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The Onion Router and the Darkweb – An Overview of Current State and Vulnerabilities

The Onion Project was created to offer an anonymous way to connect to the internet and the darknet essentially through befuddlement. It has established a network that operates to route connection requests in a way that obfuscates users attempting to access surface websites, in addition to enabling users to build websites, on the darknet , whose hosting servers cannot be traced. Throughout this article we’ll provide an introduction to Tor network and its vulnerabilities.

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Tor provides two forms of services:

1- An anonymous way to connect to the internet (surface websites).

2- Hidden services which are anonymous websites whose owners and hosting servers are anonymous . The domain names of these sites end in “.onion” instead of “.com, .org, .info……etc” that mark surface websites.

.Onion websites are considered parts of a darknet and can be only accessed via Tor. Darknets comprise the dark web, which in turn represents a small part of the deep web. The deep web represents all internet content that can only be accessed via a specific protocol e.g. Tor. This is a rather broad definition, as for example, the content on online databases which belong to governments and universities is protected by means of a “pay-wall”; accordingly, these databases are considered parts of the dark web.

How Does Tor Promote Anonymity for Internet Users?

Tor enables users to access surface websites anonymously, so their traffic cannot be traced back to them. Although encryption can prevent hackers from seeing what users are sending to and receiving from various websites, it cannot protect them against being traced back using web traffic analysis. To prevent traffic analysis, Tor routes connection requests from each user to multiple relay nodes so that the path from the user to the website, whether on the surface or dark web, is impossible to be traced. Tor relay nodes are connections to thousands of Tor users who have volunteered their bandwidths to Tor to secure the network. Consequently, each and every connection request relays through multiple IPs and the destination website will not be able to trace the user via observing who sent the packet. The complicated nature of this protocol is that any relay node across Tor’s network cannot trace the origin of any of the connection requests it receives and redirects.

Hidden Services: Sites on the Deep Web:

Hidden services are websites on the deep web which have a .onion address that requires a Tor browser to be accessed. This method doesn’t link the website to a hosting IP address. To guarantee this, the hidden service will connect to nodes on the network using Tor circuits. Firstly, the hidden service will select some introduction nodes and formulate Tor circuits to them which will give introduction nodes the capability to ping back the hidden service without tracing back its location. Secondly, the hidden service will create a descriptor that will allow users to access the service, which will contain its public key and references that point to the introduction nodes. This will be signed by the hidden service’s private key and then the content of the website will be uploaded to a distributed database hash table i.e. it will be hosted on more than one node while promoting redundancy; in other words, content of the website won’t be lost if one of the hosting nodes go offline. The address of a website on the deepweb is 16 characters long and is created using the site’s public key.

Vulnerabilities of TOR:

Malicious attacks can occur against Tor users, just like it can happen to users of surface websites. Hidden services that contain corrupted downloads or malicious code can affect users whether or not they are using Tor. Also, hidden services can be also attacked by hackers via SQL injection, cross-site scripting and denial of service attacks.

De-anonymization can occur to a small percentage of Tor users in some instances. De-anonymization of a user refers to revealing the IP or MAC address, he/she used to connect to the Tor network. This is very hard to accomplish, if not impossible, because it requires the attacker to control all the nodes belonging a user’s circuit, especially that circuits expire and are replaced by new circuits every few minutes.

Tor and the deep web decentralize the internet and omit the censorship and control that can be imposed by federal governments. Although mainstream media is trying to picture the deep web as a big online store for illegal drugs, the truth is that the deep web is full of legal websites that might even be more than the illegal ones and can provide the people of the world with an anonymous way to speak their minds out without intimidation.

6 comments

  1. ***They should allow an opt-out for updates.*** They harass you with a blinking yellow triangle,then automatically install the update anyway when you don’t want it. It’s called the tyranny of the majority. The last update caused port problems for the first time in years. A total debacle. Many people had to reinstall several times. What this says is that TOR is getting too big. Too many cooks spoil the soup.

    • Moby,

      These updates recently are critical. They are security patches to address the newest network investigation techniques used by government and malicious users. Without these updates you will be unable to guarantee your anonymity. And automatic updates are possible to opt out but it will always alert you every time you connect.

  2. This article is highly mis-leading and over generalizes the security of TOR. While TOR has few de-anonymizing exploits, the Tor browser on the other hand does. As the TOR browser connects through a local host proxy to the Tor network but also has access to the internet. And therefore it has been exploited serveral times in the past to de-anonymize users(mostly by US Government) by forcing the users browser to connect to a server controlled by the malicious party without tunneling through the Tor proxy, thus revealing your IP address.

  3. It will be over when TORS developers get bribed mega big bucks to turn this great tool we call TOR, over to the American Government and then the American Government will carry on production of TOR as if nothing happened and will slowly shut the whole thing down, person by person……….

    Everyone has a price!

    Wouldn’t be surprised if the government and the FBI plan on doing it soon

    1 world government :’D
    No privacy *_*
    Camera up your ass hole collecting meta data on your shit

  4. thx to us, and now i have freedom, i mean to much block on europe

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