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With 2.5 million daily users, the Tor network is the world’s most popular system for protecting Internet users’ anonymity. For more than a decade, people living under repressive regimes have used Tor to conceal their Web-browsing habits from electronic surveillance, and websites hosting content that’s been deemed subversive have used it to hide the locations of their servers.
Researchers at MIT and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) have now demonstrated a vulnerability in Tor’s design. At the Usenix Security Symposium this summer, they show that an adversary could infer a hidden server’s location, or the source of the information reaching a given Tor user, by analyzing the traffic patterns of encrypted data passing through a single computer in the all-volunteer Tor network.
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