A recent spike in .onion services has many speculating as to what might be happening. More than 25,000 new hidden services have surfaced in the last few days; leading some to believe one thing, and others to believe another. The possibilities are vast, but there are a few likely suspects.
The new anonymous chat client Ricochet. In short, Ricochet stays anonymous by using the Tor network. Professor Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey is one who believes this could be a possibility. Professor Woodward thinks Ricochet is causing this by creating so many unique .onion addresses. Now you might think 25,000 new app users in a few days is highly unlikely, take this into consideration first.
While TorChat already exists, it hasn’t been updated in quite some time. Also on Feb. 15th, The NCC group published a very positive security audit backing Ricochet’s claims of being anonymous. Now, think of how many people all over the world use, and keep up with Tor related technology. Now take in to consideration the amount of criminal activity that occurs over the Tor Network. While the majority of those people would be looking everywhere to find more reliable means of communication. Finally, think of Big Brother itself.
Is it a huge possibility to think that the original founders of the Dark Net don’t use its seemingly endless tools and newest technology? Still doubting this one? In 2013 the Tor network directly received $100,325 in funding from The National Science Foundation. Alongside this, they also received $256,900 from the Department of State. This isn’t all either.
Indirectly in 2013 Tor also received funding totaling $830,269 from a couple third party organizations. SRI International is a non-profit research development center that helps bring abstract research and industry together. The second largest was the Internews Network. This is another non-profit that funds programs supporting democracy and human rights. Both of these groups stemming from the US Department of Defense, and the US Department of State. Also released in 2013 was The Guardians Revelation in October.
The Guardian obtained documented proof-of-concept plans of attacks to bring the Tor Network down; or at the very least to de-anonymize its users. If this still isn’t enough, let’s go back one more year. In 2012 Tor again received more funding from various third parties of the same nature. That year the Network received a total of $1,200,000 from organizations stemming back to the US Government.
This has been the biggest increase in .onion services in the history of the Tor Network. Others have speculated this is the possible work of a huge Botnet creating unique .onion servers to trick the victim computers into becoming infected.
“These attacks happen often, but usually on a smaller scale.” Professor Alan Woodward was quoted saying this in an interview with the BBC. While it is possible, it seems unlikely that someone has created a super Botnet of this magnitude. Another suggestion is that a hacker, or hacking groups are releasing large amounts of ransomware.
While more signs point to the increased use of Ricochet, it is still being speculated for sure. Signs pointing left and right, thanks to the ever expanding technology of the Tor Network may never become clear as to what is actually causing such a huge spike in hidden services. A lot of on the fence speculation remain as to what is causing all this, but one thing is for certain; with the amount of actual funding Tor Network gets, there is no telling where it will go.