A security researcher who revealed how the email accounts of embassies were exposed through the misuse of the Tor anonymiser network has been taken in for questioning by Swedish intelligence agencies.
Dan Egerstad used Tor to obtain the login credentials of about 1,000 email addresses, including at least 100 accounts belonging to foreign embassies, as well as those of large corporations and human rights organisations. Egerstad posted the login details of embassies belonging to Iran, India, Japan, and Russia, among others, in late August. The information, posted on derangedsecurity.com, has since been taken offline. Egerstad disclosed details of how he pulled off the hack in September.
Tor provides a distributed, anonymous network when used properly. Egerstad discovered that by setting up exit nodes he could sniff traffic that wasn't properly encrypted, contrary to Tor's recommendations.
It seems more likely that Egerstad had stumbled on a means by which unknown intelligence agencies were disguising their surveillance activities on hacked accounts rather than widespread misuse of Tor in diplomatic circles. Egerstad's action may have exposed a security problem that would otherwise have lain undiscovered. Nonetheless, his decision to publish login credentials was widely criticised.
On Monday, Egerstad was leaving his Malmo apartment when he was arrested by four plainclothes agents of the Swedish National Police (a domestic intelligence agency) and an agent of the Swedish Security Police (Sweden's CIA). He was taken to the local police station for questioning while two of the agents seized computers, CDs and papers from his house. "It was like out of a bad movie," Egerstad told the Sydney Morning Herald.
During questioning at the station, the police "played every trick in the book, good cop, bad cop, and crazy mysterious guy in the corner not wanting to tell his name and just staring at me."
The discovery of eight PlayStation 2 consoles in his apartment led to accusations of theft against Egerstad.
Egerstad was released without charge but remains under suspicion for computer hacking offences, which he denies. He maintains he simply observed traffic flowing across the internet before drawing attention to an obvious security breach.
Egerstad told Wired that his arrest was sparked by complaints to Sweden by foreign countries. Investigators reportedly confirmed to him that China was one of two countries that complained. ®