[tor-dev] Tor Friendliness Scanner
kcg295 at nyu.edu
Mon Mar 4 20:58:58 UTC 2019
My name is Kevin and I'm a PhD student at NYU. Recently I've been
working on creating a "Tor Friendliness Scanner" (TFS), or a scanner
that will measure what features of a given website are broken
(non-functional) when accessed on the Tor Browser (TB), along with
actionable suggestions to improve it. In order to do this, we first must
get an approximation of ground-truth data of how a given website should
work. We then need to compare it to how the website works on the TB to
determine any changes.
To generate a method of determining ground-truth, we decided to modify*
the Firefox (FF) browser to log all of the steps of the creation of the
Content Tree (also called the DOM tree), and to log the execution of all
changes to the TB as well, and run a scan of popular Web sites using the
modified FF and the modified TB on all three of the TB security slider
settings. We will then compare the resulting logs to determine where the
tree creation processes differed* and why. These differences could
potentially help us illuminate two things:
1. what functionality issues the Tor Browser encounters on popular Web
2. what threats (beyond metadata surveillance) the TB is protecting its
users from in-the-wild.
As far as I have considered, this method seems to capture a lot, but
it's far from complete. For one thing, it obviously won't detect any
difference that's spawned from user interaction or input (such as a
script launched by an OnClick event). However, it does seem to make
automation of scanning for Tor Friendliness possible, and can allow for
We have moved ahead with development (though have not yet finished it)
and are (hopefully) very close to a working prototype. I was wondering
if there was feedback on this method, or if anyone can consider an angle
we have not that would either make the TFS more robust, easier to
create, or both.
Thanks for your time and consideration!
the content tree, since this needs to work on all 3 security settings of
the TB's security slider, and the "safest" setting deactivates
*Note 2: There can be non-functional differences in Web pages, such as
different ads showing or the display of the current time. We are working
on methods to distinguish these from functional differences, such as
using ad blacklists to determine if a given request or script is part of
an ad, and ignoring it as part of the difference between the two trees.
Center For Cybersecurity
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
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