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Tor at the Heart: The Ahmia project

During the month of December, we're highlighting other organizations and projects that rely on Tor, build on Tor, or are accomplishing their missions better because Tor exists. Check out our blog each day to learn about our fellow travelers. And please support the Tor Project! We're at the heart of Internet freedom.
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The Ahmia project

Onion services are used by thousands of people every day, yet they remain as elusive as ever. There is no central repository of onion sites, and there are no great ways to find the content you are looking for. We feel that this "foggy situation" severely impacts the user experience of onion services and hence also impedes their deployment and acceptance by the general public. It's easy to dismiss the onionspace as smelly if you only read media articles about the onion sites that stink the most.

How is one supposed to navigate in the onionspace if there is no map?

On the "normal Internet," people are used to using search engines to find the content they are looking for: blogs, shops, educational resources, cat pictures. Search engines act as streetlights on the dark alleyways of the Internet; allowing people to navigate and visit the places they want.

However in the onionspace, search engines are not well established, and finding the right content is much harder. For years people have resorted to various DIY solutions for listing and finding onion addresses, but none of those solutions is particularly pleasant or complete.

Imagine Alice wants to start a blog about her cats on the onionspace. There is no good place for Alice to list her onion address so that other people can find it. Without a good search engine, it's hard for other cat fans to find her website and start building a community.

How is one supposed to catch 'em all if we don't know how many there are?

Hence, there is no better time to introduce Ahmia! Ahmia is a search engine for onion sites. The Ahmia project has been around for years, and it's been collecting public onion addresses and indexing them so that users can search for the content they are looking for.

Ahmia's indexing technology is improving, and the quality of the search results has gotten much better over the past year. Ahmia also provides an easy way for onion service operators to register their own onion sites with the search engine. Ahmia's onion site is here.

Juha Nurmi, the lead Ahmia developer, is still actively involved with the project, however writing a low-budget search engine is not an easy job! Crawling the Internet requires heavy infrastructure and is technically complicated. Discovering onion links means searching in the deepest corners of both the normal Internet and the onionspace. Ahmia is always looking for more volunteers and sources of funding! Two years ago, Tor supported Ahmia by working together in Google Summer of Code 2014.

How is one supposed to walk around if the fog machine is on?

Finally and closing with a healthy dose of paranoia, we need to remember that centralized search engines might be a temporary solution for now, but they are never the end goal. Centralized services should be avoided in high-security systems like anonymity networks, and we should always strive to build decentralized systems and to research alternative ways to make anonymity systems more usable. There is lots of work to be done.

Donate and get involved!

Thank you for reading and enjoy Monday!

Tor at the Heart: apt-transport-tor and Debian onions

During the month of December, we're highlighting other organizations and projects that rely on Tor, build on Tor, or are accomplishing their missions better because Tor exists. Check out our blog each day to learn about our fellow travelers. And please support the Tor Project! We're at the heart of Internet freedom.
Donate today!

apt-transport-tor and Debian onions

Did you know that when you're using Debian, you can configure your operating system package installs and updates to route through Tor?

Doing updates via Tor provides some really compelling security properties. One of the big benefits is that an attacker can't target you for a malicious update: even if they manage to steal some package signing keys and break into the update server and replace packages, they still can't tell that it's you asking for the update. So if they want to be sure you get the malicious update, they're forced to attack everybody who updates, which means a really noisy attack that is much more likely to get noticed. This anonymity goal is one of the main reasons that Tor Browser does its updates over Tor as well.

Another big feature of updating via Tor is that the package repository, or somebody watching it, can't track what programs you've installed. Similarly, somebody spying on your Internet connection will have a tougher time learning which packages you fetch (though this part of the protection is not as strong, since maybe they can count bytes or something and guess).

As Debian's blog puts it:

"The freedom to use open source software may be compromised when access to that software is monitored, logged, limited, prevented, or prohibited. As a community, we acknowledge that users should not feel that their every action is trackable or observable by others. Consequently, we are pleased to announce that we have started making several of the various web services provided by both Debian and Tor available via onion services."

