OpenSSL bug CVE-2014-0160

A new OpenSSL vulnerability on 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f is out today, which can be used to reveal memory to a connected client or server.

If you're using an older OpenSSL version, you're safe.

Note that this bug affects way more programs than just Tor — expect everybody who runs an https webserver to be scrambling today. If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the Internet, you might want to stay away from the Internet entirely for the next few days while things settle.

Here are our first thoughts on what Tor components are affected:

  1. Clients: The browser part of Tor Browser shouldn't be affected, since it uses libnss rather than openssl. But the Tor client part is: Tor clients could possibly be induced to send sensitive information like "what sites you visited in this session" to your entry guards. If you're using TBB we'll have new bundles out shortly; if you're using your operating system's Tor package you should get a new OpenSSL package and then be sure to manually restart your Tor. [update: the bundles are out, and you should upgrade]
  2. Relays and bridges: Tor relays and bridges could maybe be made to leak their medium-term onion keys (rotated once a week), or their long-term relay identity keys. An attacker who has your relay identity key can publish a new relay descriptor indicating that you're at a new location (not a particularly useful attack). An attacker who has your relay identity key, has your onion key, and can intercept traffic flows to your IP address can impersonate your relay (but remember that Tor's multi-hop design means that attacking just one relay in the client's path is not very useful). In any case, best practice would be to update your OpenSSL package, discard all the files in keys/ in your DataDirectory, and restart your Tor to generate new keys. (You will need to update your MyFamily torrc lines if you run multiple relays.) [update: we've cut the vulnerable relays out of the network]
  3. Hidden services: Tor hidden services might leak their long-term hidden service identity keys to their guard relays. Like the last big OpenSSL bug, this shouldn't allow an attacker to identify the location of the hidden service [edit: if it's your entry guard that extracted your key, they know where they got it from]. Also, an attacker who knows the hidden service identity key can impersonate the hidden service. Best practice would be to move to a new hidden-service address at your convenience.
  4. Directory authorities: In addition to the keys listed in the "relays and bridges" section above, Tor directory authorities might leak their medium-term authority signing keys. Once you've updated your OpenSSL package, you should generate a new signing key. Long-term directory authority identity keys are offline so should not be affected (whew). More tricky is that clients have your relay identity key hard-coded, so please don't rotate that yet. We'll see how this unfolds and try to think of a good solution there.
  5. Tails is still tracking Debian oldstable, so it should not be affected by this bug.
  6. Orbot looks vulnerable; they have some new packages available for testing.
  7. The webservers in the rotation needed (and got) upgrades. Maybe we'll need to throw away our torproject SSL web cert and get a new one too.

Mission Impossible: Hardening Android for Security and Privacy

Updates: See the Changes section for a list of changes since initial posting.

Executive Summary

The future is here, and ahead of schedule. Come join us, the weather's nice.

This blog post describes the installation and configuration of a prototype of a secure, full-featured, Android telecommunications device with full Tor support, individual application firewalling, true cell network baseband isolation, and optional ZRTP encrypted voice and video support. ZRTP does run over UDP which is not yet possible to send over Tor, but we are able to send SIP account login and call setup over Tor independently.

The SIP client we recommend also supports dialing normal telephone numbers if you have a SIP gateway that provides trunking service.

Aside from a handful of binary blobs to manage the device firmware and graphics acceleration, the entire system can be assembled (and recompiled) using only FOSS components. However, as an added bonus, we will describe how to handle the Google Play store as well, to mitigate the two infamous Google Play Backdoors.


Android is the most popular mobile platform in the world, with a wide variety of applications, including many applications that aid in communications security, censorship circumvention, and activist organization. Moreover, the core of the Android platform is Open Source, auditable, and modifiable by anyone.

Unfortunately though, mobile devices in general and Android devices in particular have not been designed with privacy in mind. In fact, they've seemingly been designed with nearly the opposite goal: to make it easy for third parties, telecommunications companies, sophisticated state-sized adversaries, and even random hackers to extract all manner of personal information from the user. This includes the full content of personal communications with business partners and loved ones. Worse still, by default, the user is given very little in the way of control or even informed consent about what information is being collected and how.

This post aims to address this, but we must first admit we stand on the shoulders of giants. Organizations like Cyanogen, F-Droid, the Guardian Project, and many others have done a great deal of work to try to improve this situation by restoring control of Android devices to the user, and to ensure the integrity of our personal communications. However, all of these projects have shortcomings and often leave gaps in what they provide and protect. Even in cases where proper security and privacy features exist, they typically require extensive configuration to use safely, securely, and correctly.

This blog post enumerates and documents these gaps, describes workarounds for serious shortcomings, and provides suggestions for future work.

It is also meant to serve as a HOWTO to walk interested, technically capable people through the end-to-end installation and configuration of a prototype of a secure and private Android device, where access to the network is restricted to an approved list of applications, and all traffic is routed through the Tor network.

It is our hope that this work can be replicated and eventually fully automated, given a good UI, and rolled into a single ROM or ROM addon package for ease of use. Ultimately, there is no reason why this system could not become a full fledged off the shelf product, given proper hardware support and good UI for the more technical bits.

The remainder of this document is divided into the following sections:

  1. Hardware Selection
  2. Installation and Setup
  3. Google Apps Setup
  4. Recommended Software
  5. Device Backup Procedure
  6. Removing the Built-in Microphone
  7. Removing Baseband Remnants
  8. Future Work
  9. Changes Since Initial Posting

Hardware Selection

If you truly wish to secure your mobile device from remote compromise, it is necessary to carefully select your hardware. First and foremost, it is absolutely essential that the carrier's baseband firmware is completely isolated from the rest of the platform. Because your cell phone baseband does not authenticate the network (in part to allow roaming), any random hacker with their own cell network can exploit these backdoors and use them to install malware on your device.

While there are projects underway to determine which handsets actually provide true hardware baseband isolation, at the time of this writing there is very little public information available on this topic. Hence, the only safe option remains a device with no cell network support at all (though cell network connectivity can still be provided by a separate device). For the purposes of this post, the reference device is the WiFi-only version of the 2013 Google Nexus 7 tablet.

For users who wish to retain full mobile access, we recommend obtaining a cell modem device that provides a WiFi access point for data services only. These devices do not have microphones and in some cases do not even have fine-grained GPS units (because they are not able to make emergency calls). They are also available with prepaid plans, for rates around $20-30 USD per month, for about 2GB/month of 4G data. If coverage and reliability is important to you though, you may want to go with a slightly more expensive carrier. In the US, T-Mobile isn't bad, but Verizon is superb.

To increase battery life of your cell connection, you can connect this access point to an external mobile USB battery pack, which typically will provide 36-48 hours of continuous use with a 6000mAh battery.

The total cost of a Wifi-only tablet with cell modem and battery pack is only roughly USD $50 more than the 4G LTE version of the same device.

In this way, you achieve true baseband isolation, with no risk of audio or network surveillance, baseband exploits, or provider backdoors. Effectively, this cell modem is just another untrusted router in a long, long chain of untrustworthy Internet infrastructure.

However, do note though that even if the cell unit does not contain a fine-grained GPS, you still sacrifice location privacy while using it. Over an extended period of time, it will be possible to make inferences about your physical activity, behavior and personal preferences, and your identity, based on cell tower use alone.

Installation and Setup

We will focus on the installation of Cyanogenmod 11 using Team Win Recovery Project, both to give this HOWTO some shelf life, and because Cyanogenmod 11 features full SELinux support (Dear NSA: What happened to you guys? You used to be cool. Well, some of you. Some of the time. Maybe. Or maybe not).

The use of Google Apps and Google Play services is not recommended due to security issues with Google Play. However, we do provide workarounds for mitigating those issues, if Google Play is required for your use case.

