[tor-reports] SponsorF July 2014 report

Roger Dingledine arma at mit.edu
Fri Aug 8 08:56:12 UTC 2014

Here is the July report for SponsorF Year4:
(With thanks to Lunar for compiling much of it!)


1) Tor: performance, scalability, reachability, anonymity, security.

- We released Tor on July 30th. It moves Tor a big step
closer to slowing down the risk from guard rotation, and fixes a
variety of other issues to get closer to a release candidate. Directory
authorities will now assign the Guard flag to the fastest 25% of the
network (instead of 50%). Two new consensus parameters, NumEntryGuards
and NumDirectoryGuards will respectively set the number of entry guards
and directory guards that clients will use.

- We released an update to the stable branch, Tor, on the same
day, backporting several important fixes from the latest alpha release.

- Both updates also closed a covert channel that has been used to perform
traffic confirmation attacks on hidden service users. We published a
detailed security advisory:

- Linus Nordberg experimented with the idea of public, append-only,
untrusted log à la Certificate Transparency for the Tor consensus.

- A new draft proposal for making all relays also be directory servers
by default has been written by Matthew Finkel. This would reduce the
profiling and partitioning attack vector to the guard. In addition, with
the increased set size, relay descriptors and documents are more readily
available and it would diversify the providers. This change would also
be beneficial to security in the transition to a single guard.

- Nick Mathewson designed and implemented a langsec tool ("trunnel") to
generate safe parser code for Tor binary wire formats. The goal is to
reduce risk factors from hand-written binary parser code.

- A high-level roadmap for core Tor development was worked out during
the dev meeting in Paris:

- We launched a new "bad relays" list where people can report problems
with relays they interact with -- e.g. messing with exit traffic:
And Philipp has continued developing the "exitmap" scanner:


2) Bridges and Pluggable transports: make Tor able to adapt to new
blocking events (including better tracking when these blocking events

- obfsproxy 0.2.11 and 0.2.12 were respectively released on July 16th
and July 22nd. The new versions will make the life of ScrambleSuit
bridge operators easier by improving password manipulation. Several
denial-of-services were fixed, and other small improvements merged.

- The official pluggable transport specification has received
a major update, and it also better documents the current software.

- Version 0.2.3 of BridgeDB has been deployed on July 26th. It introduces
better blacklisting of bridge harvesters and allow fuzzy matching on
blocked addresses. It also now distributes fte bridges to users.

- The future Tor Browser integrated updater has been modified to
support symlinks as they are needed for meek.

- We now have documentation on how to set up fteproxy bridges:

- We made high-level roadmaps for pluggable transports and BridgeDB
during the Paris dev meeting.

- Tor directory authorities appear to have been blocked by IP:port in
Iran. They may also have blocked (by address:port) the default bridges
that come in Tor Browser:


3) Bundles: improve the Tor Browser Bundle and other Tor bundles and
packages, especially improving bridge and pluggable transport support
in TBB.

- We released Tor Browser version 3.6.3 on July 24th. This point
revision in the 3.6 series updated most of its components for minor
enhancements and fixes, and contains several important security fixes
from Firefox.

- The Tor Browser team came up with a high-level roadmap at the dev
meeting in Paris.

- Tails 1.1 came out on July 31st. Tails is now based on the current
stable release of Debian, "Wheezy". Almost every software component
has been updated. The new version also brings proper support for Apple
computers, and the camouflage mode now mimcs Windows 8 instead of XP.

- Tails updated its roadmap during its annual summit.

- The first candidate for Orbot 14.0.5 has been released on July 28th.
This update includes improved management of the background processes,
the ability to easily change the local SOCKS port, and the fancy new
notification dialog, showing your current exit IPs and country.

- txtorcon, the Tor control protocol implementation for the Twisted
framework, has seen a new minor release. Version 0.10.1 fixes
a couple bugs introduced along with the endpoints feature in 0.10.0.

