Blogs

Tor Browser 6.5a6-hardened is released

A new hardened Tor Browser release is available. It can be found in the 6.5a6-hardened distribution directory and on the download page for hardened builds.

This release features important security updates to Firefox. Other components got an update as well: Tor to 0.2.9.7-rc and HTTPS-Everywhere to 5.2.8.

With this release the broken preferences pane in non-en-US locales is fixed and we moved to pt-BR for Portuguese as it turns out that all our translations for Portuguese are containing Brazilian language strings. We added links to the Tor Browser Manual, an effort led by the community team to make help easier available for our users in case of problems.

Here is the full changelog since 6.5a5-hardened:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 45.6.0esr
    • Update Tor to tor-0.2.9.7-rc
    • Update Torbutton to 1.9.6.9
      • Bug 16622: Timezone spoofing moved to tor-browser.git
      • Bug 20701: Allow the directory listing stylesheet in the content policy
      • Bug 20556: Use pt-BR strings from now on
      • Bug 20614: Add links to Tor Browser User Manual
      • Bug 20414: Fix non-rendering arrow on OS X
      • Bug 20728: Fix bad preferences.xul dimensions
      • Bug 20318: Remove helpdesk link from about:tor
      • Bug 20753: Remove obsolete StartPage locale strings
      • Bug 20947: Donation banner improvements
      • Translation updates
    • Update HTTPS-Everywhere to 5.2.8
    • Bug 16622: Spoof timezone with Firefox patch
    • Bug 20707: Fix broken preferences tab in non-en-US alpha bundles
    • Bug 20709: Fix wrong update URL in alpha bundles
    • Bug 20556: Start using pt-BR instead of pt-PT for Portuguese
    • Bug 20809: Use non-/html search engine URL for DuckDuckGo search plugins
    • Bug 20837: Activate iat-mode for certain obfs4 bridges
    • Bug 20838: Uncomment NX01 default obfs4 bridge
    • Bug 20840: Rotate ports a third time for default obfs4 bridges

Tor Browser 6.5a6 is released

Tor Browser 6.5a6 is now available from the Tor Browser Project page and also from our distribution directory.

This release features important security updates to Firefox. Other components got an update as well: Tor to 0.2.9.6-rc and HTTPS-Everywhere to 5.2.8.

With this release we made progress in both the usability and security area. In the former we fixed the broken preferences pane in non-en-US bundles and moved to pt-BR bundles for Portuguese as it turns out that all our translations for Portuguese are containing Brazilian language strings. We added links to the Tor Browser Manual, an effort led by the community team to make help easier available for our users in case of problems.

On the security side we are proud to announce the first fruits of our sandboxing efforts.

On Linux the Tor Browser sandbox is centered around Linux namespaces along with seccomp-bpf, and attempts to reduce the attack surface available to adversaries to prevent exploits from succeeding, and to limit the capabilities of an attacker in the event that they do manage to compromise either the tor client instance or the browser itself. This is done by creating lightweight namespace based containers in which the Tor Browser components are run, with various restrictions imposed by the operating system. For example, the container that the browser runs in does not have an IP address to leak, or a connection to the external network except via Tor.

It is made available to end users as a separate downloadable binary, sandboxed-tor-browser, that manages installing and updating Tor Browser, configuring Tor and the sandbox, and running the actual sandboxed Tor Browser. Having bubblewrap installed is required for this to work. Additional documentation about the implementation, known issues, and frequently asked questions is available at our wiki.

We have also made some progress with sandboxing on macOS. Building on the work done in the past by IronFox and similar projects, we have created sandbox profiles for the Tor daemon and for Tor Browser itself. These profiles, along with some command line scripts that use Apple's sandbox-exec command to start Tor and Tor Browser, are included in our Tor Browser 6.5a6 OSX packages. At this time we are asking advanced users to use the OSX sandbox profiles on an experimental basis and give us feedback on any problems that they encounter. In the future, we hope to create software for macOS that is similar to the Linux Tor Browser sandbox.

Besides work on sandboxing this release features our first step in exploring options to harden the memory allocator. We have enabled jemalloc4 on Linux bundles and abort on redzone corruption. We are here especially interested in performance and stability related feedback.

