FBI Targets An Austrian Remailer in Pitt Bomb Threat Case

FBI investigators have broadened their probe into emailed bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh to an anonymous remailer in Austria.

Earlier this week, at the request of U.S. authorities, police visited Christian Mock, an Austrian provider who offers anonymous remailing services. Authorities had a court order allowing them to “create a forensic disk image” of the remailer. “Therefore, I had to destroy any exisiting keys and create new keys,” he announced in the alt.privacy.anon-server Google Group.

FBI investigators have broadened their probe into emailed bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh to an anonymous remailer in Austria.

Earlier this week, at the request of U.S. authorities, police visited Christian Mock, an Austrian provider who offers anonymous remailing services. Authorities had a court order allowing them to “create a forensic disk image” of the remailer. “Therefore, I had to destroy any exisiting keys and create new keys,” he announced in the alt.privacy.anon-server Google Group.

Last week federal authorities seized a server from a New York co-location center shared by two technology companies, Riseup Networks and May First/People Link. The server reportedly belonged to ISP European Counter Network. None of the 300 email accounts on the seized server have been implicated in the bomb threats, Riseup Networks said in an earlier prepared statement.

“The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person,” said Riseup spokesman Devin Theriot-Orr. “This is particularly misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server regarding the source of the threatening emails.”

 

“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who  have had to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose  such threatening actions. However, taking this server won’t stop these  bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for thousands of unrelated people,” he added.

Riseup officials warned that recent actions could have a chilling effect on other providers of anonymous services.

One such provider appears to be Mock, who, like Riseup Networks, had a server acting as a node in the widely deployed Mixmaster remailer network to allow users to anonymously or pseudonymously send emails. Mixmaster is specifically designed to make emails untraceable.

On April 24, Mock announced the remailer’s private keys had been compromised during the police search and he’d destroyed all existing keys, which would cause messages in transit using those keys to be discarded.

“Depending on how paranoid you are, you may assume the machine is backdoored, since the authorities have had access,” he said. “I will re-install the machine from trustworthy media, but due to the logistics involved this will take a few weeks.”

Mock has represented Internet users on the Austrian Domain Name Council since its establishment in 2001.

 

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Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    I understand the need to protect our freedoms fought for and secured by the founding fathers of our great country and protected through sacrifice by countless service men and women in our armed forces.  But to protect or support those abusing those freedoms and using them to cause fear is wrong.  This is terrorism plain and simple.  I support the efforts of law enforcement to find the perpetrators of the PITT bomb threats and I hope to see them charged to the full extent of the law.  The FBI is only trying to protect the innocent victims of such calous and selfish behavior.  Victims who otherwise would not have a voice unlike those sending the bomb threats.  These innocent victims have been evacuated from classes they will be paying for through loans without any reimbursement, and for missing the benefits of getting the needed material that they will be expected to know for finals.  They have also been sent scared and confused in the middle of the night from their warm beds out into the cold to wait for hours until their dorms can be cleared for them to return.  This went on for 2 months and terrorized students and their families at home who worried for their safety on a daily basis.  This was no prank!!!!

     

  • Anonymous on

    How do you maintain the balance of privacy and anonymity versus the need to provide the mechanisms for law enforcement? The under net is full of questionable enterprise, yet it needs to be rigorously defended because it is also a mechanism and voice to the oppressed.
  • Anonymous on

    Anonymity is black and white, you either provide it or you don't.  If a service is backdoored then, by definition, it ceases to provide anonymity.  If the US feels that the right to anonymity must be taken away from its citizens due to the threat of terrorism then its leaders should have the balls to stand up and publicly state that.

    How they plan to impose their rules on the delivery of anonymous services hosted in other countries is another matter.  Once they start blocking access to such services, the foundations for the Great Firewall of America will be laid.  This will be done in the name of fighting terrorism because fighting terrorism is the joker in the FBI's pack of cards.

  • Anonymous on

    This seems upsetting for several reasons. First, there are few reasons why the FBI should completely shut down access to anything which hosts a variety of services, only one of which is the target in question. However, one server is much different than 100 servers. A large group of devices is understandable if it is a string of Botnet commanders or larger zombies, but even that is questionable considering many of those hosts may be actively hosting valid services, as is the case with several ongoing FBI cyber-crime investigations.

    The troubling part about this is that it is a stepping stone in the highly-contagious and rapidly developing path for unnecessary government oversight (CISPA, SOPA, PIPA) of services, many of which are very much a part of the Internet for good reason, and have been since shortly after its birth. Anonymity is what some would call a 'right', where others see it as a privilege. Unfortunately, the separate argument of whether we have real 'rights' or 'privileges' doesn't on either side provide an answer for whether or not the short acronym agencies and organizations should be taking this step in the first place. If it was a right to maintain anonymity on the Internet, this probing and spying would be considered invasive to some and protective to others, yet would those same variables not still exist if such activity was considered one of our 'privileges'? The country, like much of the world, lost its ability to bounce around nodes on the Internet freely and un-scrutinized long ago when the NSA and others began their peeking.

    Frankly, the bottom line is that it has been stated numerous times recently with regards to this argument (if you're ctrl+c, ctrl+v'ing this, you need to insert a reference here) that once any overlying body of controllers takes over, it's tremendously more difficult to reverse that action, and much less likely that anyone will win an argument high enough in the legislative chain that they will lose their grip on such control.

    What a shame.

  • Anonymous on

    Look, just like it is illegal and immoral to yell fire in a crowd, yet we all have free speech, the person or persons sending the bomb threats and now the you tube anonymous cyber threat are committing an illegal and immoral act. Freedon of speech and freedom on the internet, I fully understand, but when someones actions harm innocent individuals, then they lose that right.

    The fear and anger of the government having access now to all these anonymous servers should be directed at the perps who did the crime. Also don't believe that everything is anonymous, notice that the owner of the service stateed they would rebuild the service, so someone has copies. If these services just protrolled themselves, they would have seen the email threats coming and in reported them.

    All rights and freedoms come with responsibility...more of us should use it!

  • Anonymous on

    Look, just like it is illegal and immoral to yell fire in a crowd, yet we all have free speech, the person or persons sending the bomb threats and now the you tube anonymous cyber threat are committing an illegal and immoral act. Freedon of speech and freedom on the internet, I fully understand, but when someones actions harm innocent individuals, then they lose that right.

    The fear and anger of the government having access now to all these anonymous servers should be directed at the perps who did the crime. Also don't believe that everything is anonymous, notice that the owner of the service stateed they would rebuild the service, so someone has copies. If these services just protrolled themselves, they would have seen the email threats coming and in reported them.

    All rights and freedoms come with responsibility...more of us should use it!

  • Anonymous on

    Look, just like it is illegal and immoral to yell fire in a crowd, yet we all have free speech, the person or persons sending the bomb threats and now the you tube anonymous cyber threat are committing an illegal and immoral act. Freedon of speech and freedom on the internet, I fully understand, but when someones actions harm innocent individuals, then they lose that right.

    The fear and anger of the government having access now to all these anonymous servers should be directed at the perps who did the crime. Also don't believe that everything is anonymous, notice that the owner of the service stated they would rebuild the service, so someone has copies. If these services just protrolled themselves, they would have seen the email threats coming and in reported them.

    All rights and freedoms come with responsibility...more of us should use it!

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