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The Internet today is huge. It offers many opportunities but also brings certain dangers. That is why need decent protection when we browse the web. The topic is quite popular and there are many options you can try. You can find much information about VPN, Proxy, TOR and other technologies but what does all that mean and which option should you choose. In this article, we will explain popular options in details, namely the trended TOR bundles TOR plus VPN and TOR plus Proxy.

Architecture

TOR is quite popular right now and it provides a decent level of protection. However, there are certain risks involved like malicious exit nodes .

There is a remedy. VPN or Proxy may serve as a great addition to TOR but only one of them can secure your traffic from malicious TOR nodes. Let us clarify why is that. The reason for that lies in the difference between VPN and Proxy technologies.

Security and Privacy

HTTP Proxy simply changes your IP for web traffic and SOCKS Proxy extends the functionality to work with other traffic (e.g FTP, BitTorrent, etc). Therefore, Proxy offers anonymity but not privacy.

VPN has an option of traffic encryption and DNS leaks protection. In other words, VPN provides both anonymity and privacy. VPN plus takes the concept to a new level and introduces an extra security layer .

This is a DNS leak test result for Privatoria’s VPN TOR service

Set-up process

There are not so many ways to use TOR together with Proxy and VPN. Proxy is more flexible in this regard as it can be used ensemble with TOR browser or Tails OS. The configuration process is trivial. You simply have to enter web browser’s preferences>advanced>network and enter the settings.

This is how Privatoria Proxy plus TOR settings look like on a Debian 8 with MATE desktop

There are also more advanced configurations that you can try, for example a Proxy Chain .

Unfortunately, VPN cannot be used inside Tails OS. The developers clearly state that on the official site . Fortunately, Privatoria offers a way to use TOR plus VPN. The best, you don’t have to use Tails OS or a web-browser for that. To configure Privatoria’s VPN TOR service on Debian-based systems use regular OpenVPN functionality (you’ll need packages “openvpn” “network-manager-openvpn” and “network-manager-openvpn-gnome” packages for it to work).

This is how the settings look like on a Debian 8 with MATE desktop

Speed

Proxy is an absolute winner in this situation. This is most because your connection only goes through one extra computer and not the whole network. The proxy also does not touch your OS networking infrastructure, unlike VPN. That is why VPN can slow the system down a little. Also, VPN connection speed should be slower compared to VPN due to a longer path that the data has to travel. Add TOR to the mix and what you’ll get is a pretty long distance. Fortunately, with Privatoria Proxy and VPN connection speed does not differ due to service’s specific system architecture.

Here is the speed test screenshot

Conclusion

Internet anonymity and privacy tools finally make their way to the mainstream audience. It is important to know the differences between Proxy and VPN and how both interact with the TOR network. The main point to remember is the that Proxy TOR should be used for simpler tasks like watching YouTube while VPN TOR is a choice better for sending a personal e-mail.

Source : deepdotweb

Categorized in Deep Web

CAPTCHAs have effectively protected websites from harmful bots and various types of spam for years. They are an internet commonplace. For Tor users, however, the number of CAPTCHAs presented to the user becomes debilitating. Tor users have routinely voiced complaints about the number of anti-robot puzzles presented to them.

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become-an-internet-research-specialistCloudFlare, however, has defended their use of CAPTCHAs, stating that 94% of requests from the Tor network are malicious. When a user browses the internet using Tor, they are assigned the IP address of the Tor exit node. Many users, and bots, use the same exit node. Differentiating between concurrent legitimate and malicious requests coming from the same IP is no easy task.

Consequently, some form of filtering needs to be done to protect the website being travelled to.

RQvSP.jpg

In March 2016, CloudFlare implemented a step in what some consider the right direction. Website owners using CloudFlare as a CDN were given the option to whitelist all incoming Tor traffic. However, in whitelisting all such traffic, the site essentially becomes vulnerable to everything the CAPTCHA would detect and prevent.

Some sites began to utilize this configuration. DeepDotWeb whitelisted every Tor exit nodeand encouraged other sites to follow suit. Unfortunately, this option did not catch on for the vast majority of websites. Many webmasters felt uncomfortable allowing every exit node the ability to bypass CAPTCHAs.

tor-whitelisted.pngCloudFlare, being the massive CDN and anti-DDOS company that it is, may have found a solution. This potential solution comes in the form of a recent update to the challenge-bypass-specification proposal on CloudFlare’s GitHub repo. In the update, CloudFlare notably points out that Tor users do face a disproportionate number of CAPTCHAs

CloudFlare’s acknowledgement of the difficulty CAPTCHAs present to Tor users:

While CAPTCHAs in themselves are supposed to be easily solvable for humans, Tor users are dealt a disproportionate amount of these challenges due to the regularity of Tor exit nodes being deal with poor IP reputations. This problem has been likened to an act of censorship against Tor users as these users are the most targeted by this protection mechanism. This problem also affects users of certain VPN providers and of I2P services.

