is heavily censored and many platforms and websites completely banned.
Moscow has also reportedly been working with Beijing to implement something similar in Russia.
Last November, Russia also banned LinkedIn from operating in the country, because the social network did not adhere to a new law that mandated all data generated by Russian users should be stored within Russia itself.
The European Union has also been flexing its muscles when it comes to internet policy.
The EU is in the process of implementing some of the strictest data protection regulation in the world.
In this case the aim is not to curb citizens’ rights but instead to bolster them, as concerns grow about the immense power wielded by the handful of tech giants controlling our data.
The EU is also a strong proponent of the construction of decentralised internets through citizen initiatives.