Not showing the world what packages you fetch is good common-sense data hygiene, but it can also provide safety when you're updating a package due to a security vulnerability, and you don't want people to learn that you're running a vulnerable version right now.

How does it work from a technical perspective? The apt-transport-tor deb package introduces a new "tor+http" transport that you can use in your /etc/apt/sources.list file -- so while before you would typically list a Debian package repository as being an "http" address, now you can list it as being a "tor+http" address. Debian has its own official onion addresses for its package repositories, along with onion addresses for many of its other sites and services — and they even use Donncha's OnionBalance tool to provide redundancy and scaling. (Also, since the nice person who helps run Debian's infrastructure also helps to run our infrastructure, that means we now have onion addresses for many of Tor's sites and services too!)

You can configure your Debian system to update via Tor by following the directions at the bottom of the Debian blog post. A growing number of privacy-oriented Debian derivatives, including Tails, use apt-transport-tor as their default way of doing updates, and we think that's a great and important trend.

Tor at the Heart: Torservers.net

During the month of December, we're highlighting other organizations and projects that rely on Tor, build on Tor, or are accomplishing their missions better because Tor exists. Check out our blog each day to learn about our fellow travelers. And please support the Tor Project! We're at the heart of Internet freedom.
Donate today!

Torservers.net

The torservers.net organizational network currently consists of 20 non-profit organizations in 14 countries that have joined forces to turn donations into Tor exit bandwidth. Each of the organizations participates in local and global events to teach others about what they have learned and to exchange knowledge on what it means to run Tor relays, specifically exit relays.

In close partnership with The Tor Project Inc., member organizations test new experimental releases, contribute to research at universities, and host Tor user meetings in their areas. Torservers.net has worked with a number of lawyers to produce legal assessments and publish guidelines for how to deal with complaints. In some cases, torservers.net covers legal costs for exit operators when needed. Members contribute to Tor and its codebase in many ways. For anyone interested in Tor, reaching out to a local Torservers.net organization is a very good way to connect to Tor folks!

Member organizations:

Austrian Privacy Foundation (Austria)
Associated Whistleblowing Press (Belgium)
Coldhak (Canada)
Koumbit (Canada)
Electronic Frontier Finland (Finland)
Nos Oignons (France)
SaveYourPrivacy e.V. (Germany)
Zwiebelfreunde e.V. (Germany)
IceTor (Iceland)
Onion Italia (Italy)
DFRI: Föreningen för Digitala Fri- och Rättigheter (Sweden)
Swiss Privacy Foundation (Switzerland)
Cyber Arabs (Institute for War & Peace Reporting) (Lebanon)
Frënn vun der Ënn (Luxembourg)
Hart voor Internetvrijheid (Netherlands)
Access Now (USA)
CypherChaikhana (USA)
The Calyx Institute (USA)
The Library Freedom Project (USA)
NoiseTor (Noisebridge) (USA)

Tor at the Heart: Orbot and Orfox

During the month of December, we're highlighting other organizations and projects that rely on Tor, build on Tor, or are accomplishing their missions better because Tor exists. Check out our blog each day to learn about our fellow travelers. And please support the Tor Project! We're at the heart of Internet freedom.
Donate today!

Orbot and Orfox

Orbot is an app for Android that contains the core Tor service and provides connectivity to the Tor network for any app to utilize. Local HTTP and SOCKS proxies are enabled for any proxy-capable app, such as Twitter or Lightning Browser, to use. Orbot also provides an "Apps VPN" feature that redirects traffic from selected apps or the entire device through the Tor network. Finally, Orbot provides an API that allows any developer to build Tor support directly into their app, as demonstrated by apps like Facebook, DuckDuckGo and F-Droid.

Orfox is a web browser for Android that enables mobile phone users to have secure communications through the Tor network. Coupled with the Orbot app, Orfox users can have encryption and anonymity on the Internet. In addition, Orfox comes with NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere preinstalled, and a number of security settings are preselected to enhance your protection against malicious websites.