Installation and Setup: ROM and Core App Installation

With the 2013 Google Nexus 7 tablet, installation is fairly straight-forward. In fact, it is actually possible to install and use the device before associating it with a Google Account in any way. This is a desirable property, because by default, the otherwise mandatory initial setup process of the stock Google ROM sends your device MAC address directly to Google and links it to your Google account (all without using Tor, of course).

The official Cyanogenmod installation instructions are available online, but with a fresh out of the box device, here are the key steps for installation without activating the default ROM code at all (using Team Win Recovery Project instead of ClockWorkMod).

First, on your desktop/laptop computer (preferably Linux), perform the following:

  1. Download the latest CyanogenMod 11 release (we used cm-11-20140504-SNAPSHOT-M6)
  2. Download the latest Team Win Recovery Project image (we used
  3. Download the F-Droid package (we used 0.66)
  4. Download the Orbot package from F-Droid (we used 13.0.7)
  5. Download the Droidwall package from F-Droid (we used 1.5.7)
  6. Download the Droidwall Firewall Scripts attached to this blogpost
  7. Download the Google Apps for Cyanogenmod 11 (optional)

Because the download integrity for all of these packages is abysmal, here is a signed set of SHA256 hashes I've observed for those packages.

Once you have all of those packages, boot your tablet into fastboot mode by holding the Power button and the Volume Down button during a cold boot. Then, attach it to your desktop/laptop machine with a USB cable and run the following commands from a Linux/UNIX shell:

 apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot
 fastboot devices
 fastboot oem unlock
 fastboot flash recovery openrecovery-twrp-

After the recovery firmware is flashed successfully, use the volume keys to select Recovery and hit the power button to reboot the device (or power it off, and then boot holding Power and Volume Up).

Once Team Win boots, go into Wipe and select Advanced Wipe. Select all checkboxes except for USB-OTG, and slide to wipe. Once the wipe is done, click Format Data. After the format completes, issue these commands from your Linux shell:

 adb server start
 adb push /sdcard/
 adb push /sdcard/ # Optional

After this push process completes, go to the Install menu, and select the Cyanogen zip, and optionally the gapps zip for installation. Then click Reboot, and select System.

After rebooting into your new installation, skip all CyanogenMod and Google setup, disable location reporting, and immediately disable WiFi and turn on Airplane mode.

Then, go into Settings -> About Tablet and scroll to the bottom and click the greyed out Build number 5 times until developer mode is enabled. Then go into Settings -> Developer Options and turn on USB Debugging.

After that, run the following commands from your Linux shell:

 adb install FDroid.apk
 adb install org.torproject.android_86.apk
 adb install com.googlecode.droidwall_157.apk

You will need to approve the ADB connection for the first package, and then they should install normally.

VERY IMPORTANT: Whenever you finish using adb, always remember to disable USB Debugging and restore Root Access to Apps only. While Android 4.2+ ROMs now prompt you to authorize an RSA key fingerprint before allowing a debugging connection (thus mitigating adb exploit tools that bypass screen lock and can install root apps), you still risk additional vulnerability surface by leaving debugging enabled.

Installation and Setup: Initial Configuration

After the base packages are installed, go into the Settings app, and make the following changes:

  1. Wireless & Networks More... =>
    • Temporarily Disable Airplane Mode
    • NFC -> Disable
    • Re-enable Airplane Mode
  2. Location Access -> Off
  3. Security =>
    • PIN screen Lock
    • Allow Unknown Sources (For F-Droid)
  4. Language & Input =>
    • Spell Checker -> Android Spell Checker -> Disable Contact Names
    • Disable Google Voice Typing/Hotword detection
    • Android Keyboard (AOSP) =>
      • Disable AOSP next-word suggestion (do this first!)
      • Auto-correction -> Off
  5. Backup & reset =>
    • Enable Back up my data (just temporarily, for the next step)
    • Uncheck Automatic restore
    • Disable Backup my data
  6. About Tablet -> Cyanogenmod Statistics -> Disable reporting
  7. Developer Options -> Device Hostname -> localhost
  8. SuperUser -> Settings (three dots) -> Notifications -> Notification (not toast)
  9. Privacy -> Privacy Guard =>
    • Enabled by default
    • Settings (three dots) -> Show Built In Apps
    • Enable Privacy Guard for every app with the following exceptions:
      • Calendar
      • Config Updater
      • Google Account Manager (long press)
        • Modify Settings -> Off
        • Wifi Change -> Off
        • Data Change -> Off
      • Google Play Services (long press)
        • Location -> Off
        • Modify Settings -> Off
        • Draw on top -> Off
        • Record Audio -> Off
        • Wifi Change -> Off
      • Google Play Store (long press)
        • Location -> Off
        • Send SMS -> Off
        • Modify Settings -> Off
        • Data change -> Off
      • Google Services Framework (long press)
        • Modify Settings -> Off
        • Wifi Change -> Off
        • Data Change -> Off
      • Trebuchet

Now, it is time to encrypt your tablet. It is important to do this step early, as I have noticed additional apps and configuration tweaks can make this process fail later on.

We will also do this from the shell, in order to set a different password than your screen unlock pin. This is done to mitigate the risk of compromise of this password from shoulder surfers, and to allow the use of a much longer (and non-numeric) password that you would prefer not to type every time you unlock the screen.

To do this, open the Terminal app, and type the following commands:

vdc cryptfs enablecrypto inplace NewMoreSecurePassword

Watch for typos! That command does not ask you to re-type that password for confirmation.

Installation and Setup: Disabling Invasive Apps and Services

Before you configure the Firewall or enable the network, you likely want to disable at least a subset of the following built-in apps and services, by using Settings -> Apps -> All, and then clicking on each app and hitting the Disable button:

  • Face Unlock
  • Google Backup Transport
  • Google Calendar Sync
  • Google One Time Init
  • Google Partner Setup
  • Google Contacts Sync
  • Google Search
  • Hangouts
  • Market Feedback Agent
  • News & Weather
  • One Time Init
  • Picasa Updater
  • Sound Search for Google Play
  • TalkBack

Installation and Setup: Tor and Firewall configuration

Ok, now let's install the firewall and tor support scripts. Go back into Settings -> Developer Options and enable USB Debugging and change Root Access to Apps and ADB. Then, unzip the on your laptop, and run the installation script:


That firewall installation provides several key scripts that provide functionality that is currently impossible to achieve with any app (including Orbot):

  1. It installs a userinit script to block all network access during boot.
  2. It disables "Google Captive Portal Detection", which involves connection attempts to Google servers upon Wifi assocation (these requests are made by the Android Settings UID, which should normally be blocked from the network, unless you are first registering for Google Play).
  3. It contains a Droidwall script that configures Tor transproxy rules to send all of your traffic through Tor. These rules include a fix for a Linux kernel Tor transproxy packet leak issue.
  4. The main Droidwall script also includes an input firewall, to block all inbound connections to the device. It also fixes a Droidwall permissions vulnerability
  5. It installs an optional script to allow the Browser app to bypass Tor for logging into WiFi captive portals.
  6. It installs an optional script to temporarily allow network adb access when you need it (if you are paranoid about USB exploits, which you should be).
  7. It provides an optional script to allow the UDP activity of LinPhone to bypass Tor, to allow ZRTP-encrypted Voice and Video SIP/VoIP calls. SIP account login/registration and call setup/signaling can be done over TCP, and Linphone's TCP activity is still sent through Tor with this script.

Note that with the exception of the userinit network blocking script, installing these scripts does not activate them. You still need to configure Droidwall to use them.

We use Droidwall instead of Orbot or AFWall+ for five reasons:

  1. Droidwall's app-based firewall and Orbot's transproxy are known to conflict and reset one another.
  2. Droidwall does not randomly drop transproxy rules when switching networks (Orbot has had several of these types of bugs).
  3. Unlike AFWall+, Droidwall is able to auto-launch at "boot" (though still not before the network and Android Services come online and make connections).
  4. AFWall+'s "fix" for this startup data leak problem does not work on Cyanogenmod (hence our userinit script instead).
  5. Aside from the permissions issue fixed by our script, AFWall+ provides no additional security fixes over the stock Droidwall.