Here is the full changelog since 6.5a5:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 45.6.0esr
    • Update Tor to tor-0.2.9.6-rc
    • Update Torbutton to 1.9.6.8
      • Bug 16622: Timezone spoofing moved to tor-browser.git
      • Bug 20701: Allow the directory listing stylesheet in the content policy
      • Bug 20556: Use pt-BR strings from now on
      • Bug 20614: Add links to Tor Browser User Manual
      • Bug 20414: Fix non-rendering arrow on OS X
      • Bug 20728: Fix bad preferences.xul dimensions
      • Bug 20318: Remove helpdesk link from about:tor
      • Bug 20753: Remove obsolete StartPage locale strings
      • Translation updates
    • Update HTTPS-Everywhere to 5.2.8
    • Bug 16622: Spoof timezone with Firefox patch
    • Bug 20707: Fix broken preferences tab in non-en-US alpha bundles
    • Bug 20709: Fix wrong update URL in alpha bundles
    • Bug 20556: Start using pt-BR instead of pt-PT for Portuguese
    • Bug 20809: Use non-/html search engine URL for DuckDuckGo search plugins
    • Bug 20837: Activate iat-mode for certain obfs4 bridges
    • Bug 20838: Uncomment NX01 default obfs4 bridge
    • Bug 20840: Rotate ports a third time for default obfs4 bridges
  • OS X
    • Bug 20121: Create Seatbelt profile(s) for Tor Browser
  • Linux
    • Bug 20352: Integrate sandboxed-tor-browser into our Gitian build
    • Bug 20758: Make Linux sandbox build deterministic
    • Bug 10281: Use jemalloc4 and abort on redzone corruption

Tor Browser 6.0.8 released

Tor Browser 6.0.8 is now available from the Tor Browser Project page and also from our distribution directory.

This release features important security updates to Firefox.

Besides updating Firefox to 45.6.0esr which is fixing important security bugs we ship the latest Tor stable version, 0.2.8.11. HTTPS-Everywhere is updated as well (to 5.2.8) and we make improvements to our default obfs4 bridges.

Here is the full changelog since 6.0.7:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 45.6.0esr
    • Update Tor to 0.2.8.11
    • Update Torbutton to 1.9.5.13
    • Update HTTPS-Everywhere to 5.2.8
    • Bug 20809: Use non-/html search engine URL for DuckDuckGo search plugins
    • Bug 20837: Activate iat-mode for certain obfs4 bridges
    • Bug 20838: Uncomment NX01 default obfs4 bridge
    • Bug 20840: Rotate ports a third time for default obfs4 bridges

Tor at the Heart: Riseup.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!





Riseup.net

Riseup.net was started back in 1999 after the WTO protests in Seattle. They provide online communication tools, including email, chat, file uploads and collaborative platforms for people and groups working on liberatory social change. Riseup is a project to create democratic alternatives and to practice self-determination through the control of secure means of communication.

The Riseup collective is made up of many "birds" who believe it is vital that essential communication infrastructure be controlled by movement organizations and not by corporations or governments.

They strive to keep mail as secure and private as possible. They do not log your IP address. (Most services keep detailed records of every machine that connects to their servers. Riseup only keeps information that cannot be used to uniquely identify your machine). All of your data, including your mail, is stored by riseup.net in encrypted form. They work hard to keep their servers secure and well defended against any malicious attack. They do not share any of their user data with anyone. They actively fight all attempts to subpoena or otherwise acquire any user information or logs. They do not read, search, or process any of your incoming or outgoing mail, other than by automatic means to protect you from viruses and spam or when directed to do so by you when troubleshooting.

Some of the Riseup birds work tirelessly on building secure email infrastructure, one of them runs longclaw, one of our amazing directory authorities, and all of them are dedicated to building a better Internet—and thus, incidentally, a better world. Oh, and they also run two fast Tor exit nodes, wagtail and pipit.

In addition, for years Riseup has been providing Onion Services for each of their services. Start using them today here!

We also can't thank them enough for writing this Onion Service Best Practices Guide, helping countless users and services around the Internet to be more secure, and truly making everyone not part of a DarkWeb but rather a SecureWeb (tm).

We hope we can continue this close relationship with Riseup. So many Tor users around the world depend on them for protection. Please visit our bird friends at Riseup and support their critical work!

And don't forget to donate to the Tor Project and get involved!

Thank you for reading, and soon enjoy not being in 2016 anymore! :)

Tor 0.2.9.7-rc is released: almost stable!

There's a new development release of Tor!

Tor 0.2.9.7-rc fixes a few small bugs remaining in Tor 0.2.9.6-rc, including a few that had prevented tests from passing on some platforms.

The source code for this release is now available from the download page on our website. Packages should be available soon. I expect that this Tor release will probably go into the hardened TorBrowser package series coming out in the next couple of days. (I hear that 0.2.9.6-rc will be in the regular TorBrowser alphas, since those froze a little before I finished this Tor release.)

