I was talking to a high-end geek friend some months ago after the Snowden stories came out, and he told me bluntly: "If you use Tor or anything like that, you will bring yourself to the NSA's attention." And of course, he was right!
The NSA marks and considers potential "extremists" all users of the internet anonymizer service Tor, German media reports. Among those are hundreds of thousands of privacy concerned people like journalists, lawyers and rights activists.
Searching for encryption software like the Linux-based operating system Tails also places you on the NSA grid, says a report by German broadcasters NDR and WDR. The report is based on analysis of the source code of the software used by NSA’s electronic surveillance program XKeyscore.
Tor is a system of servers, which routes user requests through a layer of secured connections to make it impossible to identify a user’s IP from the addresses of the websites he/she visits. The network of some 5,000 is operated by enthusiasts and used by hundreds of thousands of privacy-concerned people worldwide. Some of them live in countries with oppressive regimes, which punish citizens for visiting websites they deem inappropriate
But merely visiting Tor project’s website puts you on the NSA’s red list, the report says. But more importantly it monitors connections to so-called Directory Authorities, the eight servers, which act as gateways for the entire system.
[...] The system itself doesn’t appear to be compromised however, but the NSA gets data like IP addresses of those using it, enough to cross-reference them with other databases the agency has access to.
There are indications that NSA may be collecting not only the metadata of the people on the list, but also read their email exchanges with Tor.
An interest in Tor is not the only way to make it to NSA’s watch list. Even web searches for other encryption software makes you a target as well, the report said.