Talk on identifying users of internet privacy service Tor cancelled

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 11:45pm

A highly anticipated talk on how to identify users of the internet privacy service Tor was withdrawn from the upcoming Black Hat security conference, a spokeswoman for the event said.

The talk was cancelled at the request of attorneys for Carnegie Mellon University in the US city of Pittsburgh, where the speakers work as researchers, the spokeswoman, Meredith Corley, said.

Tor has given dissidents living under repressive regimes a way of communicating safely. But it also has enabled criminals to take advantage of its cloak of anonymity. The Black Hat conference, one of the longest-running and best-attended security trade shows in the world, is scheduled for Las Vegas on August 6-7.

Corley said a Carnegie Mellon lawyer informed Black Hat that one of the speakers could not give the Tor talk because the materials he would discuss had not been approved for public release by the university or the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).

It was unclear what aspects of the research had concerned the university. The institute, based at the university, is funded by the Defence Department. SEI also runs Cert, the Computer Emergency Response Team, which works with the US Department of Homeland Security on some major cybersecurity issues.

Spokesmen for Carnegie Mellon and the Defence Department did not comment on the cancellation. One official said DHS had played no role in pulling the talk.

Tor has frustrated the US National Security Agency for years, according to documents released by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. That revelation has helped increase adoption by those seeking privacy for political reasons, as well as criminals, researchers say.