Why has Russia banned Tor?

CryptographySystem SecurityEthical Hacking

The primary website of the Tor Project has been put on a list of blocked sites by Russia's media watchdog. The Seattle-based NGO replied by requesting more funding for its operations in the world's most populous country. The Tor Project proposes the creation of an anonymity network based on Pentagon-funded internet traffic routing technologies.

It allows concealing their online activities from prying eyes and visiting anonymous websites that are generally blocked in some areas. The initiative prides itself on being anti-censorship. A restriction on programs that give internet privacy is the latest incident in their long-running battle against free expression. They're specifically targeting the Tor browser.

What is the Tor Browser?

Tor (short for "The Onion Router") is an open-source browser that allows you to surf the web anonymously. With each session, it immediately clears your browsing history and encrypts all of your traffic.

It also gives you access to the dark web, which is comprised of unindexed and hidden websites on the internet. Some nations prohibit Tor totally because of its capacity to allow unrestricted access to the internet.

The Tor network was created by the US Navy to allow military groups to communicate anonymously online. The military abandoned the project in 2006, and it has now been taken up by a non-profit.

How does it work?

Tor strives to increase your online privacy and security up to a point. To mask your IP and safeguard your connection, the browser takes advantage of the Tor network's massive, global server network.

When you use Tor, your data is routed through many Tor servers (or "nodes"). At the different nodes, the traffic is extensively encrypted - and then painstakingly decrypted - one layer at a time.

This implies that whomever is attempting to identify you based on your internet traffic will only come across the last server through which your data transit travelled (also known as the 'Tor exit node'). In other words, this browser makes identifying Tor users impossible, or at least extremely difficult.

The Tor browser is better than a regular web browser for accessing the web anonymously. There is a drawback to this triple-layered encryption. In general, the Tor browser is substantially slower than a standard internet connection. Your internet connection will have to travel the long way around since your online traffic is routed through multiple nodes. As a result, it will become much slower.

What is going on in Russia?

Tor was charged with enabling the spread of illicit information by Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media in early December 2021.

As a result, residents are no longer allowed to use this cleverly called government institution.

Tor encrypts user data and transmits it through distant servers, letting users remain anonymous while accessing the internet.

Russia's internet service providers are already enforcing the ban. That's a significant shift in a country with more than 300,000 daily Tor users.

The Russian telecoms agency, Roskomnadzor (RKN), has issued a warning to the Tor Project. The project's primary website, www.torproject.org, was marked as carrying information "the dissemination of which is outlawed in Russia," according to the notice, and the address might be blocked in the country until the illegal material was removed. The status of the website on the list has been changed to "restricted." Access to it and some of its 'bridges,' or relays that the network employs to disguise traffic and avoid limitations, has apparently been blocked by several Russian internet providers.

What was Tor's reaction?

With obstinacy. It said that Russia has the second-largest user base, with over 300,000 individuals connected to the network on a regular basis, and it requested more assistance to keep the service working.

"It's critical that we respond to this censorship since it appears that this scenario might swiftly evolve into a country-wide Tor ban!" It wrote in a statement, "We need your support RIGHT NOW to keep Russians connected to Tor!"

The NGO provided advice in both Russian and English on how to update impacted users' browser settings. It also urged more individuals to join its cause and help strengthen the network by building more bridges on their hives.

Why was Tor singled out?

A court order issued by a regional court in the Saratov area in December 2017 was mentioned by RKN. In a civil lawsuit, Justice Denis Simshin determined that the Tor browser is "prohibited information" since it may be used to access it and ordered the watchdog to blacklist it. It's unclear why it took almost four years for RKN to start implementing the judgment, which took effect in January 2018. However, such a lapse in response time is not unusual for the watchdog.

On November 17, 2021, the Tor Project asked its members for aid in running new Tor Bridges, which might be the basis for the increased restrictions against it. It's terrible that Russia has decided to take active action against the Tor Project and Onion network users, but it's not surprising. The measure is perfectly in keeping with the government's larger objective of gaining total control over what online resources its citizens are permitted to access. Those interested in attempting circumvention methods should begin by ensuring their anonymity using whatever technical means available, as the authorities may soon expand censorship enforcement by finding offenders.

Updated on 15-Mar-2022 13:33:22