Orfox is built from the same source code as Tor Browser (which is built upon Firefox), but with a few minor modifications to the privacy enhancing features to make them compatible with Firefox for Android and the Android operating system. The Orfox repository is a fork of the Tor Browser repository, with the necessary modification and Android-specific code as patches on top of the Tor Browser work. Beyond the core Tor Browser components, Orfox also routes all Android-specific code through the Orbot Tor proxy and is otherwise hardened to protect against data and privacy leaks.

Both Orbot and Orfox are produced in partnership with Guardian Project (https://guardianproject.info), a collective of software developers, designers and activists with a focus and expertise on security and privacy solutions for mobile devices.

All of the project, source code and app install links for Orbot and Orfox are available here: https://guardianproject.info/apps/orbot/ and here: https://guardianproject.info/apps/orfox/. You can also jump right to the Tor Project's apps on Google Play here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=The+Tor+Project

And if you are already using Orfox - please update your app! Here is information on a release the team just put out that contains an important security update to Firefox.

Tor 0.2.9.6-rc is released

Tor 0.2.9.6-rc fixes a few remaining bugs found in the previous alpha version. We hope that it will be ready to become stable soon, and we encourage everyone to test this release. If no showstopper bugs are found here, the next 0.2.9 release will be stable.

You can download the source from the usual place on the website. Packages should be available over the next several days, including an alpha TorBrowser release around December 14. Remember to check the signatures!

Please note: This is a release candidate. I think it's pretty stable, but bugs can always remain. If you want a stable experience, please stick to the stable releases.

Below are the changes since 0.2.9.5-alpha.

Changes in version 0.2.9.6-rc - 2016-12-02

  • Major bugfixes (relay, resolver, logging):
    • For relays that don't know their own address, avoid attempting a local hostname resolve for each descriptor we download. This will cut down on the number of "Success: chose address 'x.x.x.x'" log lines, and also avoid confusing clock jumps if the resolver is slow. Fixes bugs 20423 and 20610; bugfix on 0.2.8.1-alpha.
  • Minor bugfixes (client, fascistfirewall):
    • Avoid spurious warnings when ReachableAddresses or FascistFirewall is set. Fixes bug 20306; bugfix on 0.2.8.2-alpha.
  • Minor bugfixes (hidden services):
    • Stop ignoring the anonymity status of saved keys for hidden services and single onion services when first starting tor. Instead, refuse to start tor if any hidden service key has been used in a different hidden service anonymity mode. Fixes bug 20638; bugfix on 17178 in 0.2.9.3-alpha; reported by ahf.
  • Minor bugfixes (portability):
    • Work around a bug in the OSX 10.12 SDK that would prevent us from successfully targeting earlier versions of OSX. Resolves ticket 20235.
    • Run correctly when built on Windows build environments that require _vcsprintf(). Fixes bug 20560; bugfix on 0.2.2.11-alpha.
  • Minor bugfixes (single onion services, Tor2web):
    • Stop complaining about long-term one-hop circuits deliberately created by single onion services and Tor2web. These log messages are intended to diagnose issue 8387, which relates to circuits hanging around forever for no reason. Fixes bug 20613; bugfix on 0.2.9.1-alpha. Reported by "pastly".
  • Minor bugfixes (unit tests):
    • Stop spurious failures in the local interface address discovery unit tests. Fixes bug 20634; bugfix on 0.2.8.1-alpha; patch by Neel Chauhan.
  • Documentation:
    • Correct the minimum bandwidth value in torrc.sample, and queue a corresponding change for torrc.minimal. Closes ticket 20085.

Tor 0.2.8.10 is released

There's a new stable version of Tor!

Tor 0.2.8.10 backports a fix for a bug that would sometimes make clients unusable after they left standby mode. It also backports fixes for a few portability issues and a small but problematic memory leak.

You can download the source from the usual place on the website. Packages should be available over the next several days, including a TorBrowser release around December 14. Remember to check the signatures!

Below are the changes since 0.2.8.9.

