Widely speculated, but finally confirmed by a federal judge that the Federal Government did indeed hire Carnegie Mellon University to crack the hard encrypted Tor Network, also known as the Darknet to track users IP Addresses in 2014.
The Onion Router, also known as Tor, is an internet browser capable of offering a layer of anonymity to it’s traffic through strong encryption and connecting through several proxy servers across the globe. This allows makes it extremely difficult, once thought impossible, to track users activity. For years Tor has been the go to browser for internet surfers who value their privacy though has grown into a web based platform for what many would consider nefarious activity. Some of this activity is purchasing and selling of illegal goods on darknet markets, including guns, drugs, stolen identification and hacker related services.
Outside of the confirmation from the federal judge, the exact details are shrouded in mystery. Its very likely that the CMU is under a federal subpoena which would explain why nobody is willing to shed any light on what did actually transpire during this shady operation between them and the federal government. What we do know is the partnership with the college was commissioned by the Federal Government, meaning it most likely involves the NSA and DOD rather than the FBI. The DOD involvement has already been confirmed in an article by Motherboard. We also know that the government arranged attack on Tor by CMU did lead to the take down of Silk Road 2.0, along with the arrest of administrator Brian Farrel whos IP address was traced while he used the Tor Browser. Though some speculate Farrel’s arrest could have been contributed to his somewhat sloppy activities while in control of the Darknet Market. It is known that Farrel openly boasted about his involvement both online and in his real life outside of the internet. This alone may have resulted directly to his arrest rather than the CMU workers successfully uncovering his IP address and location by hacking the Tor Browser.
Beyond the little information that has been confirmed there is no further trail of information on what other activities have happened between the Government and their arrangement with CMU in regards to the darknet and Tor browser. There is also no information if the arrangement is currently ongoing. But lets take some important facts into consideration. For one the largest darknet black marketplace, AlphaBay Market, is still up and running. Second is the arrest of Silk Road 2.0’s admin which was not a surprise as he was notorious for being incredibly sloppy, between openly bragging and doing an atrocious job of cleaning his online footprints. However the operation was able to successfully take down several large scale darknet sites targeted towards child pornography which ultimately led to the arrest of some of the degenerates involved with those websites including two men in New York.