Surfing Posting Blogging


Tor Browser is installed to surf the Internet anonymously. It is optimized to surf the Web securely and anonymously and therefore configured in a rather restricitve way. Please, read the Tor Browser article for basics.


Whonix does not obfuscate a user's writing style. Consequently, unless precautions are taken (see below), users are at risk from stylometric analysis based on their linguistic style. Research suggests only a few thousand words (or less) may be enough to positively identify an author, and there are a host of software tools available to conduct this analysis.

This technique is used by advanced adversaries to attribute authorship to anonymous documents, online texts (web pages, blogs etc.), electronic messages (emails, tweets, posts etc.) and more. The field is dominated by A.I. techniques like neural networks and statistical pattern recognition, and is critical to privacy and security. Current anonymity and circumvention systems are focused on location-based privacy, but ignore leakage of identification via the content of data which has a high accuracy in authorship recognition (90%+ probability). [1]

There are multiple ways to conduct statistical analysis on "anonymous" texts, including: [2] [3]

  • Keystroke fingerprinting, for example in conjunction with Javascript.
  • Stylistic flourishes.
  • Abbreviations.
  • Spelling preferences and misspellings.
  • Language preferences.
  • Word frequency.
  • Number of unique words.
  • Regional linguistic preferences in slang, idioms and so on.
  • Sentence/phrasing patterns.
  • Word co-location (pairs).
  • Use of formal/informal language.
  • Function words.
  • Vocabulary usage and lexical density.
  • Character count with whitespace.
  • Average sentence length.
  • Average syllables per word.
  • Synonym choice.
  • Expressive elements like colors, layout, fonts, graphics, emotions and so on.
  • Analysis of grammatical structure and syntax.

Fortunately, research suggests that if users purposefully obfuscate their linguistic style or imitate the style of other known authors, this is largely successful in defeating all stylometric analysis methods, so they are no better than randomly guessing the correct author of a document. However, using automated methods like machine translation services do not appear to be a viable method of circumvention. [4]

Keystroke Fingerprinting[edit]

Keystroke biometric algorithms have advanced to the point where it is viable to fingerprint users based on soft biometric traits. This is a privacy risk because masking spatial information, such as the IP address via Tor, is insufficient to anonymize users. [5]

Users can be uniquely fingerprinted based on: [6]

  • Typing speed.
  • Exactly when each key is located and pressed (seek time), how long it is held down before release (hold time), and when the next key is pressed (flight time).
  • How long the breaks/pauses are in typing.
  • How many errors are made and the most common errors produced.
  • How errors are corrected during the drafting of material.
  • The type of local keyboard that is being used.
  • Whether they are likely right or left-handed.
  • Rapidity of letter sequencing indicating the user's likely native language.

A unique neural algorithm generates a primary pattern for future comparison. It is thought that most individuals produce keystrokes that are as unique as handwriting or signatures. This technique is imperfect; typing styles can vary during the day and between different days depending on the user's emotional state and energy level. [7]

Unless protective steps are taken to obfuscate the time intervals between key press and release events, it is likely most users can be deanonymized based on their keystroke manner and rhythm biometrics. Adversaries are likely to have samples of clearnet keystroke fingerprinting which they can compare with "anonymous" Tor samples. At a minimum, users should not type into browsers with Javascript enabled, since this opens up this deanonymization vector. Text should be written in an offline text editor and copied and pasted into the web interface when it is complete.

In addition, users must also disguise their linguistic style to combat stylometric analysis, and be aware of mouse tracking techniques available to adversaries.

Posting and Blogging Anonymously[edit]

Whonix-Workstation contains all necessary tools to run a blog anonymously. Some hints:

