Astoria Versus Tor

People use Tor mostly because they want to retain their privacy online and have a more secure browsing session away from spies. But Tor has long been a target of the intelligence community because it has been so popular. As a result, spies already have the ability to break Tor anonymity and reveal the identities of users. Astoria may be a better network, promising to provide anonymity that the spies cannot so easily crack.

Tor’s Weakness

Tor is still a popular anonymizer because it was able to build a good reputation over the years and because it remains to be a free service. But Tor was not meant to be used as a regular browser, and cannot give users the round the clock protection that VPNs can. To stay under the radar, users need to do more than simply avoid certain websites and refrain from uploading and downloading certain types of content. In addition, the level of anonymity that Tor was able to provide changed when government spy agencies started targeting it. The NSA and its partner agencies like the British GCHQ have always been hungry for user data. But since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on them, they have been desperate to find ways to maintain the volume of user data that they had become accustomed to. Mass data gathering is still very much alive, and cracking Tor has opened up a treasure trove for these spies.

The Tor network encrypts whatever data is sent by its users and sends it through a few nodes out of the around 6000 that it runs. The data takes a different route back to render it theoretically untraceable, but the NSA found a way around this. Data is decrypted at exit nodes so that it can be read by the intended recipient. Any data that is sent back is also not immediately encrypted. By monitoring these relays as well as entry nodes, the spies are able to statistically derive the origins of Tor traffic and therefore the identities of Tor users, and they can do this in less than ten minutes. Tor has known for some time that this weakness in its network exists. But it became a serious threat only when these government agencies with seemingly unlimited resources started attacking the network. Now, 58% of Tor’s relays located all around the world can be successfully attacked using this method, called timing attacks. In other high value target areas like China, as much as 85% of relays are vulnerable to the attack.

Government attacks may be Tor’s worst enemy, but there are other players out there who are also looking to exploit the existing vulnerabilities in Tor. A type of search engine called PunkSPIDER can be used to search for vulnerabilities in the network that can be exploited. It has recently been used to uncover some Dark Web sites, and report these to the authorities. Chinese hackers under a government initiative to uphold censorship laws are also going after Tor, as well as VPN services, using watering-hole attacks.

Astoria Claims It Can Do Better

Astoria is an up and coming client that is being developed by a team composed of Israeli and American researchers. Astoria hold the promise of top level encryption that cannot be broken by spies, the developers claim. They say that with Astoria, there will be much fewer vulnerable relays, only about 6%. The promise is being made based on the new algorithm that they are using. This algorithm works to anticipate the most probable path that a timing attack will take and can thus suggest the path that is least likely to be vulnerable. When people use Astoria, the team says, Tor speeds are also kept optimized even in cases where the client has to apply the highest security levels for situations where there are no safe paths for user traffic to take. Astoria’s algorithm is not fool-proof, however. The point that its developers are trying to make is that the algorithm will make it so hard for spies to execute timing attacks that the likelihood is that they will give up altogether and search for easier targets.

So far Astoria looks like a good option to increase security over the Tor network, but it is still risky to use since it cannot guarantee a safe path for use traffic. Users may be given the option to use high level encryption for their browsing session, but this will affect Tor speeds, although the team claims that speeds will be “optimized” – meaning that users will get the best speeds possible under the circumstances. Internet users who really want to make sure that they keep their activities private from spies need to use a proper VPN. The best VPNs are not free, but they will provide top level encryption and top speeds plus guaranteed private tunneling through anonymous VPN servers. This is the best option out there today for online privacy and security.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Filed in: News

Get Updates

Share This Post

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment

© Best VPN Service. All rights reserved.