Changes in version 0.2.8.10 - 2016-12-02

  • Major bugfixes (client reliability, backport from 0.2.9.5-alpha):
    • When Tor leaves standby because of a new application request, open circuits as needed to serve that request. Previously, we would potentially wait a very long time. Fixes part of bug 19969; bugfix on 0.2.8.1-alpha.
  • Major bugfixes (client performance, backport from 0.2.9.5-alpha):
    • Clients now respond to new application stream requests immediately when they arrive, rather than waiting up to one second before starting to handle them. Fixes part of bug 19969; bugfix on 0.2.8.1-alpha.
  • Minor bugfixes (portability, backport from 0.2.9.6-rc):
    • Work around a bug in the OSX 10.12 SDK that would prevent us from successfully targeting earlier versions of OSX. Resolves ticket 20235.
  • Minor bugfixes (portability, backport from 0.2.9.5-alpha):
    • Fix implicit conversion warnings under OpenSSL 1.1. Fixes bug 20551; bugfix on 0.2.1.1-alpha.
  • Minor bugfixes (relay, backport from 0.2.9.5-alpha):
    • Work around a memory leak in OpenSSL 1.1 when encoding public keys. Fixes bug 20553; bugfix on 0.0.2pre8.
  • Minor features (geoip):
    • Update geoip and geoip6 to the November 3 2016 Maxmind GeoLite2 Country database.

Tor Browser 6.5a5 is released

Tor Browser 6.5a5 is now available from the Tor Browser Project page and also from our distribution directory.

This release features an important security update to Firefox and contains, in addition to that, an update to NoScript (2.9.5.2) and a fix of our updater code so it can handle unix domain sockets.

The Firefox security flaw responsible for this urgent release is already actively exploited on Windows systems. Even though there is currently, to the best of our knowledge, no similar exploit for OS X or Linux users available the underlying bug affects those platforms as well. Thus we strongly recommend that all users apply the update to their Tor Browser immediately. A restart is required for it to take effect.

Tor Browser users who had set their security slider to "High" are believed to have been safe from this vulnerability.

A note to Linux users: We still require the same update procedure as experienced during the update to 6.5a4: a dialog will be shown asking to either set `app.update.staging.enabled` or `extensions.torlauncher.control_port_use_ipc` and `extensions.torlauncher.socks_port_use_ipc` to `false` (and restart the browser in the latter case) before attempting to update. The fix for this problem is shipped with this release and we will be back to a normal update experience with the update to 6.5a6. We are sorry for this inconvenience.

Here is the full changelog since 6.5a4:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 45.5.1esr
    • Update NoScript to 2.9.5.2
  • Linux
    • Bug 20691: Updater breaks if unix domain sockets are used

Tor Browser 6.5a5-hardened is released

A new hardened Tor Browser release is available. It can be found in the 6.5a5-hardened distribution directory and on the download page for hardened builds.

This release features an important security update to Firefox and contains, in addition to that, an update to NoScript (2.9.5.2) and a fix of our updater code so it can handle unix domain sockets.

The Firefox security flaw responsible for this urgent release is already actively exploited on Windows systems. Even though there is currently, to the best of our knowledge, no similar exploit for OS X or Linux users available the underlying bug affects those platforms as well. Thus we strongly recommend that all users apply the update to their Tor Browser immediately. A restart is required for it to take effect.

Tor Browser users who had set their security slider to "High" are believed to have been safe from this vulnerability.

Note regarding updating: We still require the same update procedure as experienced during an update to 6.5a4-hardened: a dialog will be shown asking to either set `app.update.staging.enabled` or `extensions.torlauncher.control_port_use_ipc` and `extensions.torlauncher.socks_port_use_ipc` to `false` (and restart the browser in the latter case) before attempting to update. The fix for this problem is shipped with this release and we will be back to a normal update experience with the update to 6.5a6-hardened. We are sorry for this inconvenience.

Here is the full changelog since 6.5a5-hardened:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 45.5.1esr
    • Update NoScript to 2.9.5.2
    • Bug 20691: Updater breaks if unix domain sockets are used
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