Shining Light in Dark Places: Understanding the Tor Network

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Abstract

To date, there has yet to be a study that characterizes the usage of a real deployed anonymity service. We present observations and analysis obtained by participating in the Tor network. Our primary goals are to better understand Tor as it is deployed and through this understanding, propose improvements. In particular, we are interested in answering the following questions: (1) How is Tor being used? (2) How is Tor being mis-used? (3) Who is using Tor?

To sample the results, we show that web traffic makes up the majority of the connections and bandwidth, but non-interactive protocols consume a disproportionately large amount of bandwidth when compared to interactive protocols. We provide a survey of how Tor is being misused, both by clients and by Tor router operators. In particular, we develop a method for detecting exit router logging (in certain cases). Finally, we present evidence that Tor is used throughout the world, but router participation is limited to only a few countries.