To make use of the firewall scripts, open up Droidwall and hit the config button (the vertical three dots), go to More -> Set Custom Script. Enter the following:

. /data/local/
#. /data/local/
#. /data/local/
#. /data/local/

NOTE: You must not make any typos in the above. If you mistype any of those files, things may break. Because the script blocks all network at boot, if you make a typo in the torify script, you will be unable to use the Internet at all!

Also notice that these scripts have been installed into a readonly root directory. Because they are run as root, installing them to a world-writable location like /sdcard/ is extremely unwise.

Later, if you want to enable one of network adb, LinPhone UDP, or captive portal login, go back into this window and remove the leading comment ('#') from the appropriate lines (this is obviously one of the many aspects of this prototype that could benefit from real UI).

Then, configure the apps you want to allow to access the network. Note that the only Android system apps that must access the network are:

  • CM Updater
  • Downloads, Media Storage, Download Manager
  • F-Droid

Orbot's network access is handled via the main script. You do not need to enable full network access to Orbot in Droidwall.

The rest of the apps you can enable at your discretion. They will all be routed through Tor automatically.

Once Droidwall is configured, you can click on the Menu (three dots) and click the "Firewall Disabled" button to enable the firewall. Then, you can enable Orbot. Do not grant Orbot superuser access. It still opens the transproxy ports you need without root, and Droidwall is managing installation of the transproxy rules, not Orbot.

You are now ready to enable Wifi and network access on your device. For vulnerability surface reduction, you may want to use the Advanced Options -> Static IP to manually enter an IP address for your device to avoid using dhclient. You do not need a DNS server, and can safely set it to

Google Apps Setup

If you installed the Google Apps zip, you need to do a few things now to set it up, and to further harden your device. If you opted out of Google Apps, you can skip to the next section.

Google Apps Setup: Initializing Google Play

The first time you use Google Play, you will need to enable four apps in Droidwall: "Google Account Manager, Google Play Services...", "Settings, Dev Tools, Fused Location...", "Gmail", and "Google Play" itself.

If you do not have a Google account, your best bet is to find open wifi to create one, as Google will often block accounts created through Tor, even if you use an Android device.

After you log in for the first time, you should be able to disable the "Google Account Manager, Google Play Services...", "Gmail", and the "Settings..." apps in Droidwall, but your authentication tokens in Google Play may expire periodically. If this happens, you should only need to temporarily enable the "Google Account Manager, Google Play Services..." app in Droidwall to obtain new ones.

Google Apps Setup: Mitigating the Google Play Backdoors

If you do choose to use Google Play, you need to be very careful about how you allow it to access the network. In addition to the risks associated with using a proprietary App Store that can send you targeted malware-infected packages based on your Google Account, it has at least two major user experience flaws:

  1. Anyone who is able to gain access to your Google account can silently install root or full permission apps without any user interaction what-so-ever. Once installed, these apps can retroactively clear what little installation notification and UI-based evidence of their existence there was in the first place.
  2. The Android Update Process does not inform the user of changes in permissions of pending update apps that happen to get installed after an Android upgrade.

The first issue can be mitigated by ensuring that Google Play does not have access to the network when not in use, by disabling it in Droidwall. If you do not do this, apps can be installed silently behind your back. Welcome to the Google Experience.

For the second issue, you can install the SecCheck utility, to monitor your apps for changes in permissions during a device upgrade.

Google Apps Setup: Disabling Google Cloud Messaging

If you have installed the Google Apps zip, you have also enabled a feature called Google Cloud Messaging.

The Google Cloud Messaging Service allows apps to register for asynchronous remote push notifications from Google, as well as send outbound messages through Google.

Notification registration and outbound messages are sent via the app's own UID, so using Droidwall to disable network access by an app is enough to prevent outbound data, and notification registration. However, if you ever allow network access to an app, and it does successfully register for notifications, these notifications can be delivered even when the app is once again blocked from accessing the network by Droidwall.

These inbound notifications can be blocked by disabling network access to the "Google Account Manager, Google Play Services, Google Services Framework, Google Contacts Sync" in Droidwall. In fact, the only reason you should ever need to enable network access by this service is if you need to log in to Google Play again if your authentication tokens ever expire.

If you would like to test your ability to control Google Cloud Messaging, there are two apps in the Google Play store than can help with this. GCM Test allows for simple send and receive pings through GCM. Push Notification Tester will allow you to test registration and asynchronous GCM notification.

Recommended Privacy and Auditing Software

Ok, so now that we have locked down our Android device, now for the fun bit: secure communications!

We recommend the following apps from F-Droid:

  1. Xabber
  2. Xabber is a full Java implementation of XMPP, and supports both OTR and Tor. Its UI is a bit more streamlined than Guardian Project's ChatSecure, and it does not make use of any native code components (which are more vulnerable to code execution exploits than pure Java code). Unfortunately, this means it lacks some of ChatSecure's nicer features, such as push-to-talk voice and file transfer.

    Despite better protection against code execution, it does have several insecure default settings. In particular, you want to make the following changes:

    • Notifications -> Message text in Notifications -> Off (notifications can be read by other apps!)
    • Accounts -> Integration into system accounts -> Off
    • Accounts -> Store message history -> Don't Store
    • Security -> Store History -> Off
    • Security -> Check Server Certificate
    • Chat -> Show Typing Notifications -> Off
    • Connection Settings -> Auto-away -> disabled
    • Connection Settings -> Extended away when idle -> Disabled
    • Keep Wifi Awake -> On
    • Prevent sleep Mode -> On
  3. Offline Calendar
  4. Offline Calendar is a hack to allow you to create a fake local Google account that does not sync to Google. This allows you to use the Calendar App without risk of leaking your activities to Google. Note that you must exempt both this app and Calendar from Privacy Guard for it to function properly.

  5. LinPhone
  6. LinPhone is a FOSS SIP client that supports TCP TLS signaling and ZRTP. Note that neither TLS nor ZRTP are enabled by default. You must manually enable them in Settings -> Network -> Transport and Settings -> Network -> Media Encryption. is a free SIP service run by the Guardian Project that supports only TLS and ZRTP, but does not allow outdialing to normal PSTN telephone numbers. While Bitcoin has many privacy issues of its own, the Bitcoin community maintains a couple lists of "trunking" providers that allow you to obtain a PSTN phone number in exchange for Bitcoin payment.

  7. Plumble

    Plumble is a Mumble client that will route voice traffic over Tor, which is useful if you would like to communicate with someone over voice without revealing your IP to them, or your activity to a local network observer. However, unlike Linphone, voice traffic is not end-to-end encrypted, so the Mumble server can listen to your conversations.

  8. K-9 Mail and APG

    K-9 Mail is a POP/IMAP client that supports TLS and integrates well with APG, which will allow you to send and receive GPG-encrypted mail easily. Before using it, you should be aware of two things: It identifies itself in your mail headers, which opens you up to targeted attacks specifically tailored for K-9 Mail and/or Android, and by default it includes the subject of messages in mail notifications (which is bad, because other apps can read notifications). There is a privacy option to disable subject text in notifications, but there is no option to disable the user agent in the mail headers.

  9. OSMAnd~
  10. A free offline mapping tool. While the UI is a little clunky, it does support voice navigation and driving directions, and is a handy, private alternative to Google Maps.

  11. VLC

    The VLC port in F-Droid is a fully capable media player. It can play mp3s and most video formats in use today. It is a handy, private alternative to Google Music and other closed-source players that often report your activity to third party advertisers. VLC does not need network access to function.

  12. Firefox
  13. We do not yet have a port of Tor Browser for Android (though one is underway -- see the Future Work section). Unless you want to use Google Play to get Chrome, Firefox is your best bet for a web browser that receives regular updates (the built in Browser app does not). HTTPS-Everywhere and NoScript are available, at least.

