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Facebook Blocks Tor Users After Heavy Malicious Activity

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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Tor security event leaves activists (and criminals?) exposed on Facebook

Facebook has started blocking people using the site if they’re on the Tor anonymity network – but only because of a security threat.

Numerous Tor users expressed their anger today, after the Tor Project posted on Facebook: “Facebook is blocking logins with Tor browser. This is crazy.” Some assumed Facebook had banned anyone using Tor, to force them to post on Facebook using their real names.

But Facebook told TechWeek a security event was to blame. “Facebook is not blocking Tor deliberately. However, a high volume of malicious activity across Tor exit notes triggered Facebook’s site integrity systems, which are designed to protect people who use the service,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Tor and Facebook are working together to find a resolution.” The spokesperson could not go into more detail on the security event at the time of publication.

Facebook broken

Facebook and Tor fight cyber crooks

TechWeekEurope tried to visit Facebook from a Tor browser and could not access the site at all. Instead, the page told us: ” The server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.”

The Tor browser is client software which makes it simple for users to run their connections over the network, which provides anonymity. Tor takes traffic across numerous proxies to mask identities, and uses encryption to prevent any snooping.

Angry users may not stick with Facebook, having initially expressed outrage across social networks.

“So, guess what Facebook, if you don’t stop…I’m gone. May sound like an idle threat, but I suspect I won’t be the only one,” one wrote on the Tor Project Facebook page.

On Reddit, users expressed concern about anything which prevented activists using Facebook over Tor. The Arab Spring revolutions were supplemented by social networks like Facebook, allowing people to share information, and some were worried they might not be able to do so privately if the social network aggressively enforced its real-name policy.

On the other side, Tor, as it provides effective anonymity, is heavily used by online criminals. The notorious Silk Road website, a market for buying and selling a cornucopia of illegal drugs, only lets in Tor users. Cyber criminal forums are often only accessible over Tor too.

UPDATE: Tor users can now access Facebook again, as the issue has been resolved, according to a joint statement.

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