Tor Vs. Iran: Who Ya Got?

Senior Contributor

On one side, you’ve got the single most dedicated and fascinating attempt to keep the Internet anonymous out there. On the other, you’ve got a theocracy terrified of revolution. Who’ll win?

Our guess? The onion snackers at Tor.

You might have heard about Tor and wonder what the deal is. It works like this: web traffic from the client software is encrypted multiple times. As traffic passes through Tor’s volunteer network of servers and switches, each layer of encryption is stripped away, until it arrives at its ultimate destination. Hence the onion in its logo.

And, yes, Tor can be abused to circumvent the law and create online illegal marketplaces. But just as importantly, it can be used to mess with censorious, autocratic governments like Iran. In fact, Tor just thumped them in the crotch with a program that makes encrypted web traffic look like normal traffic, thus circumventing Iran’s ban on encrypted web traffic.

Reports Ars Technica:

Tor usage in Iran has made a full recovery days after the Iranian government started blocking encrypted Internet traffic.

Last Friday, the number of Iranian users connecting to the Internet through Tor’s anonymizing network had plummeted from roughly 50,000 per day to nearly zero. By Sunday, however, Tor usage was back to normal and expected usage levels, according to updated metrics provided by the Tor Project.

In response to Iranian censorship, Tor Project leaders rolled out a new obfuscated bridge that allows Iranians to circumvent the blockages and connect to the Internet through Tor once again. It’s unclear if the recovery in Internet connections is due primarily to steps taken by Tor and its users, but the government’s latest censorship program does not appear to have ended.

Of course, this is just the first shot in a larger cyberwar as Iran tries to completely control its Internet and stifle any coordination of protests or other anti-government action. Even Tor admits they’re in an arms race. But in the end, we’re pretty sure a bunch of dedicated nerds can beat a bunch of lunatics; after all, the nerds are ultimately the ones with more at stake.

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