Austrian police have raided the home of a Tor exit node operator after they detected his IP address accessing online child pornography.
Exit nodes were the point in the Tor network where masses of anonymous users enter the public internet.
Node operators occasionally landed in trouble when authorities detected illegal Tor web traffic linked to their IP addresses.
Austrian IT administrator William Weber said police confiscated his 20 computers and electronic devices along with some 100 terabytes of storage after detecting illegal traffic he ferried over Tor.
"... I was accused of sharing (and possibly producing) child pornography on a clearnet forum via an image hosting site that was probably tapped. If convicted, this could land me in jail for six to 10 years," Weber wrote on a blog.
"... I had [the police] show me the offending IP address, which I identified as belonging to me in the specified timeframe. I explained that this was a Tor exit node under my control at this time."
It was the second time Weber had been contacted by authorities for illegal node traffic. In May, Polish police contacted him concerning black hat hacking activity and he subsequently shut down the offending node.
"I believe in freedom of information; I mainly run the exit nodes to make it possible for the not so privileged folks to have uncensored access to the internet without fear of government prosecution," he said.
Weber appealed for donations to fund legal expenses on the LowEndTalk forum.
Other operators had also been raided by police under suspicion of committing cybercrime. Last year, a US exit node operator was raided and escaped charge thanks to the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In the same year, an American internet user was raided by police after he said his open wifi connection was used to access child pornography.
And in 2009, another operator in the US was raided after an IRC linked to a kidnapping was detected over his IP address.
The EFF has provided recommendations for exit node operators who land in similar hot water, including templates to send to concerned internet services providers.
Most Tor users choose one of just five of the fastest exit node about a third of the time, from a pool of about 50 relays.