Austrian man raided for operating TOR exit node

An Austrian man has had his equipment seized after operating a TOR node that was allegedly used to distribute child abuse material.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

An Austrian man has had his house raided and his hardware confiscated for running a TOR exit node.

Austrian man William Weber could face up to 10 years in jail for the distribution and/or production of child abuse material, only, he was never involved in the crimes — his computer was.

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."

Furthermore, 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.

Weber is now seeking help from the community to help pay for his legal costs. and intends to fight any charges that could set a legal precedent to prohibit the use of exit nodes in Austria.

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