We're rapidly running out of serious bugs to fix in 0.2.9.x, so this is probably the last release candidate before stable ... unless you find bugs while testing! Please try these releases, and let us know if anything breaks. Testing either 0.2.9.6-rc or 0.2.9.7-rc would be helpful.

Changes in version 0.2.9.7-rc - 2016-12-12

  • Minor features (geoip):
    • Update geoip and geoip6 to the December 7 2016 Maxmind GeoLite2 Country database.
  • Minor bugfix (build):
    • The current Git revision when building from a local repository is now detected correctly when using git worktrees. Fixes bug 20492; bugfix on 0.2.3.9-alpha.

  read more »

Tor at the Heart: Onion Messaging

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!




The Internet was made for humans to communicate with each other! Even though Internet calls over video and audio are totally possible nowadays, people still enjoy sending texts to each other due to their asynchronous, permanent and casual nature. To understand how important these instant messaging systems are, just check the user growth of systems like WeChat, WhatsApp, etc.





Unfortunately, all these major mainstream messaging systems belong to huge companies whose money comes from advertising and selling the data and metadata of their users.

The good news here is that in the past couple of years, there has been great progress in protecting users' data by employing end-to-end encryption using the Signal protocol. The bad news is that there has still been absolutely no progress in protecting the metadata and location information of users by these mainstream platforms.

Case in point, since most instant messaging systems are not anonymous, they get to learn the full location history of their users through the users' IP address history. Also, all major chat systems require a social media account or a phone number, which is simply impossible for some people, and it also makes it hard to create anonymous or burner accounts for everyone. It also makes you searchable and targettable by people who happen to know your phone number.

In this blog post, we showcase a few open-source text messaging tools that provide location privacy and additional security to their users by using Tor as a default. All of them are free and open source, so feel free to experiment!

Ricochet

Ricochet is an anonymous instant messaging tool that hides metadata by using Tor. It's got a slick UI and works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

In the Ricochet protocol, each user is a Tor onion service. By utilizing onion services, the protocol achieves strong anonymity for its users. And because of its decentralized nature, it's impossible for attackers to censor it by taking down a single server.

Ricochet is designed with UX in mind, so it's easily usable even by people who don't understand how Tor works.





Chatsecure

If you happen to only use mobile platforms (like most of the world these days), Chatsecure is an app that you should check out! It works for both Android and iOS, and it allows you to connect to XMPP servers to communicate over encrypted OTR chat. This means that you can also use it to connect to other XMPP-enabled messaging systems like Facebook chat and Google Talk.

It's developed by the Guardian Project, and it's a part of their software suite for private communications that includes Orbot and Orfox. Stay tuned on our blog for more information about this software family later this December!





And now for further excitement, let's get into the more experimental sections of the secure messaging space!

Pond

Pond is an anonymous instant messaging tool with various sophisticated security properties that is capable of hiding even the metadata of its users.

The protocol is designed in such a way that even a nasty attacker who is constantly monitoring your Internet connection will have a very hard time figuring out when you actually send and receive Pond messages, even if she conducts statistical analysis of your traffic patterns. Smoke and mirrors you might say, but if you like protocols, we invite you to check out the Pond protocol specs.

Unfortunately, Pond is a side-project, and due to lack of free time, the project is not currently actively being developed, even though there is still a community of users. It only works on Linux, and it has a GUI interface.





Briar

Briar is an experimental P2P messaging system that is currently in private beta. It targets mobile users and is closely integrated with Tor onion services.

The Briar protocol is fully decentralized, and all communication is end-to-end encrypted. It aims to be highly resilient against network failures, and so it can also function over Bluetooth or WiFi. Furthermore, it attempts to hide the social graph of its users by keeping the user contact list on the client side.





Future directions

As you can see, there have been multiple efforts for private and metadata-hiding communication over the past years. Some of these projects are supposed to be used on top of already existing chat frameworks, whereas others aim to create their own ecosystems.

Of course, the research realm of secure messaging is far from complete; it's just getting started. From improving the UX to adding new security properties, this field needs further thinking all around.

For example, secure multiparty messaging is a very important upcoming field that studies how the protocols above that are designed for 1-to-1 communication can scale to hundreds of clients talking at the same time while maintaining their security properties.

Furthermore, as global surveillance is growing, we better understand the importance of hiding metadata from network attackers. Only now are we starting to grasp the importance of security properties like obfuscating communication patterns, hiding the users' social graph and letting users choose when to reveal their online presence.

Tor is extremely interested in the instant messaging space, and we are always on the lookout for innovative developments and interesting messaging projects. We have deep gratitude to all of the people who have helped to push the field of secure messaging forward, and we hope to enable them in the future to provide anonymous communication tools!

