[tor-project] Help brainstorm Tor myths

Kate ailanthus at riseup.net
Fri Jul 7 01:08:00 UTC 2017


I collected some of these earlier, including responses from various
members of the Tor community. Feel free to cull and de-dupe them.

The flip side is to talk about the many great uses of Tor, including
onion services.



Some myths about Tor:

The myth that Tor is difficult to use.

The myth that Tor is hopelessly pwned by the FBI or X agency.

The myth that Tor is only for people who need especially intense security.

Answer: In this era of mass surveillance, when Google collects
information about users every day—everyone needs Tor.

The myth that Tor is on par with other security tools (decipher what
popular ones do and why Tor is different)

The myth that security is hopeless and surveillance is inevitable so you
don’t need Tor.

The myth that exit relays are evil and many are controlled by
three-letter agencies.

> What is the truth?

The problem, while not negligible, is often blown out of proportion.
Statistically speaking, you will encounter a bad exit relay every now
and then when you use Tor a lot but that doesn't mean that all is lost.
Tor Browser protects you from a lot of off-the-shelf attacks and we
regularly disable the malicious relays we discover.  But of course, Tor
is no panacea: make sure to embrace Internet security best practices
such as always logging in using HTTPS.

Philipp Winter

Myth: Doesn't the use of guard nodes make some users vastly more
vulnerable rather than making every user just a little vulnerable?
(Aren't streams changed often, so the one compromised stream won't be
too useful anyway?) Aren't you basically sacrificing some users for the
benefit of everyone?

Myth: Aren't almost all hidden services 'illegitimate'?

I'm a normal person using a normal ISP in a normal country. Doesn't
using Tor make me _less_ secure, as the adversary who can temper with my
traffic goes from people like "My ISP"/"My Government"/"Really
Sophisticated Hackers"  to "Anyone [who runs an exit node]?"

-tom Ritter

Myth: You will become a target if use Tor, and the internet suddenly
gets less
safe for you. (China, Iran, etc.)

> What is the truth?

_Everyone_ is a target on this internet as we know it. Tor mixes you in
a crowd of people where everyone looks the same and it helps you to
protect yourself against most of common attacks on the internet.

By using Tor, you and your traffic will become less exposed and
vulnerable to those attacks.

-- Nima

Tor is an illegal botnet, operated by shady blackhats, used for extortion
and black-market activities.

> What is the truth?
Tor is a research project and a network of over 5000 volunteers
whom create the Tor community. People from all faces of the earth
contribute to Tor: University Professors, mad scientists, hard-core
thought leaders and ordinary citizens of our "global village".

Tor is the world's largest privacy network on the Internet.

All the best,


Roger Dingledine:
> As part of my upcoming Defcon talk on onion services:
> https://www.defcon.org/html/defcon-25/dc-25-speakers.html#Dingledine
> I'm thinking of including a section on Tor mythbusting. That is, there
> are all sorts of Tor misunderstandings and misconceptions floating around,
> and it seems smart to try to get them organized into one place as a start
> to resolving them. (Later steps for resolving them should include better
> and more consistent communication, and actually changing things so Tor
> is safer/stronger/better. One step at a time.)
> Below is an initial list to get us started, along with overly brief
> summaries of the reality underlying the myth. Please contribute more
> entries!
> To contribute best, please frame your entry from the perspective of a
> helpful and concerned Tor user or advocate, rather than as a crackpot
> conspiracy theorist. (Fun as it might be, I have little interest
> in socket-puppet trolling myself on stage, so phrasing myths in a
> constructive manner is the best way to move forward.)
> And also, don't get too hung up on the quick rebuttal text I've written:
> the goal here is to brainstorm the myths, not to write the perfect answer
> to each of them. That can come later.
> - "I heard the Navy wrote Tor originally (so how can we trust it)."
>   (They didn't. I wrote it.)
> - "I heard the NSA runs half the exit relays."
>   (Hard to disprove, but it doesn't make any sense for them to run
>    exits. But that shouldn't make you relax, since they already surveil
>    a lot of the internet, including some of the existing exit relays,
>    so they don't *need* to run their own. Also, the Snowden documents
>    give us some good hints that say no. Btw, use SSL.)
> - "I heard Tor is slow."
>   (You're right, it's not blazing fast. But it's a lot faster than it
>    was in earlier years. Tor's speed has most to do with how much load
>    there is on the network, not on latency between the relays as many
>    people believe. We need more relays.)
> - "I heard Tor gets most of its money from the US government."
>   (Alas, this one is true. We have three categories of funding: basic
>    research like from NSF, R&D like from the Open Technology Fund, and
>    deployment and training like from the State Dept. See the financial
>    documents that we publish for details. Alternatives would sure
>    be swell.)
> - "I heard 80% of Tor is bad people."
>   (There have been a bunch of confusing studies about Tor users and
>    usage, and the numbers vary wildly based on what you're measuring and
>    how you classify bad. But for the above stat, you probably heard it
>    from a US DoJ attorney who misunderstood a journalist's article about
>    one of these studies. Or who knows, maybe she maliciously twisted
>    the results. See also the ongoing research work on measuring the
>    "dark web".)
> - "I heard Tor is broken."
>   (Man, this phrase represents a fundamental misunderstanding of
>    computer security. All the academics go after Tor -- and it's great
>    that they do -- because we're the best thing out there, plus we provide
>    good documentation and help them in analyzing the attacks. You don't
>    hear about breaks in centralized proxy companies because there's
>    nothing interesting about showing flaws in them. Also, security
>    designs adapt and improve, and that's how the field works. I'll try
>    to keep my rant on this one short so it doesn't take over.)
> Thanks!
> --Roger
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