  14. Bitcoin
  15. Bitcoin might not be the most private currency in the world. In fact, you might even say it's the least private currency in the world. But, it is a neat toy.

  16. Launch App Ops

    The Launch App Ops app is a simple shortcut into the hidden application permissions editor in Android. A similar interface is available through Settings -> Privacy -> Privacy Guard, but a direct shortcut to edit permissions is handy. It also displays some additional system apps that Privacy Guard omits.

  17. Permissions

    The Permissions app gives you a view of all Android permissions, and shows you which apps have requested a given permission. This is particularly useful to disable the record audio permission for apps that you don't want to suddenly decide to listen to you. (Interestingly, the Record Audio permission disable feature was broken in all Android ROMs I tested, aside from Cyanogenmod 11. You can test this yourself by revoking the permission from the Sound Recorder app, and verifying that it cannot record.)

  18. CatLog
  19. In addition to being supercute, CatLog is an excellent Android monitoring and debugging tool. It allows you to monitor and record the full set of Android log events, which can be helpful in diagnosing issues with apps.

  20. OS Monitor
  21. OS Monitor is an excellent Android process and connection monitoring app, that can help you watch for CPU usage and connection attempts by your apps.

  22. Intent Intercept
  23. Intent Intercept allows you to inspect and extract Android Intent content without allowing it to get forwarded to an actual app. This is useful for monitoring how apps attempt to communicate with eachother, though be aware it only covers one of the mechanisms of inter-app communication in Android.

Backing up Your Device Without Google

Now that your device is fully configured and installed, you probably want to know how to back it up without sending all of your private information directly to Google. While the Team Win Recovery Project will back up all of your system settings and apps (even if your device is encrypted), it currently does not back up the contents of your virtualized /sdcard. Remembering to do a couple adb pulls of key directories can save you a lot of heartache should you suffer some kind of data loss or hardware failure (or simply drop your tablet on a bridge while in a rush to catch a train).

The script uses adb to pull your Download and Pictures directories from the /sdcard, as well as pulls the entire TWRP backup directory.

Before you use that script, you probably want to delete old TWRP backup folders so as to only pull one backup, to reduce pull time. These live in /sdcard/TWRP/BACKUPS/, which is also known as /storage/emulated/0/TWRP/BACKUPS in the File Manager app.

To use this script over the network without a usb cable, enable both USB Debugging and ADB Over Network in your developer settings. The script does not require you to enable root access from adb, and you should not enable root because it takes quite a while to run a backup, especially if you are using network adb.

Prior to using network adb, you must edit your Droidwall custom scripts to allow it (by removing the '#' in the #. /data/local/ line you entered earlier), and then run the following commands from a non-root Linux shell on your desktop/laptop (the ADB Over Network setting will tell you the IP and port):

killall adb
adb connect ip:5555

VERY IMPORTANT: Don't forget to disable USB Debugging, as well as the Droidwall adb exemption when you are done with the backup!

Removing the Built-in Microphone

If you would really like to ensure that your device cannot listen to you even if it is exploited, it turns out it is very straight-forward to remove the built-in microphone in the Nexus 7. There is only one mic on the 2013 model, and it is located just below the volume buttons (the tiny hole).

To remove it, all you need to do is pop off the the back panel (this can be done with your fingernails, or a tiny screwdriver), and then you can shave the microphone right off that circuit board, and reattach the panel. I have done this to one of my devices, and it was subsequently unable to record audio at all, without otherwise affecting functionality.

You can still use apps that require a microphone by plugging in headphone headset that contains a mic built in (these cost around $20 and you can get them from nearly any consumer electronics store). I have also tested this, and was still able to make a Linphone call from a device with the built in microphone removed, but with an external headset. Note that the 2012 Nexus 7 does not support these combination microphone+headphone jacks (and it has a secondary microphone as well). You must have the 2013 model.

The 2013 Nexus 7 Teardown video can give you an idea of what this looks like before you try it. Again you do not need to fully disassemble the device - you only need to remove the back cover.

Pro-Tip: Before you go too crazy and start ripping out the cameras too, remember that you can cover the cameras with a sticker or tape when not in use. I have found that regular old black electrical tape applies seamlessly, is non-obvious to casual onlookers, and is easy to remove without smudging or gunking up the lenses. Better still, it can be removed and reapplied many times without losing its adhesive.

Removing the Remnants of the Baseband

There is one more semi-hardware mod you may want to make, though.

It turns out that the 2013 Wifi Nexus 7 does actually have a partition that contains a cell network baseband firmware on it, located on the filesystem as the block device /dev/block/platform/msm_sdcc.1/by-name/radio. If you run strings on that block device from the shell, you can see that all manner of CDMA and GSM log messages, comments, and symbols are present in that partition.

According to ADB logs, Cyanogenmod 11 actually does try to bring up a cell network radio at boot on my Wifi-only Nexus 7, but fails due to it being disabled. There is also a strong economic incentive for Asus and Google to make it extremely difficult to activate the baseband even if the hardware is otherwise identical for manufacturing reasons, since they sell the WiFi-only version for $100 less. If it were easy to re-enable the baseband, HOWTOs would exist (which they do not seem to, at least not yet), and they would cut into their LTE device sales.

Even so, since we lack public schematics for the Nexus 7 to verify that cell components are actually missing or hardware-disabled, it may be wise to wipe this radio firmware as well, as defense in depth.

To do this, open the Terminal app, and run:

cd /dev/block/platform/msm_sdcc.1/by-name
dd if=/dev/zero of=./radio

I have wiped that partition while the device was running without any issue, or any additional errors from ADB logs.

Note that an anonymous commenter also suggested it is possible to disable the baseband of a cell-enabled device using a series of Android service disable commands, and by wiping that radio block device. I have not tested this on a device other than the WiFI-only Nexus 7, though, so proceed with caution. If you try those steps on a cell-enabled device, you should archive a copy of your radio firmware first by doing something like the following from that dev directory that contains the radio firmware block device.

dd if=./radio of=/sdcard/radio.img

If anything goes wrong, you can restore that image with:

dd if=/sdcard/radio.img of=./radio

Future Work

In addition to streamlining the contents of this post into a single additional Cyanogenmod installation zip or alternative ROM, the following problems remain unsolved.

Future Work: Better Usability

While arguably very secure, this system is obviously nowhere near usable. Here are some potential improvements to the user interface, based on a brainstorming session I had with another interested developer.

First of all, the AFWall+/Droidwall UI should be changed to be a tri-state: It should allow you to send app traffic over Tor, over your normal internet connection, or block it entirely.

Next, during app installation from either F-Droid or Google Play (this is an Intent another addon app can actually listen for), the user should be given the chance to decide if they would like that app's traffic to be routed over Tor, use the normal Internet connection, or be blocked entirely from accessing the network. Currently, the Droidwall default for new apps is "no network", which is a great default, but it would be nice to ask users what they would like to do during actual app installation.

Moreover, users should also be given a chance to edit the app's permissions upon installation as well, should they desire to do so.

The Google Play situation could also be vastly improved, should Google itself still prove unwilling to improve the situation. Google Play could be wrapped in a launcher app that automatically grants it network access prior to launch, and then disables it upon leaving the window.

A similar UI could be added to LinPhone. Because the actual voice and video transport for LinPhone does not use Tor, it is possible for an adversary to learn your SIP ID or phone number, and then call you just for the purposes of learning your IP. Because we handle call setup over Tor, we can prevent LinPhone from performing any UDP activity, or divulging your IP to the calling party prior to user approval of the call. Ideally, we would also want to inform the user of the fact that incoming calls can be used to obtain information about them, at least prior to accepting their first call from an unknown party.

Future Work: Find Hardware with Actual Isolated Basebands

Related to usability, it would be nice if we could have a serious community effort to audit the baseband isolation properties of existing cell phones, so we all don't have to carry around these ridiculous battery packs and sketch-ass wifi bridges. There is no engineering reason why this prototype could not be just as secure if it were a single piece of hardware. We just need to find the right hardware.

A random commenter claimed that the Galaxy Nexus might actually have exactly the type of baseband isolation we want, but the comment was from memory, and based on software reverse engineering efforts that were not publicly documented. We need to do better than this.

Future Work: Bug Bounty Program

If there is sufficient interest in this prototype, and/or if it gets transformed into a usable addon package or ROM, we may consider running a bug bounty program where we accept donations to a dedicated Bitcoin address, and award the contents of that wallet to anyone who discovers a Tor proxy bypass issue or remote code execution vulnerability in any of the network-enabled apps mentioned in this post (except for the Browser app, which does not receive security updates).

Future Work: Port Tor Browser to Android

The Guardian Project is undertaking a port of Tor Browser to Android as part of their OrFox project. This will greatly improve the privacy of your web browsing experience on the Android device over both Firefox and Chrome. We look forward to helping them in any way we can with this effort.

Future Work: WiFi MAC Address Randomization

It is actually possible to randomize the WiFi MAC address on the Google Nexus 7. The closed-source root app Mac Spoofer is able to modify the device MAC address using Qualcomm-specific methods in such a way that the entire Android OS becomes convinced that this is your actual MAC.

However, doing this requires installation of a root-enabled, closed-source application from the Google Play Store, which we believe is extremely unwise on a device you need to be able to trust. Moreover, this app cannot be autorun on boot, and your MAC address will also reset every time you disable the WiFi interface (which is easy to do accidentally). It also supports using only a single, manually entered MAC address.

Hardware-independent techniques (such as a the Terminal command busybox ifconfig wlan0 hw ether <mac>) appear to interfere with the WiFi management system and prevent it from associating. Moreover, they do not cause the Android system to report the new MAC address, either (visible under Settings -> About Tablet -> Status).

Obviously, an Open Source F-Droid app that properly resets (and automatically randomizes) the MAC every time the WiFi interface is brought up is badly needed.

Future Work: Disable Probes for Configured Wifi Networks

The Android OS currently probes for all of your configured WiFi networks while looking for open wifi to connect to. Configured networks should not be probed for explictly unless activity for their BSSID is seen. The xda-developers forum has a limited fix to change scanning behavior, but users report that it does not disable the active probing behavior for any "hidden" networks that you have configured.

Future Work: Recovery ROM Password Protection

An unlocked recovery ROM is a huge vulnerability surface for Android. While disk encryption protects your applications and data, it does not protect many key system binaries and boot programs. With physical access, it is possible to modify these binaries through your recovery ROM.

The ability to set a password for the Team Win recovery ROM in such a way that a simple "fastboot flash recovery" would overwrite would go a long way to improving device security. At least it would become evident to you if your recovery ROM has been replaced, in this case (due to the absence of the password).

It may also be possible to restore your bootloader lock as an alternative, but then you lose the ability to make backups of your system using Team Win.

Future Work: Disk Encryption via TPM or Clever Hacks

Unfortunately, even disk encryption and a secure recovery firmware is not enough to fully defend against an adversary with an extended period of physical access to your device.

Cold Boot Attacks are still very much a reality against any form of disk encryption, and the best way to eliminate them is through hardware-assisted secure key storage, such as through a TPM chip on the device itself.

It may also be possible to mitigate these attacks by placing key material in SRAM memory locations that will be overwritten as part of the ARM boot process. If these physical memory locations are stable (and for ARM systems that use the SoC SRAM to boot, they will be), rebooting the device to extract key material will always end up overwriting it. Similar ARM CPU-based encryption defenses have also been explored in the research literature.

Future Work: Download and Build Process Integrity

Beyond the download integrity issues mentioned above, better build security is also deeply needed by all of these projects. A Gitian descriptor that is capable of building Cyanogenmod and arbitrary F-Droid packages in a reproducible fashion is one way to go about achieving this property.

Future Work: Removing Binary Blobs

If you read the Cyanogenmod build instructions closely, you can see that it requires extracting the binary blobs from some random phone, and shipping them out. This is the case with most ROMs. In fact, only the Replicant Project seems concerned with this practice, but regrettably they do not support any wifi-only devices. This is rather unfortunate, because no matter what they do with the Android OS on existing cell-enabled devices, they will always be stuck with a closed source, backdoored baseband that has direct access to the microphone, if not the RAM and the entire Android OS.

Kudos to them for finding one of the backdoors though, at least.

Changes Since Initial Posting

  1. Updated firewall scripts to fix Droidwall permissions vulnerability.
  2. Updated Applications List to recommend VLC as a free media player.
  3. Mention the Guardian Project's planned Tor Browser port (called OrFox) as Future Work.
  4. Mention disabling configured WiFi network auto-probing as Future Work
  5. Updated the firewall install script (and the that contains it) to disable "Captive Portal detection" connections to Google upon WiFi association. These connections are made by the Settings service user, which should normally be blocked unless you are Activating Google Play for the first time.
  6. Updated the Executive Summary section to make it clear that our SIP client can actually also make normal phone calls, too.
  7. Document removing the built-in microphone, for the truly paranoid folk out there.
  8. Document removing the remnants of the baseband, or disabling an existing baseband.
  9. Update SHA256SUM of FDroid.apk for 0.63
  10. Remove multiport usage from script (and update
  11. Add pro-tip to the microphone removal section: Don't remove your cameras. Black electrical tape works just fine, and can be removed and reapplied many times without smudges.
  12. Update installation and documentation to use /data/local instead of /etc. CM updates will wipe /etc, of course. Woops. If this happened to you while updating to CM-11-M5, download that new and run again as per the instructions above, and update your Droidwall custom script locations to use /data/local.
  13. Update the Future work section to describe some specific UI improvements.
  14. Update the Future work section to mention that we need to find hardware with actual isolated basebands. Duh. This should have been in there much earlier.
  15. Update the versions for everything
  16. Suggest enabling disk crypto directly from the shell, to avoid SSD leaks of the originally PIN-encrypted device key material.
  17. GMail network access seems to be required for App Store initialization now. Mention this in Google Apps section.
  18. Mention K-9 Mail, APG, and Plumble in the Recommended Apps section.
  19. Update the Firewall instructions to clarify that you need to ensure there are no typos in the scripts, and actually click the Droidwall UI button to enable the Droidwall firewall (otherwise networking will not work at all due to
  20. Disable NFC in Settings config

Tor Weekly News — April 2nd, 2014

Welcome to the thirteenth issue of Tor Weekly News in 2014, the weekly newsletter that covers what is happening in the Tor community.

Tor Project website redesign takes two steps forward

Andrew Lewman put out two calls for help with the ongoing Tor Project
website redesign: one for the sponsor page, and another for the download area. Both were immediately met with proposals and design suggestions from the www-team mailing list: Olssy produced two mock-ups of the sponsorship page as possible models for further work, while William Papper and Lance Tuller have been working on a repository for the download page, with comments from other list members on topics such as the use of Javascript and possible layout decisions.

If you’d like to give the website redesign further momentum, please see the dedicated project page on the wiki for open tickets and advice on how to contribute, then come to the www-team mailing list and join in!

QR codes for bridge addresses

Since most pocket computers (sometimes called “phones”) and laptops began incorporating cameras, QR codes have become a ubiquitous way to enter short sequences of data into our devices. URLs are the canonical example, but the process also works for Bitcoin addresses or OpenPGP fingerprints.

Bridges are the standard tool for circumventing filters that prevent access to the Tor network. Users currently enter bridge addresses in Tor by copy/pasting from the BridgeDB web page or auto-responder email. But manually giving IP addresses and fingerprints to Orbot on keyboard-less devices is an error-prone process.

QR codes might be a solution to this problem. They could also enable peer-to-peer exchange among friends, or circumvention strategies involving IPv6 addresses and paper. According to Isis Lovecruft, adding QR codes to the BridgeDB web interface would be easy. Would any reader feel like hacking Orbot or the Tor Launcher Firefox extension (see relevant documentation and API)?

