[tor-talk] Tor users from Finland jumped from 25 000 to 200 000

Markus Ottela oottela at cs.helsinki.fi
Fri Jan 14 03:38:14 UTC 2022

Hi David,

The creation of the Onion Service uses tempfile to create a temporary 
directory each time a new Onion Service is spin up, but as per the log 
files, there was only 25 Onion Services created during that time.

As for the client-side, new requests session was created for each 
connection*. I assumed Tor would keep a tunnel open to one guard node, 
and that each new session/connection would pass through it.

*In hindsight this I should've only done the GET requests inside the loop.

Here's the script I was running: 


On 13.1.2022 20.34, David Fifield wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 13, 2022 at 06:09:24PM +0200, Markus Ottela via tor-talk wrote:
>> I've been experiencing weird behavior with Tor + Stem + Flask Onion Services
>> dying randomly once every 1..5 days. I wrote a script that's making
>> connections to a test an Onion Service to see when exactly the servers
>> disappear -- and creating logs based on that. The system spins up new
>> requests client instance for each connection, so those might be what's
>> appearing on the graph. I'm just puzzled why they'd appear as different
>> users, given that the public IP has remained static. (Also the script
>> automatically spins up new Onion Service once it's been down for an hour, so
>> that could explain the spikes.)
>> Again I'm not sure that's what this is about, but both the start time, and
>> the most recent major downtime spikes match. I've killed testing, let's see
>> if it returns to normal; I think there's enough data to open a ticket about
>> my issue anyway.
> That's an interesting hypothesis. The user count estimate does not use
> IP addresses; rather it counts directory requests. See:
> https://gitweb.torproject.org/metrics-web.git/tree/src/main/resources/doc/users-q-and-a.txt?id=6c2679ec1797976e171a68bbd3d7442a34f0a5d1
>> Q: How is it even possible to count users in an anonymity network?
>> A: We actually don't count users, but we count requests to the
>> directories that clients make periodically to update their list of
>> relays and estimate user numbers indirectly from there.
>> Q: What if a user runs tor on a laptop and changes their IP address a
>> few times per day?  Don't you overcount that user?
>> A: No, because that user updates their list of relays as often as a
>> user that doesn't change IP address over the day.
> In your experiments, were you starting tor with an empty DataDirectory
> and a cold directory cache each time (e.g., in a freshly initialized
> container), or were you reusing the same DataDirectory? The former I
> would expect to have an effect on estimated users; the latter not.

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