How to Help Censored Users Access the Tor Network by Just Installing a Browser Addon!

Posted by on July 14, 2019 8:40 am
Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to a new Pluggable Transport called Snowflake you can now help censored users access the Tor network by just installing an addon. The way it works is pretty simple: censored users learn about a temporary proxy (a ‘snowflake’) from a broker (using domain fronting or other techniques) that they establish a connection with using WebRTC, the temporary proxy then transmits the requests to a bridge which then connects to the Tor network, the temporary proxy thus functions as a middle point between the censored user and the bridge <=> Tor network. The idea is that by getting a significantly large of ever changing and decaying temporary proxies it will be hard for a single censor to keep track and block all of them. As David Fifield eloquently explains,

Snowflake derives its blocking resistance from having a large number of proxies. A client may use a particular proxy for only seconds or minutes before switching to another. If the censor manages to block the IP address of one proxy, there is little harm, because many other temporary proxies are ready to take its place.

As explained earlier, when you function as a snowflake proxy no exit traffic is generated at your level, you just transit traffic to a bridge which then connects to the Tor network. Hence there is no need to worry about which websites the clients are accessing through your proxy. Their visible browsing IP address will match their Tor exit node, not yours. In addition Snowflake’s strength comes from having a large pool of temporary proxies, so don’t forget to spread the word and have a maximum of people installing this addon!

The addon is available for Firefox on AMO:

And if you happen to want to install it on a Chromium based browser it is available as well on the Chrome Addon Store:

A couple of notes:

  • You need WebRTC to be enabled in your browser for this to work, this is simply owing to how Snowflake works. The extension will display a warning if it detects that WebRTC isn’t enabled.

  • The addon tells you when a client is connecting using your proxy and how many clients you have helped circumvent censorship in the last 24h. However, right now Snowflake is only available for the alpha releases of the Tor Browser and then only for Linux and Mac OS, as such there aren’t currently many Snowflake users, so it shouldn’t be surprising for you to pass an entire 24h without having any reported client connection.

  • There are other ways to run a Snowflake proxy that are outlined here.

To learn more about Snowflake you can have a look at the following references:

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