Client identification in hidden service applications

Applications behind hidden services currently cannot easily differentiate between client connections. Tor will make a different local TCP connection for each connections it receives, but the software is unable to tell if they are coming from the same circuit. Harry SeventyOne felt the latter would be useful to enable applications for diagnostic log analysis, identifying traffic trends, rate-limiting or temporarily blocking operations coming from the same client.

Harry sent a very rough patch to the Tor development mailing which enables circuit distinction by using a different source IP address from the IPv4 localhost pool ( for each circuit. Nick Mathewson liked the idea and gave several comments about the preliminary patch. Hopefully this work will make the life of hidden service operators easier in the future.

Monthly status reports for March 2014

The wave of regular monthly reports from Tor project members for the month of March has begun. Georg Koppen released his report first, followed by reports from Pearl Crescent, Damian Johnson, Sherief Alaa, Nick Mathewson, Matt Pagan, Lunar, and Karsten Loesing.

Lunar also reported help desk statistics.

Miscellaneous news

An extensive guide to hacking on Tor Browser was posted to the Tor Project’s wiki by Mike Perry. Among other things, it covers the browser’s build instructions, design principles and testing procedures, as well as a summary of how browser team members organize and communicate. If you’d like to get involved in Tor Browser development, please take a look!

Nicholas Hopper followed up on George Kadianakis’ research on switching to a single guard. He used Aaron Johnson’s TorPS simulator to find out the “typical” bandwidth for a client. The conclusions match George’s: a single guard and a bandwidth cutoff of 2 Mbit/s would improve over the current situation. George subsequently sent an initial draft proposal to start the formal process.

BridgeDB version 1.6 was deployed on March 26th. Thanks to Isis Lovecruft, users should now be able to solve the CAPTCHA again. A custom solution is now used instead of Google’s reCAPTCHA services which will give more flexibility in the future.

John Brooks presented Torsion, “a ready-to-use hidden service instant messaging client”. “I’m looking for people to try it out, validate my ideas and implementation, and help plan the future”, wrote John. You can consult the design documentation and build instructions on Github; please share your comments with the community!

Martin Weinelt shared a plugin that generates graphs in the Munin network monitoring tool from data provided by Tor, using Stem. “At the moment it supports a connection graph, getting its data from orconn-status. More graphs are possible, but not yet implemented. Ideas are welcome,” wrote Martin.

Amid the ongoing censorship of internet services in Turkey, there were reports that the Tor Project’s website was unavailable over connections supplied by some Turkish ISPs. Feel free to try one of the mirrors!

Karsten Loesing published a draft of a guide to running a blog over a Tor hidden service using the Jekyll static site generator. “The intended audience are bloggers who can handle a terminal window but who don’t know the typical pitfalls of securely setting up a web server over a hidden service”, he wrote. However, the guide is in its first stages, and “may contain severe problems harming your privacy!” Feedback on its content, wording, and layout would be greatly appreciated.

Yawning Angel called for help with testing obfsclient 0.0.2, a C++ implementation of the obfs3 and ScrambleSuit pluggable transports: “This is mostly a bug fix release that addresses issues found in testing/actual use […] Questions, comments, feedback appreciated as always.”

Michael Rogers has been “working on a messaging app that uses Tor hidden services to provide unlinkability (from the point of view of a network observer) between users and their contacts”. But as “users know who their contacts are”, the mutual anonymity provided by hidden services is not a requirement. Michael asked how hidden services performance could be improved for this use case.

On the Tor Blog, Sukhbir Singh posted a round-up of the various methods by which users can download and run the Tor Browser, covering download mirrors, GetTor, bridge address distribution, and pluggable transports usage. If you’re having trouble acquiring or using a copy of the Tor Browser, please look here for links and guidance.

Mike Perry discovered “that the Linux kernel appears to have a leak in how it applies transproxy rules to the TCP CLOSE_WAIT shutdown condition under certain circumstances”. Be sure to look at Mike’s email if you use Tor’s TransProxy feature. velope later improved the original mitigating firewall rule.

As part of the ongoing project to rewrite the Tor Weather service, Sreenatha Bhatlapenumarthi and Karsten Loesing collaborated to produce a Python script that enables it to determine whether or not relay operators have fulfilled the requirements for a free Tor T-shirt.

Lukas Erlacher announced the avaibility of OnionPy, “a Python wrapper for OnionOO with support for transparently caching OnionOO replies in memcached”. It should be useful to the on-going rewrite of the Tor Weather service.

The deadline for submissions to the Tails logo contest passed on March 31st; you can review all of the proposed designs, from the minimalist to the psychedelic, on the Tails website.

Tor help desk roundup

The help desk often gets confusing reports that after being directed to download the latest Tor Browser version by a flashing TorBrowserButton, users still sometimes see a message that their Tor Browser is out of date. This happens when the new Tor Browser version was installed over the previous one. Fortunately the underlying bug will be fixed in the next Tor Browser release. We recommend extracting each Tor Browser update to an empty directory rather than overwriting the old one, to prevent similar unexpected behaviors. The longer-term solution for issues like this is an auto-updating Tor Browser.

News from Tor StackExchange

saurav wanted to know the total bandwidth of all guard nodes in the current network. gacar pointed to the bandwidth.csv file and explained the format of the file.

Tor’s StackExchange site is doing a self-evaluation. If you have an account, please log in and evaluate the questions as well as their answers. It helps to improve the answers and the site in general.

Furthermore, if you happen to visit the site, check the list of unanswered questions. If you know an answer, please share your knowledge with the people.

This issue of Tor Weekly News has been assembled by Lunar, harmony, David Fifield, Matt Pagan, qbi and Karsten Loesing.

Want to continue reading TWN? Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteers to watch the Tor community and report
important news. Please see the project page, write down your name and subscribe to the team mailing list if you want to get involved!

Ways to get the Tor Browser Bundle

Below is a collection of resources that will help you get Tor up and running. We also discuss alternative approaches of downloading the Tor Browser Bundle and provide mirrors for all these resources in case is blocked.

To start with, please look at Bundle Downloads and determine the best way for you to download the Tor Browser Bundle. After you have downloaded the bundle and before you install/extract it, you should also verify it to make sure the bundle you downloaded is genuine and has not been tampered with; this step is optional but recommended.

We have screencasts (video guides) that will help you with the installation and verification process on Windows, Linux and OS X.







Text guide for signature verification


Tor Browser Bundle Downloads



GetTor is a program for serving the Tor Browser Bundle through email. This is particulary useful if you cannot access or any other mirrors.

To request a bundle from GetTor, send a blank email to GetTor will then respond with links to the Tor Browser Bundle for all platforms.

Note: GetTor was earlier restricted to requests from Gmail and Yahoo!. This is no longer the case and you can request for bundles from any email address, including Outlook.


If you are unable to reach the Tor network after installation (Tor Launcher starts, however the green progress bar stops), you need to use bridges.

Acquiring Bridges

One way to find public bridge addresses is to send an email (from a Gmail or a Yahoo! address) to with the line 'get bridges' by itself in the body of the mail.

You can also acquire bridges by visiting If you see that this page is offline, please wait for a few minutes and try again.

Bridge Usage

1. Launch the Tor Browser Bundle
2. Click "Configure"
3. Click "Next" until you reach a page that reads "If this computer's Internet connection is censored, you will need to obtain and use bridge relays"
4. Enter the bridges you received from one of the methods above into the text box
5. Click "Connect"

Pluggable Transports

If you find that using standard bridges fails for you, you can try using the 3.6-beta-1 bundle located on the same downloads page listed above. These bundles included integrated pluggable transport support, and are useful in areas where standard bridges are blocked.

To activate pluggable transports in the 3.6-beta-1 bundle, follow the bridge directions above, however simply select "obfs3" or "fte" when you reach the bridge configuration page (instead of entering bridge addresses yourself).


