Tor at the Heart: Notes from a Board Member

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

by Cindy Cohn

I joined the Tor Board of Directors because Tor saves lives.

By allowing people to access knowledge, share information, organize and find communities of support in otherwise hostile environments, Tor represents one of the strongest examples of how technology can be marshaled to serve the causes of freedom, safety, liberty and human rights for people around the world. It’s easy enough to say: “speak truth to power” when the risks are low. To ensure that people can really do that in today’s digital world – where the stakes can be much, much higher – often requires some technical assistance. That’s where Tor comes in.

Before I started fighting for freedom online, I was a human rights lawyer. I spent time at the United Nations and helped organize a small NGO, called the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, which serves as a central hub for oppressed groups seeking a voice internationally. Its members range from the Ogoni in Nigeria to Tibetans to West Papuans. I saw first hand how hard it is to sneak information about human rights abuses out of repressive countries and how important it is to build networks of support inside and outside of those environments.

This experience is why, when I first learned about Tor, I immediately saw how it sits at the heart of ensuring that the world we’re building with digital technologies can be at least as much, if not more humane than the physical world. In addition to helping those facing government repression, Tor also serves as protection closer to home, and even inside the home for those seeking information and assistance to escape from domestic abuse. Tor of course has other uses, some good and some rotten, but that’s no different than most technologies. Even a hammer can be used to hit someone over the head. The difference is in what we do with it.

So when Shari Steele and I talked about how to usher Tor into its next phase, I offered to join with her to do it.

I have a core belief that those of us with access to power – be it personal, technical, legal or situational – have a duty to try to steer it toward empowering the people in the rest of the world to live better, safer and more free lives. That Tor exists demonstrates that many others share this core belief. The knowledge that there is a large posse of us building and supporting these tools, along with the courage shown by those who rely on Tor, keeps me energized.

There’s no doubt that a strong, well-run Tor can help more people. While the work of ensuring that the organization stays strong, stays on course, pays its bills and treats people well isn’t always the glamorous part, it’s necessary. For me, helping Tor do that well is how I help Tor save lives.

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December 29, 2016


me too but ... afaik tor is not a NGO and is registered in the usa where a lot of people suffer of intellectual deficiency and another big social trouble (is this land real or is it a deal ?) so from a point of view of the author , it is a resistance against the tyranny by a struggle for a digital right which should become a true respected right in the real life if you win it in a virtual world - i hope have understood the reasonment , be free to clarify if you disagree pls.

December 29, 2016


So happy EFF and TP are working closely together! I am proud to contribute to both organizations. Here's hoping the funding drive is a great success!

December 29, 2016


Just donated from Australia,, seems what I gave as a gesture is now a rort as no confirmation was provided as a debit card payment and two or three payments were made with error message each time...please's only a one off payment of $ 23...please fix ... Thanks

December 30, 2016


I have a tip I'd like to share with EFF securely and anonymously. Surely EFF uses onionshare? I have an idea about passing the key by another strongly encrypted channel, but am happy to hear suggestions.

This could be a good time to try out onionshare, although I'd feel much happier using it under Tails.

Has anyone booted Tails with a root passphrase and installed onionshare? How about Whonix or Qubes?

January 03, 2017


Some users have suggested that Tor Project should be more proactive in trying to ensure that TP has a presence at major privacy/security related conferences.

Currently the healthcare industry appears to view Tor as a problem, but some of us feel they should view the Tor network as a solution for endemic problems such as:

o HHS has been pushing hard for widespread adoption of EHRs (Electronic Health Records), but are not being shared securely between providers and health plans,

o HHS has been pushing hard for widespread adoption of "population health" research and management; this involves third party researchers freely accessing detailed medical records of all patients, but this data is not being shared securely or anonymously, which is dangerous,

o HHS has been pushing hard for "patient engagement"; this involves such things as patients logging into a website to update their own medical records with data or corrections, but these logins are not well secured,

o HHS has been pushing hard for the creation of Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) to share detailed personal medical records between providers, hospitals, health plans, and federal agencies, but HIEs serve as "watering holes" where FIS and other attackers know they can find valuable personal information on all US persons,

o anonymous whistleblower channels for hospitals could improve patient care, but medical people don't know how to implement anonymity.

