How to access Tor, even when your country says you can't

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Censorship is nothing new, but as many governments and law enforcement agencies tighten the noose, anti-surveillances solutions need to get creative.

The Tor Project, which runs the anti-surveillance Tor network, is one such being.

The non-profit runs a network designed to disguise the original locations of users through traffic and relay points, and is often used by journalists, activists and those attempting to circumvent censorship.

Nima Fatemi, an independent security research and member of the Tor Project, highlighted in a recent blog post how users in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran can still try to access the network.

As noted by Motherboard, governments including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Russia and China often attempt to block the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) in an effort to keep an eye on their citizen’s online activities.

However, blocking Tor is a more complicated problem due to the use of volunteer-ran nodes and relays used to reroute traffic and disguise original IP addresses.

According to Fatemi, the Tor Browser spoofs the UserAgent identity feature to make users look alike and avoid spying, as well as fingerprint attacks. However, Tor is still an open network where anyone can get a list of relay points — and so governments can simply block them.

“They can simply get the list of Tor relays and block them,” Fatemi noted. “This bars millions of people from access to free information, often including those who need it most. We at Tor care about freedom of access to information and strongly oppose censorship.”

As a result, Tor has developed what the organization called Pluggable Transports (PTs). PTs are a type of “bridge” into the Tor network which “make encrypted traffic to Tor look like not-interesting or garbage traffic,” according to the developer.

If users already want to try out this censorship-thwarting tool, they are in luck — as PTs are already included in the Tor Browser.

Tor has provided a step-by-step guide, as shown in the image below:

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Tor

If you need additional bridges, you can email the project here or visit the BridgeDB website.

See also: Over 100 suspicious, snooping Tor nodes discovered

Tor has hit the spotlight recently after a scandal involving one of the “core” members of the project’s development team rocked the very foundations of the organization. Jacob Appelbaum, a 33-year-old developer, stepped down from his position after being accused of alleged inappropriate sexual misconduct.

While Appelbaum has denied the claim as a “calculated and targeted attack,” an investigation conducted by an external law firm found that “many people inside and outside the Tor Project have reported incidents of being humiliated, intimidated, bullied, and frightened by Jacob,” according to Tor executive director Shari Steele.

As a result of the scandal, the full Tor board has been replaced with new faces including security expert Bruce Schneier, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Cindy Cohn and Matt Blaze, a computer and information science professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

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