Still need help? If you have any questions, trouble connecting to Tor network, or need to talk to a human, please contact our support team at: for English for Arabic for Spanish for Farsi for French for Mandarin

Written in collaboration with Colin Childs. Screencasts by Sherief Alaa.

Tor Weekly News — March 26th, 2014

Welcome to the twelfth issue of Tor Weekly News in 2014, the weekly newsletter that covers what is happening in the Tor community.

Tor is out

Nick Mathewson cut a new release of the Tor development branch on March 23rd: “Tor includes all the fixes from It contains two new anti-DoS features for Tor relays, resolves a bug that kept SOCKS5 support for IPv6 from working, fixes several annoying usability issues for bridge users, and removes more old code for unused directory formats.”

This release also marks the first step toward the stabilization of Tor 0.2.5, as from now on “no feature patches not already written will be considered for inclusion”.

The source is available at the usual location, as are updated binary packages.

Tails 0.23 is out…

…but many Tails users are already running it. Now that incremental upgrades have been turned on by default with the previous release, users of Tails on USB sticks have been able to enjoy the process of a smooth upgrade in three clicks.

As always, the new release fixes several security holes. That alone should make anyone switch, but the new version finally brings with it two long-awaited features and many small improvements.

Tails will now do “MAC spoofing” by default. To hide the hardware address used on the local network, Tails will now use a randomized address by default. This will help prevent the tracking of one’s geographical location across networks. For more information about MAC spoofing, why it matters, and when it might be relevant to turn it off, be sure to read the very well-written documentation.

Another important feature is the integrated support for proxies and Tor bridges. This should be of immense help to users of Tails on censored networks. The integration is done using the Tor Launcher extension, familiar to everyone who has used recent versions of the Tor Browser.

For examples of smaller features and bugfixes: Tor, obfsproxy, I2P, Pidgin and the web browser have been upgraded, a 64-bit kernel is used on most systems to pave the way for UEFI support, documentation is now accessible from the greeter, and the “New identity” option in the browser is available again.

The next Tails release is scheduled for April 29th and will be 1.0. For this important milestone in 5 years of intense work, the Tails team is still looking for a logo.

New Tor Browser releases

The Tor Browser team put out two new releases based on Firefox 24.4.0esr. Version 3.5.3 is meant as a safe upgrade for every Tor Browser user. Among other changes, the new version contains an updated Tor, a fix for a potential freeze, a fix for the Ubuntu keyboard issue and a way to prevent disk leaks when watching videos.

On top of the preceding changes, version 3.6-beta-1 is the culmination of a months-long effort to seamlessly integrate pluggable transports into the Tor Browser. In the network settings, users can now choose “Connect with provided bridges” and select from “obfs3”, “fte” or “flashproxy”. Entering custom bridges is also supported and will work for direct, obfs2 and obfs3 bridges.

Other usability changes include wording improvements in the connection wizard, translatable Tor status messages, and the use of disk image (DMG) instead of ZIP archives for Mac OS X.

Please upgrade, in any case, and consider helping iron out the remaining issues in the 3.6 branch.

Miscellaneous news

Since the 3.5 release, “Tor Browser Bundle is more like a standalone browser and less like a bundle”. This led the Tor Browser team to plan to “rename it to just ‘Tor Browser’ everywhere”.

Thanks to Berkay and to André Schulz for running mirrors of the Tor Project website!

Alex reported an “important case about Tor relay operators” which came to court in Athens, Greece on March 18th. The defendant, a Tor relay operator, was acquitted after proving that the IP address used for criminal activity was in fact a Tor relay.

Connections to Twitter from inside Turkey were blocked by the Turkish government on 20th March, leading to an increase in the number of Tor users there.

Jacob Appelbaum presented a keynote titled “Free software for freedom, surveillance and you” at LibrePlanet 2014. The presentation was done remotely from Berlin using Tor and GStreamer.

James Valleroy wrote to tor-relays asking the best way to configure the FreedomBox as a Tor bridge. Lance Hathaway explained about pluggable transports and Roger Dingledine mentioned the potential issues of relaying a bridge and a hidden service at the same time.

Aymeric Vitte wrote to tor-talk to mention an implementation of the Tor protocol in JavaScript. Sadly, the project is not free software yet.

A Tor exit operator recently held an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, which was quite successful, generating over 800 upvotes, 478 comments, and being read by thousands. The most popular questions were focused on how to improve the use of Tor, the legality of exit nodes, discussions on hidden services, the workings of Tor, and many other topics related to privacy and security.

Tor help desk roundup

Users sometimes want to know how to transfer their bookmarks from an old Tor Browser to an updated one. Mozilla provide instructions on how to do this on their website.

The new Tor Browser releases were again prevented from working properly by WebRoot Internet Security. The error message is “Couldn’t load XPCOM”. Users need to disable WebRoot, whitelist the appropriate Tor Browser files, and more importantly contact WebRoot support to warn them that their product is breaking the Tor Browser and, to the best of Tor support’s knowledge, Firefox stable releases. Ideally, WebRoot should test new releases before harming Tor users. See #11268 if you want to help.

News from Tor StackExchange

uighur1984 wanted to set up a hidden service for their public-facing website and decided that the HiddenServiceDir should be the same like the DocumentRoot of the website. This led to some problems with access rights. Sam Whited clarified that both directories should be separated: the data in the HiddenServiceDir doesn't contain any actual data from the website, but only the keys and other information from the hidden service.

Gondalse shot a video showing policemen torturing a citizen. The release of the video led to a trial, and Gondalse fears that someone might try to track the owner of the video down. Jens Kubieziel pointed out some OPSEC rules, and showed which problems can lead to deanonymization.

This issue of Tor Weekly News has been assembled by Lunar, Matt Pagan, harmony, qbi, Jesse Victors, and Karsten Loesing.

Want to continue reading TWN? Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteers to watch the Tor community and report important news. Please see the project page, write down your name and subscribe to the team mailing list if you want to get involved!

Tor Browser 3.5.3 is released

The 3.5.3 stable release of the Tor Browser Bundle is now available on the Download page. You can also download the bundles directly from the distribution directory.

This release also includes important security updates to Firefox.

As a reminder, this is the stable series of the Tor Browser Bundle. It does not include the Pluggable Transport support mentioned in the 3.6 release post, and in this release MacOS archives are still in zip format. If you would like those features, we encourage you to use 3.6-beta-1 instead, and report any issues you encounter.

Here is the complete changelog for 3.5.3:

  • All Platforms
    • Update Firefox to 24.4.0esr
    • Update Torbutton to
      • Bug 9901: Fix browser freeze due to content type sniffing
      • Bug 10611: Add Swedish (sv) to extra locales to update
    • Update NoScript to
    • Update Tor to
    • Bug 10237: Disable the media cache to prevent disk leaks for videos
    • Bug 10703: Force the default charset to avoid locale fingerprinting
    • Bug 10104: Update gitian to fix LXC build issues (for non-KVM/VT builders)
  • Linux:
    • Bug 9353: Fix keyboard input on Ubuntu 13.10
    • Bug 9896: Provide debug symbols for Tor Browser binary
    • Bug 10472: Pass arguments to the browser from Linux startup script

A list of frequently encountered known issues with the Tor Browser can be found on our bugtracker. Please check that list and help us diagnose and arrive at solutions for those issues before contacting support.

Tails 0.23 is out

Tails, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, version 0.23, is out.

All users must upgrade as soon as possible: this release fixes numerous security issues.


