I’ve been interested in internet-related privacy issues for quite some time, and in fact have had interest in Tor for almost as long as it’s been in existance. No, I’m not a user of Darknet Markets such as Silkroad, I just think that services like Tor are useful and should be used on as large of a scale as possible.
To counter the pervasive monitoring online. Which, I’m sure you’ll all admit, is quite hypocritical, being that this site itself uses Google Analytics… Rest assured, I’m on the hunt for an open-source replacement, so it should go away in due time. Either way, what we do online is tracked by everyone. Google is by far the biggest offender, but everyone gives them a pass for whatever reason, while at the same time freaking out over the idea that the NSA might be collecting the same exact information that Google does. That’s another story, though.
The point is, Tor is useful on two fronts:
- For browsers who aren’t interested in having their online wanderings collected, cataloged, and analyzed by their ISP, Google, and the legions of other online advertisers.
- Though simply browsing through Tor helps preserve your anonymity, you are still forced to trust the Exit node to not mess with/interfere with the pages you request. If sites offer their content through “Hidden Services”, then that alleviates the need to trust an anonymous exit node operator, as you can request content directly from the site you’re visiting without the need for your browser requests to exit the Tor network.
Hidden services are still a fringe offering, but they are starting to gain use and acceptance, including:
(NOTE: You need to have the Tor Browser Bundle installed in order to access domains that end with .onion; you can get it directly from the Tor Project here)
Facebook has created a hidden service for accessing their site (http://facebookcorewwwi.onion)
DuckDuckGo, the privacy centric search engine, offers access to their site via a hidden service (3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion)
Blockchain.info, a provider of Bitcoin-related wallets and services, offers access to their site via a hidden service (http://blockchatvqztbll.onion/)
The PirateBay operates their site as a hidden service. (http://uj3wazyk5u4hnvtk.onion)
WikiLeaks USED to have a hidden service. I don’t know why they stopped operating it, kind of disappointed, actually.
So the point of this is that there are plenty of reasons to want to use Tor aside from nefarious purposes, and “mainstream” sites are starting to pick up on that need/desire as well.
You’ll notice, some of the above .onion URL’s have names that are slightly less than random. How’s that accomplished? With this program named “Shallot”, which is available on Github. Building and using the program is quite simple under Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install git make libssl-dev mkdir src src git clone https://github.com/katmagic/Shallot.git cd Shallot ./configure make
Now, how does it work?
You can try entering:
This will generate an onion address with the pattern “luck” somewhere within it.
Or you can try entering:
Which will generate and onion address that starts with the pattern “luck”.