‘De-Anonymizing Tor’ Talk Pulled from Black Hat Conference

A talk scheduled to take place at next month’s Black Hat conference, which would discuss cracking anonymous users of Tor, has been cancelled due to some legal wrangling.


Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh were lined up for the talk but at the request of lawyers from the university, the talk has now been cancelled. The conference is taking place August 6 to 7 in Las Vegas.

A spokeswoman for Carnegie Mellon told Reuters that one of the speakers had not been cleared to appear by the university or the Software Engineering Institute, which is based in CMU and is funded by the Defense Department.

The study ‘You don’t have to be the NSA to Break Tor: De-Anonymizing Users on a Budget’ was scheduled to be the topic of conversation. The abstract for the study, written by Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord has since been removed from the Black Hat website. It claimed that it could “de-anonymize hundreds of thousands Tor clients and thousands of hidden services within a couple of months.”

The Defense Department was once involved in the funding of Tor but one source told Reuters that the department played no part in the talk’s cancellation.

Tor has grown in controversy especially since the Silk Road arrests and of course the Snowden revelations. The anonymous network shields users from being tracked or followed and has been used for illegal activities.

Black Hat has provided little comment but posted the schedule change on its website.

Late last week, we were informed by the legal counsel for the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and Carnegie Mellon University that: “Unfortunately, Mr. Volynkin will not be able to speak at the conference since the materials that he would be speaking about have not yet approved by CMU/SEI for public release.” As a result, we have removed the Briefing from our schedule.