In an effort to make Tor browsing more seamless, CloudFlare is proposing a form of blind signatures. “A blind signature is a cryptographic signature in which the signer can’t see the content of the message that she’s signing,” Brave developer Yan Xu points out.

Tor users would solve a single CAPTCHA and in doing so, be granted a predefined number of access tokens. These access tokens would allow the user to visit websites without being confronted by subsequent CAPTCHAs. However, without the concept of blind signatures, this implementation would be fundamentally contradictory to the anonymity Tor provides.

Capture.PNG

The spec explains how this protocol would be implemented in a way that would not impact a user’s web footprint. “First, it moves JavaScript execution into a consistent browser plugin (for use in TBB etc.) that can be more effectively audited than a piece of ephemerally injected JavaScript,” they detail. The writers continue “Second, it separates CAPTCHA solving from the request endpoint and eliminates linkability across domains with blind signatures.”

Tokens granted to the user following the solving of an initial CAPTCHA would not be without limitations. Every puzzle solved would provide tokens that would be useable for standard web browsing. The number of granted tokens would be too low for attacks and malicious requests. Furthermore, this would not change the “protective guarantees” that CloudFlare currently offers.

“We also leave the door open to an elevated threat response that does not offer to accept bypass tokens,” authors explain.

Ultimately, if this proposal gets implemented, it would mean Tor users would experience a much smoother browsing experience. They would face less CAPTCHAs while maintaining the same anonymity currently provided.

Source : deepdotweb

Categorized in Internet Privacy

The Tor network has become the most widely used system for online anonymity.

It has been used by journalists, lawyers and other professionals and people residing in countries with repressive regimes to hide their Internet browsing habits, for over a decade.

In addition, websites hosting content that may be considered subversive have used Tor to conceal the actual location of their web servers.

However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) have come up with a smart way to break Tor anonymity without even touching its onion encryption system.

They discovered that an adversary can deduce the server location of a hidden service or the actual source of the data coming to a particular user, by studying the traffic patterns of the encrypted data moving through one computer in the Tor network.

The researchers, led by Albert Kwon, a graduate student of computer science and electrical engineering, will demonstrate Tor’s vulnerability this summer at the Usenix Security Symposium.

How Tor Provides Anonymity

Basically, the Tor network is made up of Internet users who have installed the Tor software.

To provide anonymity to users, their Internet requests are wrapped in many layers of encryption and sent to a randomly selected Tor-enabled computer.

This computer is called the guard.

The guard will remove the initial layer of encryption and send the request to another randomly selected Tor-enabled computer which will peel off the next encryption layer.

The final Tor-enabled computer will take the last layer of encryption off and expose the final destination of the original user’s request.

The last computer is called the exit. No computer in the encryption chain knows both the source and destination of the request.

In addition, Tor’s hidden services allow users to hide the actual address of their servers through the use of Tor routers called “introduction points”.

Users’ browsers can therefore connect to those “introduction points” so that the provider of the hidden service can publish information without revealing any location details.

Once a browser and hidden host establish a connection through the introduction point, a Tor circuit is formed.

How an Attacker Can Break Tor Anonymity

Albert Kwon and his fellow researchers at MIT and QCRI revealed that an attacker can break Tor anonymity by ensuring that his computer becomes a guard on the Tor network or circuit.

This can be done by connecting many computers to the network so that one of them will eventually be randomly selected as a guard.

Then the computer can be used to snoop and study the data being passed back and forth in the circuit.

The researchers demonstrated that machine-learning algorithms, in programs installed on a guard computer, could study this data and reveal whether the circuit was for ordinary anonymous web browsing or for a connection to a hidden service, with 99% accuracy.

In addition, they showed that a computer that becomes a guard for a hidden service can use the analysis of traffic patterns to reveal the actual identity of the host of the service, with 88% accuracy.

All these could be done without attempting to decode Tor’s encryption.

Tor Software

Conclusion

Effective Tor anonymity is vital for the protection of freedom of expression online.

So this revelation of Tor’s vulnerability is critical.

