[tor-dev] Hidden Service authorization UI

Garrett Robinson garrett at freedom.press
Sun Nov 9 17:20:54 UTC 2014

SecureDrop (and former Firefox) dev here. A few months ago I started
working on a patch to support prompting users for an authenticated
hidden service cookie in the manner of HTTP Basic Auth. [0] We require
journalists who use SecureDrop to download submissions from an
authenticated Tor hidden service, and bootstrapping that for them is
currently a major UX pain point. [1]

The main difficulty was that there was not a clear way to communicate
the HidServAuth info to the Tor Browser's running Tor process. AFAICT,
that is not currently supported in the Tor control protocol. So an
extension to the Tor control would be useful here. It would also be
possible to edit the torrc, reload Tor, and have the TB wait for that,
but that is a) incredibly ugly and b) probably prone to causing all
kinds of fun problems. Haven't tried it yet.

> How would Tor Browser learn about this reason for not being able to
> tell Tor the authentication info? This is starting to sound like 
> wanting SOCKS5 extensions to indicate different causes for
> connection failures in #6031 did.

My current patch waits for a connection timeout on a .onion, then offers
a tab-modal prompt that says "A connection to a Tor Hidden Service
failed. If you are trying to connect to an authenticated Tor hidden
service, enter your authentication string below:". A SOCKS5 extension
would be even better, to avoid annoying users who mistype onion's or who
are trying to access an onion that is down. I included a "Don't ask
again" checkbox but it would probably still be annoying.

Would be interested in hearing ideas about how hard it would be to
extend the control protocol and add a SOCKS5 extension for connection
failures, and if anybody is already working in those directions. I'll
try to return to this patch when I have time in the coming weeks.

[0] https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/8000

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