Notable user-visible changes include:

  • Security fixes
    • Upgrade the web browser to 24.4.0esr-0+tails1~bpo60+1 (Firefox
      24.4.0esr + Iceweasel patches + Torbrowser patches).
  • Major new features
  • Bugfixes
    • Additional software: do not crash when persistence is disabled.
    • Upgrade Pidgin to 2.10.9, that fixes some regressions introduced in the 2.10.8 security update.
    • Wait for Tor to have fully bootstrapped, plus a bit more time, before checking for upgrades and unfixed known security issues.
    • Disable the Intel Management Engine Interface driver. We don't need it in Tails, it might be dangerous, and it causes bugs on various hardware such as systems that reboot when asked to shut down.
    • Add a launcher for the Tails documentation. This makes it available in Windows Camouflage mode.
    • Remove the obsolete account from Pidgin.
  • Minor improvements
    • Upgrade Tor to
    • Upgrade obfsproxy to 0.2.6-2~~squeeze+1.
    • Upgrade I2P to 0.9.11-1deb6u1.
    • Install 64-bit kernel instead of the 686-pae one. This is a necessary first step towards UEFI boot support.
    • Install Monkeysign (in a not-so-functional shape yet).
    • Disable the autologin text consoles. This was one of the blockers before a screen saver can be installed in a meaningful way.
    • Don't localize the text consoles anymore: it is broken on Wheezy, the intended users can as well use loadkeys, and we now do not have to trust setupcon to be safe for being run as root by the desktop user.
    • Make it possible to manually start IBus.
    • Reintroduce the possibility to switch identities in the Tor Browser, using a filtering proxy in front of the Tor ControlPort to avoid giving full control over Tor to the desktop user.
    • Incremental upgrades improvements:
      • Drop the Tails Upgrader launcher, to limit users' confusion.
      • Lock down sudo credentials a bit.
      • Hide debugging information.
      • Include ~/.xsession-errors in WhisperBack bug reports. This captures the Tails Upgrader errors and debugging information.
      • Report more precisely why an incremental upgrade cannot be done.
      • Various user interface and phrasing improvements.
    • Don't install the Cookie Monster browser extension.
    • Add a browser bookmark pointing to Tor's Stack Exchange.
    • Remove the preconfigured #tor channel from the Pidgin: apparently, too many Tails users go ask Tails questions there, without making it clear that they are running Tails, hence creating a user-support nightmare.
    • Use (most of) Tor Browser's mozconfig.
    • Rebase the browser on top of iceweasel 24.3.0esr-1, to get the certificate authorities added by Debian back.
    • Give access to the relevant documentation pages from Tails Greeter.
    • Hide Tails Greeter's password mismatch warning when entry is changed.
    • Persistent Volume Assistant:
      • Take into account our installer is now called Tails Installer.
      • Optimize window height.
      • Display device paths in a more user-friendly way.

See the online Changelog for technical details.

Known issues

I want to try it or to upgrade!

Go to the download page.

As no software is ever perfect, we maintain a list of problems that affects the last release of Tails.

What's coming up?

The next Tails release is scheduled for April 29.

Have a look to our roadmap to see where we are heading to.

Would you want to help? There are many ways you can contribute to Tails. If you want to help, come talk to us!

Support and feedback

For support and feedback, visit the Support section on the Tails website.

Tor Weekly News — March 19th, 2014

Welcome to the eleventh issue of Tor Weekly News in 2014, the weekly newsletter that covers what is happening in the Tor community.

Accessing the Tor network from China

In a new blog post How to read our China usage graphs, Roger Dingledine looks at the current situation of how Tor is able to circumvent censorship on Chinese Internet accesses. Indeed, if one only looks at the current bridge users graph, one might believe that Tor is not a solution for users in China.

“The correct interpretation of the graph is ‘obfs3 bridges have not been deployed enough to keep up with the demand in China’. So it isn’t that Tor is blocked — it’s that we haven’t done much of a deployment for obfs3 bridges or ScrambleSuit bridges, which are the latest steps in the arms race” writes Roger.

The upcoming version — currently in QA phase — of the Tor Browser will include support for the pluggable transports obfs3, FTE and Flashproxy. Having these transports ready to be used in a couple of clicks should help Chinese users.

The “obfs3” protocol is still vulnerable to active probing attacks. The deployment of its replacement, ScrambleSuit, is on-going. As Roger highlighted, “we need to get more addresses”. Several ways have been thoughts in the past, but until there is more cooperation from ISP and network operators, your can make a difference by running a bridge if you can!

On another front, work is currently on-going on the bridge distributor to improve how censored users can get a hand on bridge addresses. Yawning Angel also just released the first version of obfsclient which should help making ScrambleSuit available on Android devices. All in all, the Tor community can hope to welcome back more users from China in a near future.

Circumventing censorship through “too-big-too-block” websites

Late January, David Fifield introduced a new pluggable transport called meek. It can be described as “a transport that uses HTTP for carrying bytes and TLS for obfuscation. Traffic is relayed through a third-party server (Google App Engine). It uses a trick to talk to the third party so that it looks like it is talking to an unblocked server.” The approach is close to the GoAgent proxy that has a certain popularity in China.

With the current version, using Google App Engine, the transport requires no additional configuration. But David also mentioned that a PHP script could also be a good candidate to relay the traffic. Combined to ScrambleSuit, it could allow “a real web site with real pages and everything” to be used as a bridge if a user can provide the shared secret.

David has made available experimental versions of the Tor Browser for anyone to try. The source code has recently moved to the Tor Project’s infrastructure, and is ready for more eyes and fingers to play with it.

Switching to a single guard node?

Last October, Roger Dingledine called for research on improving Tor’s anonymity by changing guard parameters . One of these parameters is the number of guard nodes used simultaneously by a Tor client.

Following up on the paper written by Tariq Elahi et al., Roger’s blog post, and recent discussions during the winter dev. meeting, George Kadianakis made a detailed analysis of the implications of switching to a single guard node . He studied the performance implications of switching to a single guard, the performance implications of raising the minimum guard bandwidth for both clients and the overall network, and how the change would affect the overall anonymity and fingerprintability of Tor users.

Jumping to conclusions: “It seems that the performance implications of switching to 1 guard are not terrible. […] A guard bandwidth threshold of 2MB/s […] seems like it would considerably improve client performance without screwing terribly with the security or the total performance of the network. The fingerprinting problem will be improved in some cases, but still remains unsolved for many of the users […] A proper solution might involve guard node buckets”.

For a better understanding, be sure to look at George’s work which includes graphs and proper explanations.

Miscellaneous news

George Kadianakis announced obfsproxy version 0.2.7. The new release fixes an important bug “where scramblesuit would basically reject clients if they try to connect a second time after a short amount of time has passed.” Bridge operators are strongly advised to upgrade from source, pip, or the upcoming Debian packages.

The submission deadline for this year’s Google Summer of Code is the 21st: this Friday. Several students already showed up on the tor-dev mailing list, but as Damian Johnson says: “If you’re procrastinating until the last minute then please don’t!”

Tails logo contest is happily on-going. Several submissions have already been received and can be seen on the relevant blueprint.

Kelley Misata and Karen Reilly attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

Relay and bridge operators might be interested in Ramo’s first release of a Tor plugin for Nagios. It can currently check for a page fetch through the SOCKS proxy port, the hibernation state, the current bandwidth, ORPort reachability, DirPort reachability, and the bytes remaining until hibernation.

Nicolas Vigier sent his monthly report for February.

Tails won the 2014 Endpoint Security prize from Access. The prize recognizes Tails “unique positive impact on the endpoint security of at-risk users in need”. Congrats!

The Format-Transforming Encryption project at Portland State University received an unexpected 100,000 USD grant from Eric Schmidt.

Tor help desk roundup

The help desk has seen an increase in Russian language support requests amidst news that the Russian Federation began censoring a number of websites. Unfortunately, the help desk is not able to provide support in Russian for now. Changes in the number of Tor users by country can be observed on the project’s metrics page.

This issue of Tor Weekly News has been assembled by Lunar, Matt Pagan and Karsten Loesing.

Want to continue reading TWN? Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteers to watch the Tor community and report important news. Please see the project page, write down your name and subscribe to the team mailing list if you want to get involved!

Syndicate content Syndicate content