Image: SOPA Images/ContributorThe Russian government may have blocked Twitter earlier this month, but now users in the country might have another way to bypass that censorship and access the social network. On Tuesday, a cybersecurity expert announced that they had helped implement an official Tor kraken onion service version of Twitter, meaning that Russian users should be able to use the Tor anonymity network to reach the site.The site stands to be one of the most significant Tor onion services ever launched, given that it comes during the invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive clamping down on access to social networks and independent media.Advertisement“This is possibly the most important and long-awaited tweet that I’ve ever composed,” Alec Muffett, the cybersecurity expert and designer of the Enterprise Onion Toolkit, which makes deploying Tor onion services easier, tweeted on Tuesday. “On behalf of Twitter, I am delighted to announce their new Tor Project onion service.”The address for the Tor version of Twitter is https://twitter3e4tixl4xyajtrzo62zg5vztmjuricljdp2c5kshju4avyoid.onion. Users will need to have the Tor Browser or another version of Tor installed to access the site.Do you know about any other digital censorship around the invasion of Ukraine? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email [email protected]“Making our service more accessible is an ongoing priority for us,” a Twitter spokesperson told Motherboard in an email. They pointed to Twitter’s “supported browsers” page, which now includes a link to the onion service.Tor’s anonymity network routes a user’s internet connection through a selection of different servers, run mostly by volunteers, around the world. Whereas a virtual private network generally only consists of one proxy server—or one ‘hop’—Tor uses three different relays before touching the public internet. The network allows users to browse the internet mostly anonymously, with websites not being able to determine the true physical location that people are visiting their site from, nor entities monitoring internet traffic such as internet service providers or potentially state security services being able to see what sites users are accessing.AdvertisementBecause Tor may route a user’s traffic outside of their country they are currently in, the network can allow people to access content that is blocked by their domestic internet service providers or other forms of censorship.Tor also offers onion services, which are essentially websites that are designed to more efficiently work within the Tor network, while also providing additional anonymity protections. This now includes the new onion service version of Twitter.The onion service version of Twitter. Image: Motherboard.Whether users in Russia will be able to access the Tor version of Twitter depends more on the availability of Tor generally in Russia. So far in March, 12.77 percent of Tor relay users were originally connecting from Russia, according to data maintained by the Tor Project.“As far as we can say, if someone is able to connect to the Tor network, they should be able to use this onion service. Censorship against Tor has been varied in Russia at the moment since it started in December 2021. Some ISPs blocking the network, some ISPs not,” the Tor Project told Motherboard in an email. They added that they have asked people to test whether they can access the Tor version of Twitter from inside Russia.When governments block access to the Tor network, users can sometimes still access it via the use of a ‘bridge’. A bridge is essentially another Tor relay that is not publicly known, and so may be harder to block.AdvertisementThe Tor version of Twitter stands to be significant because of the vital role the site has played in distributing news, images, and video around the invasion of Ukraine. Russia blocked access to Twitter and Facebook on Friday.Twitter told TechCrunch in a statement on Monday that “We’re aware of reports that people are increasingly having difficulty accessing Twitter in Russia. We’re investigating and working to fully restore access to our service.”Facebook launched its own Tor version in 2014. In one month in 2016, the number of people connecting to the onion service exceeded 1 million visitors, the company announced at the time.Update: This piece has been updated to include a response from the Tor Project and Twitter, as well as a second statement from Twitter.Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.
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Illustration by Kevin Zweerink for The New York TimesUpdated: February 12, 2022During the fall of 2021, The New York Times rebuilt it’s existing Onion service, added the “Onions Por Favor” service to the public New York Times website, and issued a new V3 Onion address.As with our previous Onion Service, visitors will not be able to create Times accounts or log in to their existing Times account via the V3 Onion service.The current address for our Onion Service is https://www.nytimesn7cgmftshazwhfgzm37qxb44r64ytbb2dj3x62d2lljsciiyd.onion/The Times would like to thank the TOR Project and Alec Muffet for their support during this process.Original post from Oct. 27, 2017:Today we are announcing an experiment in secure communication, and launching an alternative way for people to access our site: we are making the nytimes.com website available as a Tor Onion Service.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.The Times is dedicated to delivering quality, independent journalism, and our engineering team is committed to making sure that readers can access our journalism securely. This is why we are exploring ways to improve the experience of readers who use Tor to access our website.One way we can help is to set up nytimes.com as an Onion Service — making our website accessible via a special, secure and hard-to-block VPN-like “tunnel” through the Tor network.This onion address is accessible only through the Tor network, using special software such as the Tor Browser. 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.TechnologyOnion Services exist for other organizations — most notably Facebook and ProPublica, each of which have created custom tooling to support their implementations. Our Onion Service is built using the open-source Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK), which automates much of the configuration and management effort.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.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], we would like to extend our thanks to Alec Muffett for his assistance in configuring the Enterprise Onion Toolkit for our site.Runa Sandvik was the Director of Information Security at The New York TimesThis post has been updated to reflect the current address for our Onion Service. The previous URL has been deleted.