Why Tor Couldn’t Protect the Harvard “Bomber”

If you’re going to call in a bomb threat to avoid a test you didn’t study for, you should at least walk a mile off campus before making the effort. It’s all about the execution with these things.

Firstly, I’ll preface this story by reaffirming that on the whole, Tor is one the absolute safest methods you can depend on whenever you connect to the internet from public Wifi or your personal network. However, with that said, if you try and shut down a school with a fake terrorist plot, the very least you could do is use a different wireless than the one installed in your dorm room.

On December 16th, sophomore student at Harvard Eldo Kim used the disposable email service “Guerilla Mail” and Tor to anonymously submit a bomb threat to the central administration, in the hopes they would shut the school down and give him a few extra days to study.

By running the logs of the basic student network, the FBI was able to trace who was using what services at the specific time the threat was called in, and noticed Kim’s Tor traffic almost immediately. Had he simply gone to a coffee shop to extend his chances at taking the final, it’s very likely the two anonymity services working in conjunction would have enabled him to get away with it.

Through basic police work and a profoundly dumb move on Kim’s part, the perpetrator of the threat was apprehended within a few short hours after there was no bomb discovered on campus. For the crime of calling in a hoax, Eldo faces a maximum of 5 years in prison and $250,000 fine.