Donate and we will make it happen! :)

Tor at the Heart: Bridges and Pluggable Transports

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

Technology against censorship: bridges and pluggable transports

You can use Tor to view websites that are censored or blocked. But what do you do when Tor itself is blocked? When it happens, you can use bridges and pluggable transports to get around the censors. Here is how to do it in Tor Browser:

Animated graphic showing 6 steps to configuring pluggable transports.

How does it work?

Censors block Tor in two ways: they can block connections to the IP addresses of known Tor relays, and they can analyze network traffic to find use of the Tor protocol. Bridges are secret Tor relays—they don't appear in any public list, so the censor doesn't know which addresses to block. Pluggable transports disguise the Tor protocol by making it look like something else—for example like HTTP or completely random.

There are several pluggable transports, and it can be hard to know which one to use. If it is your first time, try obfs4: it is a randomizing transport that works for most people. If obfs4 doesn't work, try fte. If that doesn't work, it may mean that the default bridges are blocked, and you should get a custom bridge from bridges.torproject.org. If the custom bridge doesn't work, try meek-azure or meek-amazon.

  • obfs4 is a randomizing transport: it adds an extra layer of specialized encryption between you and your bridge that makes Tor traffic look like random bytes. It also resists active-probing attacks, where the censor discovers bridges by trying to connect to them. obfs3 and scramblesuit are similar in nature to obfs4.
  • fte makes Tor traffic resemble plain HTTP. The name stands for "Format-Transforming Encryption."
  • meek makes Tor traffic look like a connection to an HTTPS website. Unlike the other transports, it doesn't connect directly to a bridge. meek first connects to a real HTTPS web server (in the Amazon cloud or the Microsoft Azure cloud) and from there connects to the actual bridge. Censors cannot easily block meek connections because the HTTPS servers also provide many other useful services.

There are a number of built-in, default bridges, which you can use just by choosing a pluggable transport name. For better secrecy, you should get custom bridges from bridges.torproject.org. meek doesn't need custom bridges; however it is slower and more expensive to operate than the other pluggable transports, so you should use obfs4 or fte if they work for you.

Tor is not the only project to use pluggable transports. We work often with researchers and developers to study Internet censorship, improve pluggable transports, and develop new ones. Psiphon and Lantern are two other projects that use pluggable transports. (Unlike Tor, they focus only on access and not on anonymity.)

If you are not censored yourself, you can help censored people by running a bridge with a pluggable transport. Running a bridge is the same as running a relay, just with a little extra configuration. See this guide: Become a PT bridge operator! Once your bridge is running, it will automatically become available to users at bridges.torproject.org.

The world of censorship is changing all the time. It's a good idea to learn how to use bridges and pluggable transports before you actually need them. Just last week, ISPs in Belarus began blocking public Tor relays—but bridges and pluggable transports are so far working to defeat the blocks. We are tracking other censorship events, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere. If you know details of these or any other Tor blocks, please tell us. The best way to do that is to leave a comment on our bug tracker. (You can create an account first.)

Tor at the Heart: Tails

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

Tails

Tails is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer's original operating system. It is free software and based on Debian GNU/Linux. Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: a web browser, an instant messaging client, an email client, an office suite, an image and sound editor, etc.

Tails aims at preserving privacy and anonymity online and allows users to:

  • Use the Internet anonymously to circumvent censorship; all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network. If an application tries to connect to the Internet directly, the connection is automatically blocked for security.
  • Leave no trace on the computer by default.
  • Use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt files, emails and instant messaging.

Tails is configured with special care to not use the computer's hard-disks, even if there is some swap space on them. The only storage space used by Tails is in RAM, which is automatically erased when the computer shuts down. So you won't leave any trace on the computer either of the Tails system itself or what you used it for. This allows you to work with sensitive documents on any computer and protects you from data recovery after shutdown. Of course, you can still explicitly save specific documents to another USB stick or external hard-disk and take them away for future use.

Tails also comes with a selection of tools to protect your data using strong encryption:

  • Encrypt your USB sticks or external hard-disks using LUKS.
  • Automatically use HTTPS to encrypt all your communications to many major websites using HTTPS Everywhere.
  • Encrypt and sign your emails and documents using OpenPGP.
  • Protect your instant messaging conversations using OTR.
  • Securely delete your files and clean your diskspace using Nautilus Wipe.

Tails provides a secure platform that improves endpoint security by making it comparatively easier to use the right tools in the right way, protecting even less tech-savvy users from the most likely and highest impact risks.

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