An Austrian man had his Apartment raided and equipment seized by police last week for hosting a Tor exit node. William Weber could face up to 10 years in jail for the distribution and/or production of child abuse material.
William Weber from Graz, Austria, was questioned by cops after someone allegedly distributed child abuse images over one of the Tor exits he administered.
Contrary to some early reports Weber was only questioned by police, who seem to be at the early stage of an inquiry. “I was not arrested (yet), just searched and questioned,” Weber told El Reg. Weber is one of many individuals that have donated their storage space and bandwidth to contribute to The Onion Router (TOR) Anonymity network. People like Weber set up nodes or relays that allow other individuals to gain a fair degree of anonymity by redirecting internet traffic through them. Its use is encouraged by groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), especially as a tool to aid free expression, privacy, and to exercise basic human rights. However, Weber’s node is one on the edge of the TOR network — an exit node — and traffic from this node can be traced back to its IP address. The EFF’s own legal FAQ states that, even though it believes operating such a node is perfectly legal, “it is statistically likely that an exit relay will at some point be used for illegal purposes, which may attract the attention of private litigants or law enforcement.” Weber’s equipment – 20 computers, 100TB+ storage, tablets, consoles and phones – was seized by investigators. The raid was carried out by officers from the Styrian Landeskriminalamt (LKA), Austria’s state police investigators, who served a warrant on Weber at his place of work. They then escorted him home and conducted a search and seize operation at his flat.
The EFF states that “if law enforcement becomes interested in traffic from your exit relay, it’s possible that officers will seize your computer. For that reason, it’s best not to run your exit relay in your home or using your home internet connection.” However, this is precisely the situation that Weber is now in. According to his blog of the events, he was raided earlier this week by the Landeskriminalamt (LKA) — the state police force — in Styria.
The LKA confiscated around 20 computers, external storage devices, and personal devices, such as Weber’s tablets, phones, and PDAs, and even his Xbox 360 and cable TV receiver. Weber himself was not arrested, but asked to show up for questioning later that day.
He believes that the LKA were waiting for him to contact or warn someone about the raid and had him under surveillance.
Upon turning up for questioning and explaining the situation, Weber says that the LKA appeared to understand that Weber is only part of the network and not directly responsible for the crimes committed using his equipment. However, Weber has still not had his equipment returned and is also not permitted to leave the country. Weber’s case is further complicated by the fact that he had held a small amount of hashish and marijuana, but compared to the larger sentence, Weber said that it is the least of his concerns.