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I'm pretty new to Tor and don't know much about it. I was wondering how one would take control of a Tor hidden service if they had the private key. There's a darknet website called "DOXBIN" that was seized by the FBI about a week ago; the owners then gave the private key to their friend who re-gained control of the site with it. How did he do this? I'm really curious. I couldn't find anything on Google. Thanks.

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    Interesting question. In my mind I translated it to: "What happens when multiple hidden services use the same name?" I don't know the answer (hence the comment) but these are my thoughts: I would imagine that this could act as some kind of load balancing. It should not break the network, since anyone can just do it. Maybe you could 'outbalance' another HS's by advertising your service to more/faster HSDir servers or advertising more often. – Jobiwan Nov 15 '14 at 18:43
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    The above here is correct. The latest server to 'register' on the domain servers gets the traffic going to the domain you are running. You can easily test this with two isolated virtual machines which has tor with the same keys installed. if you want to look more into what happens when you do this. – Stig Atle Steffensen Nov 18 '14 at 6:24
  • But basically, if you lose the private key it's Game Over ? ie: you cannot regain control the .onion address and it becomes a resource contest from that point on ? – bobjandal Nov 20 '14 at 21:32
  • @bobjandal Pretty much that, if anyone else get to know your private key you better just create a new one and "move" to another onion address. It's only the private key that allows you to proove you are the legittimate "owner" of an address. If two ore more have the same private key they have the same right to own the address. (AFAIK). – flagg19 Dec 12 '14 at 16:41
  • You can erase the key and all directory /hidden_service after reboot or start your server and tor service,I got my tor key saved on DVD and encrypted, and I always leave encrypted too the key on a hidden directory on my machine. If someone hacke me or take my machine can not take down my hidden service. MOre secure if you erase every time all your hidden directory when star tor. – user14985 Nov 8 '16 at 9:10
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You'll just have to put the privatekey along with the hostname file in folder, and add the corresponding HiddenServiceDir and HiddenServicePort commands in your torrc file. Just like what you would do when hosting a new .onion address. When you do that, anyone trying to access the .onion site address in question will reach your site not the old one, since you've declared your ownership of the .onion domain later. The original can re-declare his ownership after that just like you did, so it can become a loop, but he cannot change the private key unless he wants to change the .onion domain.

  • once ownership is declared and the hidden service is online, can the private key be removed from the file system to protect against theft? Will the hidden service stay online without it? – AHCo Apr 5 '15 at 19:50
  • Without the private key, a service cannot continue to advertise itself to the Tor network as the corresponding hidden service, so the answer is no. – Linostar Apr 6 '15 at 6:24

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