In order to To uncover the source of the bomb threats sent to the University of Pittsburgh, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Wednesday seized an entire server used by the anonymous remailer service Mixmaster as well as several progressive advocacy groups.
The server was seized from a colocation facility in New York with a search warrant issued by the FBI.
In addition to Mixmaster’s remailing service, which helps human rights activists and others prevent their communications from being traced back to them, the server has been used by Seattle-based digital activist group Riseup Networks. , as well as May First/People Link, a politically progressive organization. internet service provider. The server was operated by European Counter Network, an ISP based in Italy.
The seizure silenced more than 300 email accounts, between 50 and 80 mailing lists and several websites, according to a statement about the seizure published Thursday by Riseup. The material seized had served scholars, artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights groups, community centers and free speech groups, among others.
“The FBI is using a hammerhead approach, shutting down the service to hundreds of users due to the actions of an anonymous individual,” Riseup spokesperson Devin Theriot-Orr wrote in the statement. “This is particularly erroneous because there is unlikely to be any information on the server regarding the source of the threatening emails.”
Mixmaster is designed to prevent authorities from tracking emails — it doesn’t save connection logs or message sender details — which makes it of little use to authorities, Theriot-Orr said.
“There is therefore no legitimate purpose for the FBI to seize this server because they will not be able to obtain any information about the sender,” he wrote. “This is clearly an extrajudicial punishment and an attack on freedom of expression and anonymity on the Internet and has a chilling effect on other providers of anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.”
Dozens of threats have been made against the university since February, some of which have been passed on to the media. The threats, however, were not followed by explosives.
The FBI did not respond to calls for comment.
This isn’t the first time the FBI has seized entire servers, resulting in loss of business and service for multiple parties that aren’t under investigation. In 2009, the FBI seized several servers in a raid on a Texas data center as part of a VoIP fraud investigation sparked by complaints from AT&T and Verizon about unpaid bills owed by some of the data center customers.
As a result, Liquid Motors, which provides inventory management and marketing services to national auto dealers and was not part of the investigation, was unable to honor its service contracts with customers. It was just one of about 50 companies that were put out of business by the raid.