Tor Weekly News — August 8th, 2015
Welcome to the thirtieth issue in 2015 of Tor Weekly News, the weekly newsletter that covers what’s happening in the Tor community.
Tor 0.2.7.2-alpha is out
Nick Mathewson announced the second alpha release in the Tor 0.2.7.x series. This version includes improvements to the handling of Tor’s identity keys, which now use the Ed25519 elliptic curve signature format. It also allows onion service operators to specify a higher number of introduction points with a special configuration option, if the service is coming under heavy load, “at the cost of making it more visible that the hidden service is facing extra load”.
For full details of the many other developments in this release, please see Nick’s announcement. The source code is available as usual from Tor’s distribution directory.
Tor Browser 5.0a4 is out
The Tor Browser team put out their fourth alpha release in the 5.0 series of the privacy-preserving anonymous browser. “Most notably, this release contains an experimental defense against font fingerprinting by using an identical set of shipped fonts on all supported platforms”, wrote Georg Koppen. This version also fixes some of the issues created by the update to Firefox 38ESR, which “brings us very close to a stable Tor Browser 5.0, which we aim to release next week”.
Get your copy of the new alpha from the project page, or via the incremental updater if you are already using the alpha Tor Browser series.
Random number generation during Tor voting
One of the weaknesses of the current onion service design is that parts of it (such as the relays chosen by a service to upload its descriptor) rely on a list of Tor relays which is generated in a predictable way. This makes it possible for people with malicious intentions to insert their bad relays into the list at points of their choosing, in order to carry out attacks such as denials-of-service (as some researchers proved earlier this year). A good way of preventing this is to make Tor’s directory authorities jointly come up with a random number as part of their regular voting procedure, which is then used by onion services to choose the directories to which they will upload their descriptor information, and by clients to find those same directories. It could also be used by other systems as a shared source of randomness.
George Kadianakis published a draft proposal describing how this procedure could work. For a period of twelve hours, the directory authorities send each other a “commitment”, consisting of the hash of a 256-bit value. Once all authorities are aware of the others’ commitments, they then reveal to one another the values they committed to, for another twelve-hour period. At the end of that time, the revealed values are checked to see if they correspond to the commitments, and then they are all used to compute that day’s random value. This works because although you can use the commitment hash to verify that the value revealed is the same as the one decided upon twelve hours ago, you cannot derive the value itself from the commitment.
Please see the draft proposal in full for discussion of the finer points of the proposed system, or if you are a fan of ingenious solutions.
CameraV (aka InformaCam) is out
The Guardian Project put out a full release of CameraV (or InformaCam), a nifty smartphone application that lets you “capture and share verifiable photos and video proof on a smartphone or tablet, all the while keeping it entirely secure and private”. It allows you to prove the authenticity of your photos by using “the built-in sensors in modern smartphones for tracking movement, light and other environmental inputs, along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular network information to capture a snapshot of the environment around you” and bundling this information into the picture file.
As you would expect, InformaCam is fully compatible with the Guardian Project’s Tor software offerings for Android, so whether you’re a citizen journalist or a keen phone photographer who values privacy, take a look at the CameraV page and try it out for yourself!
Monthly status reports for July month 2015
The wave of regular monthly reports from Tor project members for the month of July has begun. Pearl Crescent released their report first (for work on Tor Browser development), followed by reports from David Goulet (on onion service research and development), Georg Koppen (working on Tor Browser), Isabela Bagueros (for overall project management), Karsten Loesing (working on Tor network tools and organizational tasks), Damian Johnson (on Nyx and stem development), and Juha Nurmi (on ahmia.fi development).
The students in this year’s Tor Summer of Privacy also sent updates about their progress. Donncha O’Cearbhaill gave news of the OnionBalance load-balancing project, while Jesse Victors did the same for the OnioNS DNS-like system, Cristobal Leiva for the relay web status dashboard, and Israel Leiva for continuing development of the GetTor alternative software distributor.
Finally, the Tails team published their June report, bringing updates about outreach, infrastructure, funding, and ongoing discussions relating to the anonymous live operating system.
The participants in the recent onion service hackfest in Washington, DC published a summary of the exciting progress they made during the meeting.
Arturo Filastò announced that an OONI-related hackathon entitled “ADINA15: A Dive Into Network Anomalies” will be held on October 1-2 in the Chamber of Deputies at the Italian Parliament in Rome. “This means that you are all invited…to put your design and data analysis skills to the test!”
David Fifield published the regular summary of costs incurred by the infrastructure for meek.
This issue of Tor Weekly News has been assembled by BitingBird and Harmony.
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