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The Hunt For the Wikileaks Whistle-Blower


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Attorney General Eric Holder's new probe into Wikileaks's posting of 91,000 war documents will likely find that tracing the path of the documents back through the Internet is next to impossible. But watermarks—if they were embedded in the files—could reveal the whistle-blower.

Wikileaks relies on a networking technology called Tor, which obscures the source of uploaded data. While Tor doesn't encrypt the underlying data—that's up to the user—it does bounce the data through multiple nodes. At each step, it encrypts the network address. The source of data can be traced to the last node (the so-called "exit node"), but that node won't bear any relationship to the original sender.

Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder of the blogging advocacy organization Global Voices, says he doubts investigators can crack Tor to find the computer from which the documents were originally sent. "There's been an enormous amount of research done on the security of the Tor network and on the basic security of encryption protocols," he says. "There are theoretical attacks on Tor that have been demonstrated to work in the lab, but no credible field reports of Tor being broken."

From Technology Review
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