Now on Tor!

January 7, 2016

The Tor Project is a famous network with an anonymizing alternative routing protocol called The Onion Routing Protocol. The way it works is several people run Tor nodes around the world and your traffic is being routed through at least three of them, before reaching its destination.

Its intended use is to avoid censorship in countries like China, with the Great Firewall, and in general provide unrestricted and anonymous access to websites.

When you create a node, you can choose if you want it to be an Exit Node, which is a term for nodes that allow traffic from Tor to the Public Internet or just a Relay, which is a node that just relays traffic between users and exit nodes. Due to the significant amount of abuse coming from Exit Nodes, people decide to support Tor simply by running Relays. That means that the total amount of bandwidth available is not usable for normal Public Internet browsing but for inter-Tor communications.

Inter-Tor Communications are connections that start from a Tor User but don’t leave Tor, instead they end up in a Hidden Service. Hidden Services are special domains ending in .onion that are only accessible through Tor. These domains are 16 characters-long and can contain only the characters a-z and 2-7. There is some math behind how Hidden Services work and why that’s the case that I won’t get into, but the idea is simple.

Facebook recently launched a Hidden Service available at https://facebookcorewwwi.onion which allows all facebook users to browse the website without ever having their traffic leave Tor. This is great, because users who can’t normally access facebook can use Tor, all their traffic never has to go through an Exit Node, whose bandwidth is more precious, and also enhances privacy and security of the data exchanged. If every website did that, it would enhance privacy on the Internet, especially for sites that don’t have HTTPS.

I found some time to configure and and created a Hidden Service for each site, daknobcq4zal6vbm.onion and daknobxyumrq2l5f.onion respectively. Now everybody on Tor can visit this website without ever leaving the network, and much faster than by using an Exit Node.

I took a step further and configured the domain with an experimental feature. If you visit it from Tor, it will automatically detect that and redirect you to the .onion domain instead of continuing to use the .net one. That way your experience will be faster and you’ll help an Exit Node out there.

If you run a website or service, I encourage you to do the same and publish your Onion Address in the Main Page, and if possible redirect all Tor users to the Onion Address. I will maybe publish a new blog post on how to do that if I find the time.

If you want to be able to access Tor and its Hidden Services, I strongly recommend doing that using the Tor Browser exclusively. As soon as you download it, try the following URLs to experience Hidden Services for yourself: