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Main Tor site blocked in Russia as censorship spreads

The main Tor Project website, torproject.org, is actively blocked by Russia’s largest ISPs, and sources in the country say the government is preparing to carry out a large block of the project.

Tor is a software project that allows users to automatically encrypt and redirect their web requests through a network of Tor nodes for anonymous browsing.

It is commonly used to protect one’s identity from the Internet and service providers, help users hide their traces online, access shared information without fear of exposure, and circumvent censorship.

Russia’s censorship of the Tor site began on December 1, 2021, but many initially ignored it, suggesting it was simply a side effect of experimenting with Runet, the Sovereign Internet Project. from Russia.

However, as it now appears to be the case, Russia is the subject of coordinated action against Tor, orchestrated by Roskomnadzor, the Federal Service for Surveillance of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media.

This blockage occurred simultaneously with the ban on six other VPN services in Russia, introducing barriers to anonymous Internet access at several levels for users in the country.

According to Roskomsvoboda, a Russian digital rights NGO, the block was launched by telecom operator Rostelecom on December 1, 2021, followed by MTS and Tele 2 with similar action on December 3, 2021.

People attempting to access Tor could do so using proxies or secret channels such as “bridges”, but the blocking would affect some of these alternate channels.

In response, the Tor Project published an article urging volunteers to run Tor Bridges to help keep Russians online.

“Russia is the country with the second highest number of Tor users, with over 300,000 daily users or 15% of all Tor users. As it looks like this situation could quickly escalate into a Tor block. nationwide, we urgently need to respond to this censorship! We need your help NOW to keep Russians connected to Tor! ” Tor’s blog post argues.

Additionally, users based in Russia are encouraged to help Tor understand how censorship works from a technical perspective by using the OONI probe app and running bypass tests.

The Tor Project asked its community to help run new Tor Bridges on November 17, 2021, which could be the reason for escalating censorship against it.

It is unfortunate that Russia has decided to act aggressively against the Tor project and the users of the Onion network, but this is not at all surprising.

The action is perfectly in line with the overall strategy of the country’s authorities to obtain full control over the online resources to which its inhabitants are authorized to access.

For those who wish to try circumvention methods, it is suggested that you first ensure your anonymity by all technical means possible, as the state may soon step up the application of censorship by detecting its offenders.