CIA Joins Dark Web to Increase Engagement

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched a website Tuesday on the Tor network in order to allow individuals to gain more secure access to the agency’s webpages. The CIA has been working to improve their avenues for connecting with the American people and building trust between the agency and potential anonymous tipsters.

The Tor network- which stands for “the onion router”- is a program which bounces encrypted internet traffic through several chains of computers before data is sent to its final destination, making it the backbone of the “dark web”, according to Fedscoop. The program can be downloaded by anyone.

According to the CIA news release, interacting with the agency via the Tor webpage is “truly anonymous,” and while they admit any online communication poses some risk, using a virtual private network like Tor can reduce this risk.

"Our global mission demands that individuals can access us securely from anywhere," CIA Director of Public Affairs Brittany Bramell told WIRED ahead of the launch in a statement. "Creating an onion site is just one of many ways we’re going where people are."

Everything available on the CIA’s main website is available on the onion site, including contact instructions for reaching the CIA, job postings, archived material from the World Factbook, and the Kids Zone.

Fedscoop reports that today, the Tor network is used for more than just the sale of illicit goods and services (activities that are often associated with the dark web). For instance, Tor is regularly used by journalists and activists to share information discretely.

In fact, the Tor Project was originally created by the Naval Research Laboratory with the goal of protecting government communications in the US Navy. Today, the Tor Project lists its primary uses by individuals as protecting individual privacy from marketers and identity thieves, protecting communications from irresponsible corporations, protecting children online, researching sensitive topics, skirting surveillance, and circumventing censorship.

The CIA has provided instructions for downloading Tor in their news release. The CIA browser address in Tor is:

                ciadotgov4sjwlzihbbgxnqg3xiyrg7so2r2o3lt5wz5ypk4sxyjstad.onion

The CIA’s presence on the dark web comes less than a month after the CIA announced the planned launch of an Instagram page also aimed at being “as open as [they] can be” according to Director Gina Haspel.

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