The researchers have suggested the use of dummy packets to make every type of circuit look similar.

With this new discovery, Tor’s developers have proposed the concealing of fingerprints of various circuits in future versions of the software so that attackers will not be able to study them successfully.

Source : Dark Web News

Categorized in Deep Web

Tor Browser 6.0.5

Tor Browser 6.0.5 is now available for download. The latest release of the Tor dark web browser comes with a number of improvements, one of which is a crucial security update.

Tor Browser 6.0.5 Addresses Mozilla Vulnerability

tor-browser-fixes-certificate-pinning-issue-but-bug-remains-in-firefox

Users will be glad to see that the new version comes with a bug fix in Mozilla Firefox – recently discovered extension update vulnerability.

There was a security loophole that allowed attackers with valid addons.mozilla.org certificates to masquerade as legit Mozilla servers in an effort to spread malicious updates – something that could potentially cause arbitrary code execution and also cause problems in Firefox’s default methods of handling certificate pinning.

Certificate pinning is a crucial HTTPS feature that protects the user’s SSL certificates from attacks by accepting only a specific certificate key per domain or subdomain and rejecting the rest.

Independent security researcher Ryan Duff posted a report which pointed out the vulnerability in most of the Firefox stable versions save for one nightly build that was released on the 4th of September 2016.

His report also indicates that the security vulnerabilities on Firefox stem from the use of a static key instead of the more secure HPKP method.

Access to a legit Mozilla certificate is hard to gain for the ordinary hacker.

According to security expert @movrcx, who stumbled upon the vulnerability, an attacker would need a minimum of $100,000 to pull off a successful man-in-the-middle attack.

Resourceful parties such as nation states can still carry out MITM attacks and compromise the anonymity of the Tor network.

New Upgrades

tor-browser-6-0-5

Apart from fixing the vulnerabilities discovered on Firefox, Tor Browser 6.0.5 also includes a stable version (0.2.8.7) and an update of the HTTPS-Everywhere (5.2.4).

The new version of the browser also fixes a number of other minor bugs such as site security clearing during New Identity, the storage of browser data in the home directory and the bug that caused the “Maximizing Tor Browser” notification to appear severally.

Alpha and Hardened Bundles to Follow Soon

Currently underway is the building of the alpha (6.5a3) and the hardened (6.5a3-hardened) bundles for alpha and hardened channel users.

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux OS

The Tor Project has made significant steps to tackle its existing security loopholes and various administrative road bumps. It remains the most sought after means of obtaining anonymity.

The latest release is currently available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux platforms. To enhance user anonymity, it is well capable of running off a portable USB flash drive.

Source : https://darkwebnews.com

Categorized in Deep Web

A billion dollars, 100 banks, 30 countries. This is what a multinational gang of cyber criminals managed to steal before they were discovered. This is an example of a successful bank heist conducted through computer networks, otherwise known as a cyber crime.

Any crime committed against an individual, corporation or government over internet or a computer network is termed cyber crime.  Cyber crime ranges over a broad spectrum of activities. It includes hacking, money laundering and forgery among others. This particular crime involved a sophisticated system of hacking malware, which took screenshots of the banks’ computer every 20 seconds. The Carbanak gang, named after the malware they use, gained familiarity with the banks’ system, and employed various ways to steal. In some cases, they transferred money to dummy accounts by gaining access to administrator’s computers, while in others they simply used a code to instruct the ATMs to dispense money. They monitored the workers and mimicked them to transfer the funds into dummy accounts. The hackers further limited the theft in a single bank to $10 million, to avoid raising alarm.

All this was discovered by Kaspersky, a Russian cyber security company. They were alerted by a targeted bank that discovered a piece of foreign code in their ATM. Kaspersky then helped the other victim banks to uncover the piece of malicious software in their system or ATM, which has resulted in the theft. “Losses per bank range from $2.5 million to approximately $10 million," Kaspersky said in a statement.

According to the Kaspersky Chief of Staff, this was “the most highly sophisticated criminal attack we have ever seen.” An estimated number of 10 hackers worked on one theft, over two months for a single attack. The complexity of the crimes and the remote controlling of ATMs was something new that Kaspersky and the banks had not witnessed before. Over a period of approximately two years, they managed to target banks in 30 countries, before raising alarm. Kaspersky has asked financial institutions to take a look at their networks for the presence of Carabank to avoid further losses. 

