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German Police Arrests Tor Server

A Tor server operator from Germany, who used to direct traffic anonymously over the Internet, reported that he was detained in a midnight raid on his house. The raid was a result of a probe into bomb threats supposedly to have gone through an IP address under the control of this man. The Register reported this on 16 September 2007.

The German police were examining a bomb attack threat that was posted on an Internet forum for the country's police officers. The police found that the objectionable post was linked to the IP address for Alex Janssen's server. Till the time of his arrest, Janssen's server routed 40GB of Internet traffic of strangers every day.

The police, who arrived at Janssen's residence in the middle of the night on September 16, 2007, hand-cuffed him in the presence of his wife and confiscated his equipment. In an act that showed both incompetence and irony, the cops neither shutdown the server carrying the traffic that interested them nor took it away. The location of this traffic was found in another city, which was more than 500 km away.

Janssen's efforts to explain the Tor technology to the officers failed. Janssen went through hours of interrogation after which someone from D├╝sseldorf's correspond to the Department of Homeland Security arrived and told Janssen that there had been a mistake on their part. Soon after this, Janssen was released.

The police had realized their mistake after a long time. It, however, remains unclear why they confiscated the man's computers but not the server. The incident along with its legal procedures scared the man and his wife tremendously, according to the man's detailed blog entry. heise online reported this on September 17, 2007.

Janssen's case is not the first of its kind. Chris Soghoian, a graduate student in School of Informatics, Indiana University, pointed that the law enforcement had targeted anonymous technology earlier too. In 2006, German authorities confiscated ten Tor servers on an investigation associated to child pornography. The Register reported this on September 16, 2007.

The particular case of harassing a Tor operator clearly reflects German government's inability to distinguish a criminal behavior from a lawful technical service.

Related article: Germany Restricts Anti-Hacking Legalization

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