While many people think the dark web is no good except for buying drugs and guns, a new innovation has now made it possible to also read the news on the same platform.
The New York Times announced on the 27th of last month that it was launching a Tor Onion Service of its website, at the address, https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/.
The launch was an “experiment in secure connection” on the dark web and will only be accessible through the use of TOR (The Onion Router).
The Times also added that this service was also under development and that, there isn’t a guarantee that certain features such as such as logins and comments, will work. Implementation will come in waves, they also said.
In a blog post via the news outlet Medium, the Director of Information Security at the New York Times, Runa Sandvik, stated that: “The New York Times’ Onion Service is both experimental and under development.
This means that certain features, such as logins and comments, are disabled until the next phase of our implementation. We will be fine-tuning site performance, so there may be occasional outages while we make improvements to the service. Our goal is to match the features currently available on the main New York Times website.”
The goal, it states, is to “match the features currently available on the main New York Times website” over time. The aim of this launch is to give readers access to the website despite monitors or blocks trying to prevent them and having an onion domain will increase the security for readers who will access it.
As the Times stated: “The New York Times reports on stories all over the world, and our reporting is read by people around the world. Some readers choose to use Tor to access our journalism because they’re technically blocked from accessing our website; or because they worry about local network monitoring; or because they care about online privacy; or simply because that is the method that they prefer.”
In some parts of the world, the governments have rules that control the use of the internet, including blocking some websites while other to survey local use of the internet.
This means that anyone with access to Tor can access the Times privately and securely without any interference from anyone.
Sandvik stated that one way we can help is to setup nytimes.com as an Onion Service making
the website “accessible via a special, secure, and hard-to-block VPN-like ‘Tunnel through the Tor network.”
“Such tools assure our readers that our website can be reached without monitors or blocks, and they provide additional guarantees that readers are connected securely to our website,” Sandvik further explained.
Reports suggest that the onion service was setup to enable Chinese readers on board although Sandvik didn’t officially name any country for deploying censorship. The New York Times websites have in place three languages for its content to be read in. These are English, Spanish and Chinese.
Onion Services are mostly referred to as “hidden services” or “the dark web”. An onion is a special-use top level domain suffix designating an anonymous hidden service reachable via the Tor network. So basically, an onion service is one that can be reached without any form of interference by third parties searching your browsing details.
The Tor software also shields you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays all around the world. Thus it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.
So in order to access this new website from the New York Times, you will need to install the Tor browser first before you point it to the onion link.
Now over the years, many organizations have had onion services most notably Facebook and ProPublica with each of these organizations creating a custom tooling to support their implementations.
The New York Times, however, stated that their Onion Service is built using the open-source Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK), which automates much of the configuration and management effort.
“Over time, we plan to share the lessons that we have learned — and will learn — about scaling and running an Onion Service. We welcome constructive feedback and bug reports via email to [email protected]”, Sandvik added it the latter parts of the blog post.