 

Categorized in Internet Ethics

To someone who has just recently begun using the internet, the internet might seem vast. It contains almost everything a person requires. However, most people are probably unaware that the part of internet they can view is just less than 10% of all what is available online. By using a conventional search engine a person is merely skimming the surface, or viewing the “Surface Web”, which is a fraction of the Web that is indexed by standard search engines. The actual internet is 500 times bigger, and most of it lies in the Deep Web.

According to The Guardian, only 0.03% is accessible via Google and Bing, and the rest becomes a part of the deep web. Deep web is accessed through specialized deep web browsers and tools used for this purpose, which often ensure your anonymity as well.

Some of the tools you can use to access the deep web include:

  • Turbo10: A meta search engine that allows you to search more than 800 deep web search engines
  • BusinessResearch: Explores the business information stored in deep web
  • MedNets: Easily accessible information for healthcare professionals
  • Databases A-Z: A list containing open and closed access databases for research

Tor is also an example of such a tool. It is often used synonymously with Deep Web. Tor – The Onion Router – is a software which was introduced by privacy advocates initially. It was originally used by users who prefer to browse anonymously, and didn’t want their information to be accessed and stored by Google.  Now it is used by those who want to maintain privacy while browsing online as well as those who engage in illegal activities such as black market transactions. It is important to keep clear of these illegal content available in order to discover the hidden gems on the deep web.

Experts agree that Tor is the best tool for people with an urgent need for anonymity. When we use a browser such as Google Chrome, we are directly connected to the information. However, on the contrary, using a browser like Tor, the request for information would be bounced through several servers, before arriving at the desired page making the movements harder to trace.

Deep Web might attract criminals and criminal activities due to its anonymous nature; however there is also a brighter side to it too. As it contains access to various journals and databases not indexed by a regular search engine, it is a gold mine for the serious researcher. Hence, you may find databases such as JSTOR, National Geographic and other similar websites. It is also used by governments and intelligence agencies to exchange documents in secrecy. Deep web also serves to protect political dissidents overseas in totalitarian regimes and hiding everyday Internet traffic from surveillance.

For the serious researcher, deep web can become extremely useful. It is a powerful research tool, containing high-quality material. However it should be accessed and browsed with caution, since a lot of illegal material is also a part of the deep web. 

 

Categorized in Online Research

BusinessWeek magazine describes it as "perhaps the most effective means of defeating the online surveillance efforts of intelligence agencies around the world". The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) calls it "the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity." Another source describes it as "a tool for anonymous communication that’s so secure that even the world’s most sophisticated electronic spies haven’t figured out how to crack it.”

Some feel threatened by it. Others feel protected by it. Those who feel threatened, try to destroy it. Those who benefit, try to invest on it. Regarded as the “largest deployed anonymity network to date”, Tor’s success as a sophisticated security tool, has dragged it to the forefront of attention from governments, policy makers, media, and many more.

This article explores the Tor browser, its usage and the extent to which it is a useful tool for the regular internet user.

Tor Browser

The Onion Router, aka “Tor” is a network of servers developed to browse the internet anonymously. Initially developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory as a means of protecting government communication, Tor website describe it as a “network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.” It is a free software and an open network that protects users against a common form of internet surveillance known as “traffic analysis”.

Tor Browser allows access to the Tor network. To make the user anonymous, Tor disguises the users' identity by moving the traffic around different Tor servers, thereby encrypting the traffic making it difficult to trace back to the end user. A source compares this process to “a tight huddle of people passing letters around. Once in a while a letter leaves the huddle, sent off to some destination. If you can't see what's going on inside the huddle, you can't tell who sent what letter based on watching letters leave the huddle.” For those who attempt to see where the traffic is coming from, would only see traffic coming from random nodes on the Tor network, rather than the computer of an individual user.

Tor User

The actual reach of Tor is estimated to be 2.5 million daily users, of which majority of users are coming from US and Europe. Russia, Iran, Vietnam, and China are also some of the top countries with users. There is no actual statistics available to estimate the type of people using the Tor network. Yet it is common knowledge that Tor is used by people for both noble and humble means, a distinct factor that defines its user base.

On a positive note, Tor website identifies five categories of Tor users; namely family & friends, businesses, activists, media, military & law enforcement. Families use Tor to preserve their privacy and protect their children when they are online; be it keeping internet activities away from the advertisers, accessing sites that are blocked by the local service provider or participating in socially sensitive communication on chat rooms, web forums, etc.

Journalists use Tor as a secure communication mode with sources and for researching on sensitive topics. Non-governmental organizations use it to connect to their home websites while they are in a foreign land. Activists use it to safeguard their members’ privacy and security online while Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis and protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers.

