Responding to Tor censorship in Russia

by ggus | December 7, 2021

Since December 1st, some Internet providers in Russia have started to block access to Tor. Today, we've learned that the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), a Russian government bureaucratic entity, is threatening to censor our main website (torproject.org). Russia is the country with the second largest number of Tor users, with more than 300,000 daily users or 15% of all Tor users. As it seems this situation could quickly escalate to a country-wide Tor block, it's urgent that we respond to this censorship! We need your help NOW to keep Russians connected to Tor!

Run a Tor bridge

Last month we launched the campaign Help Censored Users, Run a Tor Bridge to motivate more volunteers to spin up more bridges. The campaign has been a great success, and we've already achieved our goal of 200 new obfs4 bridges. Today, we have more than 400 new bridges.

But now, if the censorship pattern that we're analyzing in some Russian internet providers is to be deployed country-wide, we will need many more bridges to keep Russians online. Thanks to researchers, we've learned that the default bridges available in Tor Browser aren't working in some places in Russia - this includes Snowflake bridges and obfs4 bridges obtained dynamically using Moat. Russian users need to follow our guide to use bridges that are not blocked.

We are calling on everyone to spin up a Tor bridge! If you've ever considered running a bridge, now is an excellent time to get started, as your help is urgently needed. You can find the requirements and instructions for starting a bridge in the Help Censored Users, Run a Tor Bridge blog post.

We need the support of the Internet Freedom community

Teach users about Tor bridges

Digital security trainers and internet freedom advocates, your help is needed! As this instance of censorship limits direct access to our website, malicious actors could start phishing users with fake Tor Browsers or spreading disinformation about Tor. Teaching users how to bypass censorship and how to get the official Tor Browser version using GetTor or a mirror will be crucial. We need you help spread accurate information about Tor and Tor bridges, particularly among Russian audiences.

Localize Tor

We have an extremely helpful and responsive Russian translator community, but we urgently need more volunteers. Learn how to become a Tor translator and join Tor's localization IRC channel or use Element to connect to (#tor-l10n:matrix.org).

Document internet censorship

Russian users can help us see how the Russian government is censoring the internet by running the OONI probe app on their mobile or desktop devices. OONI, the Open Observatory of Network Interference, will test if and how Tor is being blocked by your internet provider. After installing, please run the "Circumvention test", which will check if circumvention tools like Tor are blocked. Internet measurements are important for detection of anomalous activities; a volunteer running the OONI probe and discussing results with the Tor community was how we discovered the current censorship in Russia.

Apply pressure

International digital rights and human rights organizations must pressure Russia's government to immediately revert this censorship.

We will update this post if the situation changes. To receive a notification for updates, you can subscribe to our new Forum and click on the bell icon.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://blog.torproject.org/tor-censorship-in-russia/
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I just launched two freedom bridges and have 5 more IPv4s locked and loaded. :rocket: :rocket: :rocket: :globe_with_meridians: Tor Project has been good all year and Santa is dropping some monero in their stocking. :santa: To all my homies under the regimes of pooh bear and the lipstick cowboy: see you on the freedomnet! :fist: :fist: :fist:

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After this call for Tor bridges, in just 48 hours, volunteers have already deployed more than 200 new bridges that will help Russians circumvent Roskomnadzor censorship! :bridge_at_night: :muscle:

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Not wishing to get carried away with myself here but news is beginning to emanate out of Moscow that a Ukrainian navy ship close to Russian waters off Crimea is refusing to change course.
A purely speculative thought has flashed across my mind, could the Russian Tor censorship be in lieu of an anticipated military conflict between Russia & Ukraine, in the very near future or at some point this winter? Time will tell. Standing by.

Meanwhile, sleeves rolled up & cracking on with the Tor Bridges!

OONI Desktop does NOT support Linux… This is realllyy a miss! Sure we have the CLI, but still… That’s only for power users.

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Perfect dark stopped working too.

Does Ed Snowden live in Russia still? Is there any comment from him, he was into ‘always use Tor’ as I remember.

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UPDATE (December 24): It seems that censors did another round of blocking Tor bridges.
If you’re a bridge operator and noticed a sudden drop in the user stats, please rotate your bridge IP address or delete and deploy a new bridge.

For Russian users, try our telegram bot @GetBridgesBot.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Snowflake in Orbot

Thanks for your continuing efforts in the struggle for freedom of speech, information and privacy.

Just a few ideas & observations.

I’m not particularly tech-savvy, but…
From what I understand, dumb IP blocks can be done with just software unfortunately, right?
Although, DPI unit seems like a fairly specialized piece of hardware. And authoritarian shitholes usually are not particularly strong in developing their own pieces of high-tech.

So if you engage in activism, you could maybe contact your parliament representatives of some sort and push for the supply ban of potential internet censorship tools to dictatorships like Russia and others.

Also, I’ve been using a bridge for about a week, and it stopped working recently. The other one I fetched was working for only about half a day and then stopped.
But now one of the bridges I have saved is functional again(using it right now).
Perhaps some of them are just not that stable on their own…

So how about you make a counter attached to every bridge, and once it reaches the appropriate number of distributions for its bandwidth, the system stops showing it, so if only fair users were able to pick it, they can continue using it, without Putin’s minions being able to see it anymore?

With best regards.

On the UPDATE (December 24) a newbie question: How is it possible for censors to block Tor bridges if their IP addresses are not public?

Thanks

@Cefiro Not “public” like exit or relays, but you can requests them via mail, tor site, torbrowser, anyone with time can fetch a lot bridges and get bridges ip´s but that would be time consuming…

@rEsIsTaNcE So basically someone pretends to be a Tor user to get the IP of the bridges.

So, according to the UPDATE of @gus, having a fixed IP for a Tor bridge is no longer a good thing, but a problem because every time Roskomnadzor (Russia’s censorship bureau) does another round of blocking it is necessary to change the public IP address of the bridges. This can become a problem for their owners. :thinking:

Nope, that’s a misinterpretation. Having a static IP address is important for usability. Using a dynamic IP address will make users request a new bridge every time your ISP changes the IP address (or if you reboot your modem). One thing is changing your static IP address once a month (like in this case), and the other is your ISP changing the IP address every day/week, and that’s will make users experience miserable. If you have a dynamic IP address, you should run Snowflake.

IP rotation may result into subnet-wide blocks. Roskomnadzor has used such approach when it tried to block Telegram: Russia's state censor blocks hundreds of thousands of IP addresses owned by Amazon and Google — Meduza