December 6, 2021

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The Missing Link: How Safe is Tor’s Anonymity Service?

The Tor browser is used to buy and sell medicines on the Darknet, but also by people whose freedom or even their lives depend on the work of the program. Therefore, it is necessary to take a particularly critical look at the promised anonymity.

What’s missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often time to rearrange various news and wallpapers. On the weekend we want to take it, follow the side trails away from the stream, experiment with different perspectives and make the nuances heard.

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Work on this paradoxical technology began in the mid-1990s at a US military research laboratory. Today, Tor is an extraordinary joint venture between the global digital civil society and the US government. Civil society, especially German society, provides the infrastructure: gate camouflage nodes. For them, Tor is the most important opponent of authoritarian interference on the Internet.

Tor Browser can be used to surf the web anonymously and remove censorship; Addresses cannot be deleted or placed in Tor Darknet. The technology is being developed by The Tor Project, which is traditionally funded by the US government. In principle, the technology is vulnerable to attackers with large resources. How strong is Tor Browser’s actual protection and how capable is anonymity technology? An overview of Tor vulnerabilities and potential attacks and countermeasures.

Careless behavior can cause problems: you are using the Tor browser, but you are logged into a social network or email service with a profile that is also used in other contexts. Or you can install Wild Browser Extensions. Tor is based on Firefox, and there are hundreds of practical add-ons available for the Firefox browser, with which you can, for example, take screenshots or block ads with ease.

Some of these plug-ins have been checked by Firefox and found to be safe. However, it is possible that commercial extensions are used to bring malware into the Tor browser, plug-ins record browser usage and sell collected information. There are examples of this in the past.

In addition, Tor software can contain security vulnerabilities. Since Tor Browser is a modified Firefox browser, the vulnerabilities in Firefox also affect Tor’s security. Tor Browser asks you to install an update at regular intervals. Most of the time, updates are all about fixing vulnerabilities that have been found. Such gaps can be placed in a targeted manner or they can be inadvertently inserted into the program. The common response is that nothing like this can happen with Tor because the software is open source: the code is publicly available and can be scanned for flaws or even backdoors. But in practice, this does not provide absolute protection.

Only a small part of the population can program or evaluate complex software codes. Moritz Bartel from the German goal club Onion Friends Fifth. The program code is considered very secure due to the special nature of the Tor community: “In Tor, a lot of people actually look at the code regularly and check it independently of the Tor Project. Tor has been and continues to be heavily influenced by universities. This is why Tor is different from many other free software projects. for which it is not clear whether or not there are independent reviews of the code base.”

In fact, Tor is one of my favorite science sites. In scientific studies, every conceivable possibility of an attack on Tor is openly played up and discussed.

With all “digital self-defense” technologies, in addition to Tor, this also includes email encryption, there is a debate about whether it is possible that they should not involuntarily act as a “honey pot”: as a kind of social filter with which people draw attention to themselves unintentionally. With the Tor browser, people are showing that protecting their communications is more important to them than others — and it can be especially interesting to monitor. The dilemma exists and cannot be resolved. It will continue to exist as long as only a small minority of the population uses encryption and anonymity techniques.

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