Encryption

Fighting Global Censorship, ProPublica Joins the Dark Web

The investigative journalism outfit launches hidden service website on the encrypted Tor Browser.

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ProPublica, the non-profit investigative

What are you lookin' at? I'm browin' here.
Josh Swain

journalism outfit whose motto is "Journalism in the Public Interest" has become the first major media organization to join the "Dark Web" with the launch of a hidden service version of its site, designed to run on the encrypted Tor Browser

As reported by Wired:

The move, ProPublica says, is designed to offer the best possible privacy protections for its visitors seeking to read the site's news with their anonymity fully intact. Unlike mere SSL encryption, which hides the content of the site a web visitor is accessing, the Tor hidden service would ensure that even the fact that the reader visited ProPublica's website would be hidden from an eavesdropper or Internet service provider.

While working on a project about internet censorship in China, ProPublica's news applications developer Mike Tigas decided that his employers' website could benefit from some additional buffers against censorship anywhere in the world. 

On a ProPublica podcast, Tigas explained:

Last year, we were working on a project called Inside the Firewall. It was an interactive news app about Chinese Internet censorship and the "Great Firewall," just tracking how international news sites are censored and uncensored within mainland China. During this, I was experimenting with using Tor around ProPublica-related things to see if maybe we could protect ourselves from being censored in the event that ProPublica is censored, or in the event that somebody is in a restrictive country or area – would people be able to still access our reporting and our content? 

Many still associate the "Dark Web" with websites that cater to criminal activity, like the shuttered Silk Road, but Tigas told Wired, "I hope other people see that there are uses for hidden services that aren't just hosting illegal sites…having good examples of sites like ProPublica and Securedrop using hidden services shows that these things aren't just for criminals."

Announcing the new version of the site on ProPublica's "Nerd Blog" last week, Tigas wrote:

We launched this in part because we do a lot of reporting, writing, and coding about issues like media censorshipdigital privacy and surveillance, and breaches of private medical information. Readers use our interactive databases to see data that reveals a lot about themselves, such as whether their doctor receives payments from drug companies. Our readers should never need to worry that somebody else is watching what they're doing on our site. So we made our site available as a Tor hidden service to give readers a way to browse our site while leaving behind less of a digital trail.

Coincidentally, last week Reason TV released a video tutorial on "How To Chat Anonymously Online," which includes a brief explanation of what Tor is and why you it's worth using even if you've got "nothing to hide."

Watch below:

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  1. Could we bury slate.com in there, instead. Then only pedos and the NSA would have access to it.

  2. Is ProPublica getting ahead of the curve in blaming the need to hide on President Trump?

  3. Last year, we were working on a project called Inside the Firewall. It was an interactive news app about Chinese Internet censorship and the “Great Firewall,” just tracking how international news sites are censored and uncensored within mainland China.

    While the quote below is from 2012, I believe that Tor is largely blocked in China using deep packet inspection. As the quote below denotes, there’s a kind of catch-22 regarding Tor. Unless you’re running a private Tor network– gateways which are only revealed to users you personally know and trust, the moment a Tor gateway is “publicly” known, the GFC blocks those gateways.

    tor developers have been working hard to come up with ways to get Tor traffic through the GFC, but again, because Tor is an open-architecture system, authorities are able to observe Tor development and continuously analyze tor traffic and subsequently block it.

    None of this even begins to discuss the U.S. Government’s compromising of Tor users via techniques like end-to-end correlation etc.

    1. There is a broader issue of course. Because Tor is an open and transparent organisation, these kinds of discussions about how best to circumvent the Chinese firewall inevitably take place in public, in full view of the Chinese authorities they are attempting to outwit.

      The mere publication of Winter and Lindskog’s paper gives the Chinese authorities full view of the techniques these guys have used to reveal how the firewall works.

      Security analysts and the developers behind Tor must be sorely tempted to hide their deliberations and protect their future work behind an impenetrable veil of secrecy. That must be resisted.

      These kinds of open discussion may be like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. But surely such is the price of freedom.

      http://www.technologyreview.co…..y-network/

  4. “Dark web” sounds so mysterious and scary. Sounds like a place with opium dens, where you can bet on dog fighting or bid on concubines.

    It reminds me of when I first started hearing about “identity theft”. You know the difference between identity theft and credit fraud? In identity theft, not only do they abuse your credit, they also show up at your work, take your job, move into your house, take over your friends, and sleep with your wife–and no one ever notices that it isn’t really you!

    Naw, actually “identity theft” just sounds scarier than credit fraud.

    We gotta find a better word for it than “dark web”. People are scared of the dark web. It’ll entangle you in its darkness!

    How ’bout “free web”?

    1. How about we just call that one the “web,” and start calling this one the “give your personal information away free to marketers and government agencies web”?

      1. Private web, public web. Public schools, public transportation, public restrooms. Private schools, private jet, private office. We all know which of these is to be preferred to the other and we can self-segregate accordingly.

        1. We all know which of these is to be preferred to the other and we can self-segregate accordingly.

          You mean like the college campus model? ‘Cuz all I hear is, “Privately owned and segregated.”

          /prog

    2. “Sounds like a place with opium dens, where you can bet on dog fighting or bid on concubines.”

      So…uh, is this place, you know…nearby?

  5. Why didn’t they go with i2p? I thought i2p was not susceptible to the problems dogging tor.

    1. I suspect because i2p only allows browsing of sites within the i2p network. But I only have a surface, working knowledge of i2p. My understanding is Tor is designed to allow you to browse a public site, and have your identity masked. i2p is when both the site and the visitor are (want to remain) hidden.

  6. You know the difference between identity theft and credit fraud? In identity theft, not only do they abuse your credit, they also show up at your work, take your job, move into your house, take over your friends, UPS international shipping and sleep with your wife–and no one ever notices that it isn’t really you

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