- The Thali project aims to use hidden services to host web content.
As part of the effort, they have written a cross-platform Java
library to handle running the tor binary, configuring it, managing it,
starting a hidden service, etc.

- Sean Robinson introduced a new graphical Tor controller called Syboa
as a replacement for the defunct TorK.


4) Metrics: provide safe but useful statistics, along with the underlying
data, about the Tor network and its users and usage.

- We wrote up a call for volunteers to help improve the frontends for
Atlas and Globe:

- A new parameter has been added to Onionoo's API that accepts a
fingerprint and returns documents from all relays in the family. This
parameter can be useful for websites showing aggregate data from all
relays run by the same person/organization.

- The descriptor archives have been re-processed to add advertised
bandwidth and consensus weight graph data to Onionoo. This will enable
Atlas, Globe, and other Onionoo clients to plot graphs using these data.

- Atlas can now be used to search for Tor bridges (via nickname or the
hash of their fingerprint). In the past, Atlas was only able to search
for relays. Thanks to a patch developed by Dmitry Eremin-Solenikov.


5) Outreach: teach a broad range of communities about how Tor works,
why it's important, and why this broad range of user communities is
needed for best safety.

- We gave a quote to Das Erste about the "NSA targeting Tor" article:
One of the key things to realize is that NSA and other organizations
target everybody, but it's only interesting news when details of attacks
on things like Tor come out. Or said another way, responding to this
news by jumping ship from using Tor will just put you into the fire.

- During the 2014 Summer Tor meeting in Paris, a joint conference
with Tor, Mozilla, and Reporters Without Borders attracted more than a
hundred attendees.

- While in Paris, Caspar Bowden and several Tor contributors had a
90 minute meeting with the French data protection agency "la CNIL"
to better understand mutual challenges, and discuss where cooperation
could be possible.

- Tor Weekly News is now one year old. 56 issues have been released so
far, and on top of blog readers, the tor-news@ mailing list has more
than 1500 subscribers.

- We posted our 2013 financials, along with a reminder about the
importance of transparency:

- Lunar spent a week at the Libre Software Meeting in Montpellier,
France. A booth was jointly held with volunteers from Nos Oignons,
a talk was scheduled in the security track, and several contacts were
made with other free software projects.

- Kelley Misata presented a keynote during the second annual technology
summit of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

- Runa Sandvik presented Tor and SecureDrop at the Converge Conference
in Detroit.

- Philipp Winter wrote about the Citizen Lab Summer Institute, which
took place at the University of Toronto from July 28 to 31:
The event brought together policy and technology researchers who focus on
Internet censorship and measurement. A lot of great work was presented
including but not limited to a proposal to measure the chilling effect,
ongoing work to deploy Telex, and several projects to measure censorship
in different countries. Some Tor-related work was also presented:
Researchers are working on understanding how the Tor network is used for
political purposes. Another project makes use of TCP/IP side channels
to measure the reachability of Tor relays from within China.


6) Research: Assist the academic community in analyzing/improving Tor.

- Many Tor people participated in the fourteenth Privacy Enhancing
Technologies Symposium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 16-18, 2014. A
wide range of research in privacy enhancing technologies was presented,
with many of relevance to Tor.
Steven Murdoch wrote a summary of Tor-related PETS papers in

- Roger Dingledine presented the "one guard" paper at HotPETS:

- Rob Jansen covered the last five years of research on incentives for
running Tor relays in a detailed blog post.

- Roger Dingledine posted an official reaction to the cancellation of
a proposed talk at the upcoming Blackhat2014 conference dealing with
possible deanonymization attacks on Tor users and hidden services.

- Gareth Owen released a Java-based Tor research framework. The
goal is to enable researchers to try things out without having to deal
with the full tor source. At present, it is a fully functional client
with a number of examples for hidden services and SOCKS. It can be used
to build arbitrary circuits, streams, sending junk cells, etc.

- Mike Perry posted a summary of the primitives that Marc Juarez
aims to implement for his Google Summer of Code project on prototyping
defenses for Website Traffic Fingerprinting and follow-on research.

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