I urge Tor Project to try to get its foot in the door at conferences like this major annual conference (held this year in Boston, which would have been convenient):
Everything attendees need to know about cybersecurity events at the 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, which includes a cybersecurity command center, educational sessions and an all-day forum.
Jessica Davis
30 Dec 2016

> Cybersecurity is a pressing issue facing healthcare organizations, as hackers get smarter and continue to expand their attacks on the industry. Most healthcare leaders are keeping patient privacy top of mind, and are looking for ways to improve their security posture.

It is certainly frustrating that the keynote speaker is not Roger or Shari but former NSA lawyer Joel Brenner:
Joel Brenner
Former Senior Counsel
National Security Agency (NSA)

> Joel F. Brenner specializes in cyber and physical security, data protection and privacy, intelligence law, the administration of classified information and facilities, and the regulation of sensitive cross-border transactions. He has represented companies and individuals in a wide variety of transactions and proceedings...
> The Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has awarded him the Robert Wilhelm Fellowship for 2014-2015, a position that permits him to carry on his practice. While at MIT, he will be working on intelligence and security issues related to foreign affairs. He is particularly interested in intelligence collection, privacy, and secrecy as emerging issues in international relations and in the potential for curbing state-sponsored theft of intellectual property.
> ...
> Cybersecurity: How’d It Get So Bad—and Can We Do Anything About It?
> December 5, 2016
> 9:05am - 10:00am
> Grand Ballroom
> As one of the nation’s preeminent experts on counterintelligence and cybersecurity, Joel Brenner discusses the new security environment and its implications for organizations. Nowadays people can steal information without entering a building, walk out of an office with incredible amounts of information stored in tiny devices, or launch systematic attacks on intellectual property. Personal privacy, business secrets, and government secrets are all vulnerable. Cybersecurity is of the utmost importance to organizations looking to protect themselves. In a presentation that can be tailored to the expertise level of his audience, Brenner discusses internet security and provides insight and practical strategies for businesses on this complex issue.

January 03, 2017


I'd like to offer links to some items which I think underline the points made above.

A riveting and horrifying account of what happens to human rights activists in countries like China:…
A human rights activist, a secret prison and a tale from Xi Jinping's new China
Peter Dahlin spent 23 days in a ‘black prison’ in Beijing, where he says he was deprived of sleep and questioned with a ‘communication enhancement’ machine. Here he tells the story of his incarceration and expulsion from the People’s Republic
Tom Phillips in Chiang Mai
3 Jan 2017

(One major policy initiative which China is openly pursuing: maintaining and updating in real time "citizenship scores" for all citizens; those persons with low scores will be denied access to education, jobs, housing, and healthcare. Many civil libertarians are deeply worried that "Western democratic nations", led by the USA, are secretly pursuing similar programs under the guise of CVE (Countering Violent Extremism); see for example FBI's secret review panels in which educators, doctors, police and federal agents will regularly review the cases of persons deemed to pose a "potential threat" to the security and stability of the USA, where the "threat" could very easily expand to include things like blogging about potentially dangerous but little known government programs such as these very review boards. Tor can play an essential role in organizing political opposition to such trends, even under President Trump.)

An insightful essay on Putin's strategy for weakening civil society in "adversary nations" such as the USA:…
Putin’s Real Long Game
The world order we know is already over, and Russia is moving fast to grab the advantage. Can Trump figure out the new war in time to win it?
Molly K. McKew
1 Jan 2017

Another warning about Putin's war on civil society:…
Russia Resurgent
Our old rival was supposed to be a power of the past. How Vladimir Putin engineered his nation’s return to the world stage—and what he’ll do next.
Joshua Keating
2 Jan 2017

(These suggest why so many are worried that President Trump may act as a Putin puppet.)

Can I download tor onto a blackberry