Updated Japan’s technology-illiterate police have put themselves in the firing line once again after recommending what amounts to a blanket ban on the use of the Tor anonymiser network in the country.
The FBI-like National Police Agency is set to ask ISPs to "help site administrators" to block communications if the customer is found to have “abused” the service online, according to The Mainichi*.
Given that there’s no way of actually checking what Tor is being used for in a particular instance, as it anonymises traffic, the implication is that if someone is using it they must be up to no good.
The recommendations were made at the end of last week by an NPA panel set up to work out how best to tackle cyber crimes using Tor.
The panel claimed it has been used in the past to commit internet fraud, help paedophiles groom kids online and, tellingly, enabled leaks from Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department.
Most recently it was used in a high profile case in Japan which exposed the NPA’s lack of cyber savvy.
A hacker known as Demon Killer disguised his IP address using the system, and took control of other PCs with the iesys.exe virus to post bomb threats on popular message boards.
In a massive loss of face for the NPA, the Feds arrested four suspects who turned out to be victims of iesys.exe - which was used to send the offending emails from their computers – and even managed to extract false confessions.
One suspect was held for weeks before Demon Killer posted another message while he was still in custody.
The hacker then led the NPA a merry dance, luring them to an island near Tokyo where they captured a cat carrying a memory stick in its collar containing the source code for the virus. Thirty-year-old IT worker Yusuke Katayama was finally arrested soon after once the cops studied CCTV footage from the area.
It might not be particularly popular among Japanese law enforcers, but Tor has a more laudable reputation elsewhere, having been used to good effect by pro-democracy activists in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.
It remains to be seen what kind of backlash from the ISP community and Japanese netizens the new police recommendations lead to. ®
* The Mainichi has emailed El Reg to clarify that "website administrators" will in fact be tasked with identifying Tor users from a list of IP addresses publicly listed as being used in a chain of computers that are used by Tor and blocking them with the "help" of the relevant ISPs.