Military use Tor to protect their military interests and operations, open source intelligence gathering and to protect themselves from physical harm. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

On a negative note, Tor is also used by criminals, drug lords, and hacktivist groups to carry out illegitimate activities. A good example of this is the recently closed down Silk Road, the online black market which operate as Tor hidden service and accessed through Tor browser. The level of anonymity and security guaranteed by Tor leaves ample space for criminals to freely and easily carry out their criminal business and transactions in a secure environment.

Using Tor

Like any other browser, Tor has a simple interface that is very much similar to Firefox. Not surprising, Tor is a Firefox based browser. A source indicates that Tor is Firefox 10 with specific features added to the toolbar. A normal internet user may not find any difference between a regular browser and Tor in terms of its browsing capacity. However, when faced with specific situations where an individual is compelled to seek extra security online to protect himself, Tor could be the ideal choice.

Tor’s key strength lies in its capacity to anonymize the user and its ability to ensure maximum security online. Its security features are considered the best in comparison to other browsers. Even so, Tor is far from perfect mainly on the ground that it is slow in speed and unable to ensure “complete” anonymity. As it goes through so many relays to anonymize the user, Tor is slow compared to other browsers, though my personal experience reveal to the contrary. Moreover, institutions like US National Security Agency (NSA) have the capacity to find the end user if necessary that raise a question about the level of anonymity guaranteed by Tor browser. Tor website explains “Tor can't solve all anonymity problems. It focuses only on protecting the transport of data. You need to use protocol-specific support software if you don't want the sites you visit to see your identifying information.”

Internet user: Anonymity vs. Security?

A regular internet user, who use the internet to browse Facebook, Youtube or any other general information need, may not necessarily require a browser like Tor. The user is concerned about the security of his personal identifying information while on the internet rather than maintaining anonymity online. This kind of online security is possible through enabling security settings on any regular browser. Although anonymity can be a contributing factor for ensuring privacy and security online, only anonymity itself may not guarantee complete security of an internet user. Consequently, Tor becomes particularly significant when the question of “anonymity” comes into the picture.

Why remain anonymous online? Most would perceive that those who have something to hide as well as those who engage in illegitimate activities would prefer to stay anonymous online. As to the general internet user, the anonymity factor becomes significant only in particular situations where the internet poses an actual threat or harm to a person. Again this should be a matter of personal choice where an individual would evaluate a situation and decide the necessity of remaining anonymous on the internet. One’s perception of what you need to protect should determine whether to remain anonymous on the internet. However, even if you have nothing to hide, adopting good security practices and taking every measure to protect yourself when you use the internet is a smart idea. Also in certain scenarios, it is a compulsory requirement, a must on the basis of the task/work we engage on the World Wide Web; whether it is safe communication platform for children, journalists, military or activists.

Conclusion

The growth of the internet in the last two decades have pushed forward the necessity of safeguarding individual online privacy rights as never before. Tor plays a critical role in giving the internet user the choice to remain anonymous thereby increasing privacy and security online. Tor is an ideal gateway for those want to speak and read freely online. It is an avenue for free expression.

Not to forget, Tor is also a gateway for criminals, hackers, and others who engage in unethical activities. Tor’s ability for masking individual identities have led to activities that have become national and global security threats. In this sense, suspicious eye of the governments on Tor users is not a surprise. 

Success of Tor lies in tackling these challenges to ensure the highest security for the regular internet users. The very attitude that Tor is used by “those who have something to hide” should be done away with. Tor image as a safe browser for genuine internet transactions should be uplifted. Tor needs to work on its image as a safe browser for every individual who wishes to take control of their privacy and security back in their hands.

References:

  1. Tor official website - www.torproject.org
  2. Tor Project's struggle to keep the 'dark net' in the shadows - http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28886465
  3. What is Tor and should I use it. - http://lifehacker.com/what-is-tor-and-should-i-use-it-1527891029
  4. Go Online without Getting Snooped: Tor (The Onion Router) – http://www.instructables.com/id/Go-Online-without-Getting-Snooped-Tor-The-Onion-/
  5. Tor stands strong against the NSA, but your browser can bring you down-A Look at The Onion Router (Tor) - http://lwn.net/Articles/138242/Anonymity and the Tor Network - https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/anonymity_and_t_1.html 
  6. http://www.pcworld.com/article/2052149/tor-stands-strong-against-the-nsa-but-your-browser-can-bring-you-down.htm
Categorized in Online Research
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