Tor blimey: Japanese police want internet crackdown

Japanese computer users who "abuse" the Tor browsing network could be blocked from using it according to a recommendation that has been made in a report for the National Police Agency (NPA) in Japan by a panel of technology experts.

Attempts to catch a hacker known as 'Demon Killer' were hindered by his use of Tor and under the proposal internet service providers (ISPs) would be asked to block the service if people were found to be abusing it, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reports.

Tor (The Onion Router) is a mechanism for people to use the web without handing over the identifying data that websites often gather. It sends data traffic through a series of routers arranged in layers like in an onion to make it difficult to find out who is browsing a site or is behind any particular web activity. Japanese police began investigating the 'Demon Killer' after he threatened to bomb schools and nurseries via messages posted to forums and discussion boards. A 3m yen (£20,000) reward was offered for information leading to the hacker's identification. Police arrested four people for posting the threats but discovered the hacker had compromised the computers of these innocent people via Tor.

In a twist the hacker directed investigators to Enoshima, an island off Tokyo, and gave them information that led them to a cat wearing a collar on which was a memory card. The card held details of the code and program he used to gain control of victim's computers. |Amusingly, directing police to the cat helped them catch the suspected hacker, Yusuke Katayama, 30, who was seen on CCTV footage with the cat.

After Mr Katayama's arrest, the NPA sought guidance on how to handle similar cases. The industry report drawn up for the NPA recommended considering a ban on Tor and other anonymising networks as they had been found to be used in a wide variety of crimes. Japanese ISPs have not welcomed the recommendation. "Communication privacy is our lifeline. We won't be able to accept such a request," an industry insider told the newspaper.

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