Tor Project fights internet surveillance and censorship with ooniprobe

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/FL-photography)

If you’ve ever wondered if your browsing is being intercepted or tampered with, a new open-source tool from the Tor Project could be for you. 

Tor’s ooniprobe has been released for Android devices and will allow users to perform a range of tests on their network which indicates whether certain websites are blocked, or if traffic is being intercepted for surveillance or alteration. While Tor intends to add more features over time, users currently have two probing tools at their disposal along with a generic speed test. 

The first test is for Web Connectivity’ and will attempt connections to a range of websites containing various content to see if they’re blocked or tampered with. This includes websites for activism, religion, porn, file-sharing, LGBT members, and others. Each category represents websites that have been targeted in the past with censorship or surveillance. 

Here in the UK, most websites indicated no problem with connections. The few which failed turned out to be false negatives that have either genuinely shut down, load something like a pop-up advertisement, or redirect to their new URL. 

Another test available in ooniprobe is HTTP Invalid request line’ which attempts to find middle boxes” that are intercepting or altering data. Every test we’ve run on multiple networks has given a positive result to network tampering, but looking deeper into the exchanges, no data was received back from Tor which suggests a current issue with their servers. 

Data gathered from ooniprobe is shared to the OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference) crowd-sourcing project. OONI is part of the Tor project and is designed to monitor international blocking of websites, the presence of censorship and/or surveillance systems, and the speed/performance of personal and commercial networks. 

There will be little surprise that looking at OONI’s data, China has a significant number of website blocked due to its renowned Great Firewall”. No blocked pages have been identified within the US, while most of Europe focuses on blocking piracy and gambling websites. France, notably, has blocked a couple of sites linked to Islamic extremism. 

We must echo the warning Tor provides alongside its app that it’s your responsibility to check the legality of running these tests in your country. As the app is open-source, you’re free to peruse all the code behind ooniprobe. 

Have you found anything interesting with ooniprobe? Let us know in the comments. 

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