French Gov't Mulls Blocking Public WiFi & Tor During State of Emergency

The recent terror attacks in Paris has left a deep scar on the world as we know it. As a result of this tense situation, government officials find themselves in an awkward position to make sure events like these can never transpire again. French law enforcement is pressing to ban the usage of public WiFi, as well as Tor, whenever a state of emergency is declared.

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In a major city, such as Paris, there are many public WiFi locations. According to official statistics, there are nearly 300 free and public WiFi places throughout and around the city itself. While these hotspots are useful for anyone in need of Internet access, they can also create an issue as far as tracking individual users are concerned.

According to leaked documents published by La Monde, French law enforcement is looking to take a rash decision. The documents indicate that public WiFi access will be prohibited during a state of emergency. But that is not all, as they also want to impose a ban on using the secure web network Tor.

The decision to ban Tor usage is a simple result of what the service allows users to do, which is mask their original IP address. Accessing the Internet through the Tor network routes traffic through multiple voluntarily operated servers. As a result, it is pretty much impossible to determine the user’s real IP address.

Over the years, Tor has become a favorable solution for Internet users looking to maintain a level of anonymity when accessing the world wide web. Ever since Edward Snowden made shocking revelations as to how the NSA is spying on Internet users all over the world, Tor has gained a lot of popularity.

However, Tor has a bit of a colored past, as the name got lots of mainstream media attention due to the Silk Road platform a few years ago. This online marketplace – used for a variety of services – was only accessible to users operating on the Tor network, hiding it from regular Internet users and search engines.

Even though there is no real evidence that ISIS, the group behind the terror attacks in Paris, ever used the Tor network, law enforcement agencies strongly feel the network could be used to plot future attacks. However, one does not simply block Tor in its entirety, as there are certain challenges along the way.

Blocking Tor Is Not So EasyBitcoin.com_Tor project

At the time of publication, there was only one country in the world capable of completely blocking access to the Tor network. China, a country known for trying to control and restrict Internet access for quite some time now, is actively blocking connections to publicly listed Tor entry nodes. Furthermore, any secret Tor entry nodes are blocked automatically as well.

Technological issues put aside for a moment, blocking access to Tor and public WiFi hotspots during a state of emergency would go against the country’s motto of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Impacting the liberty of the French people is the last thing the country needs right now. Plus, blocking Tor in France would do nothing to restrict access in neighboring countries, creating a less than favorable solution to say the least.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are other alternatives available as far as encrypted chat applications are concerned. Telegram, Off The Record, and Signal are just a few examples of how people can use encrypted communication without too much hassle. For the time being, the debate between national security and liberty will remain heated until a proper solution has been found.

How could law enforcement attempt to stop communication between terrorists? Or should they take a completely different approach to resolving the matter? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Mashable

Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Tor

Tags in this story
encryption, Isis, Paris Attacks, Signal, Silk Road, Tor, WhatsApp

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