Tor Weekly News — October 30th, 2013

Lunar lunar at
Wed Oct 30 12:20:56 UTC 2013

Tor Weekly News                                       October 30th, 2013

Welcome to the eighteenth issue of Tor Weekly News, the weekly
newsletter that covers what is happening in the Tor community.

A few highlights from this year’s Google Summer of Code

The Google Summer of Code 2013 program is over since the end of
September. While Nick, Moritz and Damian attended the GSoC Mentor
Summit [1] at Google’s main campus last week, here are a few highlights
from three of the five projects that were carried through the summer.


Robert worked on enhancing Tor’s Path Selection algorithm. The
enhancement [2] uses active measurements of the Round-Trip-Time of Tor
circuits. Rejecting the slowest circuits will improve the average
latency of Tor circuits. The results of this work will hopefully be
integrated into Tor 0.2.5.x and should then be usable by users.  Robert
wrote: “Working with the Tor community is very encouraging since there
are highly skilled and enthusiastic people around. I am really happy to
have made that decision and can definitely recommend doing so to


Johannes Fürmann created a censorship simulation tool that facilitates
testing of applications in a simulated network which can be configured
and extended to behave like censorship infrastructure in various
countries. EvilGenius [3] can be used to do automated “smoke testing”,
i.e. find out if code still works properly if a node in the network
manipulates traffic in different ways. Other than that, it can be used
to automatically test decentralized network applications. “Overall,
working with Tor was a great experience and I hope to be able to work
with the Tor community again” said Johannes.


Kostas Jakeliūnas worked on creating a searchable and scalable Tor
Metrics data archive [4]. This required implementing a Tor relay
consensus and descriptor search backend that can encompass most of the
archival data available (as of now, the currently running backend covers
relays from 2008 up until now).

Those curious to browse Tor relay archives — searching for a needle in
the very large haystack or just looking around — might enjoy playing
with the current test platform [5]. It can run powerful queries on the
large dataset without query parameter/span restrictions. Many use cases
are supported [6] — for example, since the newest consensus data is
always available, the backend can be used in an ExoneraTor-like fashion.

Together with Karsten Loesing, Kostas hopes to integrate this system
with the current Onionoo [7], hopefully further empowering (and
eventually simplifying) the overall Tor Metrics ecosystem.

Kostas described the project as “an interesting and challenging one — a
lot of work […] to make it robust and truly scalable.” He also added:
“Working with Tor was a great experience: I found the developer
community to be welcoming indeed, comprised of many people who are
professionals in their field. It should be noted that where there are
interesting problems and a clear cause, great people assemble.”


Collecting data against network level adversaries

“The anonymity of a connection over Tor is vulnerable to an adversary
who can observe it in enough places along its route. For example,
traffic that crosses the same country as it enters and leaves the Tor
network can potentially be deanonymized by an authority in that country
who can monitor all network communication.” Karsten Loesing, Anupam Das,
and Nikita Borisov began their call for help to Tor relay operators [8]
by stating a problem that has recently attracted some interest by the
research community.

The question “which part of the Internet does a Tor relay lie in” is
easy enough to answer, but “determining routes with high confidence has
been difficult“ so far. The best source of information could come from
the relay operators, as Karsten et al. wrote: “To figure out where
traffic travels from your relay, we’d like you to run a bunch of
‘traceroutes’ — network measurements that show the paths traffic takes.”

This one-time experiment — for now — is meant to be used by “several
researchers, but the leads are Anupam Das, a Ph.D. student at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his advisor Nikita

In order to participate, shell scripts are available which automate most
of the process. They have been reviewed with care from several members
of the Tor community and are available from a Git repository [9]. Since
their initial email, Anupam Das has assembled a FAQ regarding scope,
resource consumption, and other topics [10].

Be sure to run the scripts if you can. As Karsten, Anupam, and Nikita
concluded, “with your help, we will keep improving to face the new
challenges to privacy and freedom online.”


Tor Help Desk Roundup

Using the Tor Browser Bundle is still proving to be tricky for many
Ubuntu users who upgraded from Ubuntu 13.04 to 13.10. The commonly
reported error is that users cannot enter text in any of the browser’s
text fields, including the URL and search bars. So far this problem
appears to be resolved by removing ibus with apt-get before running the
Tor Browser. Users who need ibus can try running `export
GTK_IM_MODULE=xim`, as documented in Trac ticket #9353 [11].


Miscellaneous news

David Goulet is asking for a final round of reviews of his rewrite of
torsocks [12] so it can replace the old implementation. Lunar has
updated the package in Debian experimental to encourage testing [13]. A
few portability bugs and a deadlock [14] has already been ironed out in
the process.


The next Tails contributor meeting will be held on November 6th [15].
The present agenda has “firewall exceptions for user-run local
services”, “decide what kind of questions go into the FAQ”, among other


Matthew Finkel has sent a draft proposal [16] with possible solutions
for Hidden Services backed by multiple servers. Several comments have
been made already, with Nick Mathewson giving a heads-up on the work he
has started on merging thoughts and discussions in a new
specification [17].


James B. reported [18] a tutorial on [19] describing how to
setup Tor relays, bridges, exit nodes and hidden services on FreeBSD.
Their last week’s podcast called “A Brief Intorduction” [20] features a
live demonstration (beginning at 43:52).


The Guardian Project has made a new release of its chat application for
Android systems. ChatSecure v12 (previously known has Gibberbot)
contains several new features [21] and is fully integrated with Orbot.


Upcoming events

Nov 04    | Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society
          | Berlin, Germany
Nov 05-07 | 20th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
          | Berlin, Germany

This issue of Tor Weekly News has been assembled by Lunar, dope457,
Matt Pagan, Kostas Jakeliūnas, ra, Johannes Fürmann, Karsten Loesing,
and Roger Dingledine.

Want to continue reading TWN? Please help us create this newsletter.
We still need more volunteers to watch the Tor community and report
important news. Please see the project page [22], write down your
name and subscribe to the team mailing list [23] if you want to
get involved!

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