French Authorities Propose Banning Tor And Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

In a recent list of proposals made by the French authorities, they would like to see Tor banned and would also like to ban free Wi-Fi hotspots during a state of emergency. The latter may also not be as limited as one might think, as the government is trying to obtain indefinite emergency powers with new legislation.

Within hours of the Paris attacks, government officials from multiple countries, including the U.S. and UK, started pushing the message to the media that the only reason the attacks weren’t prevented was because the attackers used encryption.

This argument was later debunked when it was discovered that the attackers used communications such as regular phone calls and SMS messages, as well as tools such as credit cards that were completely transparent to the authorities. However, this information came a little late, as the damage was already done to the public perception on encryption. It allowed the governments to use the debunked argument as the platform for a new war on encryption and privacy.

Now, despite the fact that the Paris attackers didn’t use strongly encrypted communications (if at all encrypted), the governments in France, U.S. and UK are all continuing to push the idea that strong encryption and privacy must be stopped.

The French authorities want to ban Tor, about the only tool left that can provide real privacy online, often to people who really need it in countries where censorship and abuse of power are routine.

Tor is also the tool of choice for dissidents, which is one of the reasons Facebook made an .onion address for its website, as dissidents often use Facebook to spread their message to many people quickly. It’s essentially mandatory for use by whistleblowers as well, if they want to keep their identity secret when revealing wrongdoing, whether from inside a government agency or a corporation.

Simply blocking Tor’s homepage will not stop the usage of Tor, and the French government is likely aware of this. This means it may be prepared to significantly enhance its censorship capabilities to a level closer to those of China. Even then, Tor developers could probably still stay one step ahead of the French government in finding ways to circumvent those blocks.

However, before the French government adopts these proposals in new legislation, it might be worth to take a step back for a moment and considering whether the France should go down the path of following China’s lead on censorship, surveillance and potentially abuse of power if the emergency powers are extended indefinitely.

The banning of Tor, and free Wi-Fi, which the authorities believe makes people harder to track, and the proposal to extend the emergency powers indefinitely could arrive in the form of legislation as early as January 2016.

Perhaps sensing more governments are going to come after Tor and try to block it, to the point where even the U.S. government may cut off its funding (which represents a significant portion of its budget), the Tor Project recently launched its first ever crowdfunding campaign. This could be a way for the project to continue to stay afloat despite blockades in other countries, as well as increase its resources so it can develop better circumvention tools against the censorship of its network.


Lucian Armasu joined Tom’s Hardware in early 2014. He writes news stories on mobile, chipsets, security, privacy, and anything else that might be of interest to him from the technology world. Outside of Tom’s Hardware, he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • toddybody
    ...and the bad guys will move onto something else. An effective measure should be unknown to the user base, while providing valuable intel for their Gov.
  • eklipz330
    I use messenger pigeons
  • none12345
    ”He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.” - Benjamin Franklin

    You will never stop the actions of a few dozen by encroaching on the liberties of billions, im a strong believer in that.

    Look no further then the TSA. In recent tests they failed to stop 95% of explosive/weapons being smuggled past them. So much for all that money spent, time wasted, and persons demeaned.

    All something like this(the article and my example) does is prevent an illusion of security, while stripping liberties from the people. If we sacrifice the ideal of liberty, the terrorists have already won.
  • koga73
    The idea that we need to ban privacy tools and encryption technologies is ludicrous. It's also an impossible battle to fight because of open source software.Virtually any software developer can grab a block of existing code and create an application with strong encryption. They need to stop attacking technology and focus their efforts elsewhere.
  • Morbus
    If it's how they "block" sites like piratebay, then it's pathetic. All you need to do to bypass these blocks is just change your DNS to a proper DNS that is bout faster, and more secure, and has the added benefit of not censuring your web like a little bitch.
  • ohim
    Welcome to the free world where we don`t have anything free because we fear that some other people will steal our freedom :)
  • Gam3r01
    I think this is a great example of politicians not admitting they are wrong.
    HAD the attacks been secured using encryption or privacy programs such as TOR, maybe, just maybe this could be thought of.
    They explicitly stated that the communications were not encrypted much, if at all.
    So what good does this do but infringe on their fellow countrymen.
  • hdmark
    lets be honest... do most politicians even know what encryption is? :D
  • rtware923
    I use messenger pigeons

    RFC 1149
  • mikemp3
    This is just an excuse by the French government to control its people. Read G Orwell's 1984, it just gets more and more appropriate. If they were really serious about terrorism they would destroy Isis. But this is just like the war on communism, drugs, Isis, a red herring to distract us. "Aren't leaders lucky that the masses don't think." - Adolf Hitler.