  • Step 0. Before doing anything make sure you understand and exercise a healthy dose of Operational Security (OpSec). Even the best anonymity tech in existence cannot save you if you mess this up.
  • For an anonymous blog hosted on third-party services, you will usually need a new and anonymous e-mail address (see separate E-Mail article) for registration. Partition your activities and use this address only for your blog. Always use Tor to login into this e-mail account.
  • You may register your blog at different providers anonymously. For example you could use Keep always the option to pay anonymously (e.g via BitCoin or cash cards, ex. Paysafecard) in mind if you are using a premium product. (See Money page.) Note that cash card codes differ by country and could theoretically also contain an ID to specific in which shop they have been bought. Usually you may administrate your blog using a web interface only. Always use Tor for all activities concerning your blog.
  • A browser is no safe environment to write stuff such as for example forum posts or e-mails, webmail or IMAP.
    • You could accidentally paste things you don't want to paste for example into the search or URL bar, which could trigger a search for text that you did not intend to sent into the public internet.
    • With JavaScript enabled, user behavior can be tracked and profiled. Tor Browser defenses are based on skewing JavaScript's perception of time.[8][9] Kloak, a system-wide solution for keystroke and mouse profiling is currently in progress.
      • It reveals, how fast you type, how long your breaks are[10], which mistakes you make and how you correct them while writing the draft, also which type of local keyboard you are using.
      • Mouse tracking[11] analyzes your click speed, the position and speed of cursor movement unique to each person as they interact with webpages. [9]
    • Combined with stylometry which works with less data (final text only), keystroke fingerprinting will completely de-anonymize you. An adversary can compare statistics about user's typing over clearnet, then compares it to texts composed over Tor in real-time.
    • Write the text in an offline text editor such as KWrite and copy and paste the text into the web interface once you are done.
    • This is a variation of an older attack perfected during the Cold War where recording typewritter sounds gives enough information to accurately reconstruct what was typed. This still applies today and you should avoid typing in places where open mics are used.[12][13]
  • Mouse movements are potentially another biometric fingerprint. High accuracy is achieved in limited situations - active authentication during log-on. Does not clear EU false positive requirements however so they recommend it for combining with keystroke dynamics as extra confirmation.[14][15][16] It is good practice to keep JS disabled.
  • Mind your cookies! Remember to empty your browser's cookie and history cache periodically. When you are using Tor Browser, which is recommended for many reasons anyway, simply close Tor Browser after you are done working on your blog, then restart it. For more advanced separation use Multiple Whonix-Workstations.
  • Attention should be given to the password-retention policy of the browser. If the browser supports a master password that encrypts every password it saves, use that feature. It is however best not to save your blog password in the browser.
  • Every blog software offers the option to select the point in time when new postings shall be published. Do not publish a new posting "at once" but rather choose a point in time when you are not online anymore. [17]
    • Over time, pseudonymous activity can be profiled to give an accurate estimate of your timezone and reduce your anonymity set. Try to restrict your posting activity to a fixed time that fits the daily activity pattern of people across many places.
  • Stylometry (deanonymization using your spelling style) is a powerful tool long used by Intelligence services. It is possible to automatically analyze and attribute anonymous postings to an author. Countermeasures such as faking one's authorship style can work.
  • Use a spell checker to confuse Stylometry a bit. You could use KWrite. To start it, use Start menu button -> Applications -> Utilities -> Text Editor (KWrite). Once KWrite is open, click on Tools -> Automatic spell checking. Mistyped words will be underlined with red color.
  • Use random usernames and passwords for anonymous accounts. The pwgen tool included in Whonix can give output that you can customize length, capitalization, special symbols and numbers for. Its reliable enough that its used by Debian Installer to recommend stronger passwords.
  • Generally, before uploading to the blog pictures and other documents must get anonymized. Usually, pictures contain a unique camera id in the meta tags, which may deanonymize you, and perhaps GPS (location) coordinates. See Metadata for more information. See also #Anonymous Photo Sharing below.
  • Avoid places where people are likely to shoulder surf or where CCTV cameras are deployed.
  • Though less of a threat in the real world, thermal imaging can capture body heat remains from keys touched to input passwords up to one minute after the fact.[18]
  • Depending on your situation you are advised to shut off your speakers and microphone at all times as newer methods of ad tracking can link multiple devices via ultrasound covert channels. This works by playing a unique sound inaudible to human ears which is picked up by the microphones of untrusted devices - deanonymizing you completely. Watermarked audible sounds are equally dangerous. So hardware incapable of ultrasound is ineffective protection. To decrease risks its recommended to play video/audio from untrusted sources with headphones connected and adjusted at a low volume. [19] [20] [21]
    • For higher computing assurance you are advised to move all phones, tablets etc. out of the room to avoid them issuing watermarked sounds as well as listening to keystroke sounds and watermarked sounds.
  • Another keystroke snooping technique involves a WiFi signal emitter (router) and malicious receiver (laptop) that detects changes in the signal that correspond to movements of the victim's hands on their keyboard.[22] The attack has many limitations in the real-world that make it non practical and susceptible to noise but its important to keep in mind that public places are generally more risky computing environments. An attack variant using USRP (cellphone radio ranges) have performed poorly because of background energy interference.
  • Energy leaks that reveal sensitive information are a long studied area of cryptography research. There is no need for alarm as all attacks were foiled by software countermeasures in crypto libs and GPG. Side-channel research: Extraction of secret decryption keys from laptop computers, by nonintrusively measuring electromagnetic emanations for a few seconds from a distance of 50 cm. The attack can be executed using cheap and readily-available equipment: a consumer-grade radio receiver or a Software Defined Radio USB dongle.[23] Another involves measuring acoustic emanations. [24] A poor man's implementation of TEMPEST attacks (recovering crypto keys by measuring EM emissions) using $3000 worth of equipment was proven possible from an adjacent room across a 15cm wall. These attacks were only possible for adversaries with nation-state resources for the past 50 years.[25] Keep in mind this is still a highly targeted attack that requires dedicated and skilled attackers and not a drag-net surveillance threat.
  • Google's CAPTCHAS fingerprint your behavior. Disable JS if you absolutely must solve one.[26] CAPTCHAS also directly enhance militant drone strike capabilities. [27]
  • In most cases you can bypass Tor blocks by destination servers using simple proxies.

Anonymous Photo Sharing[edit]

Every camera's sensor has a unique noise signature because of subtle hardware differences. The sensor noise is detectable in the pixels of every image and video shot with the camera and could be fingerprinted. In the same way ballistics forensics can trace a bullet to the barrel it came from, the same can be accomplished with adversarial digital forensics for all images and videos. [28] [29] Major data mining corporations are starting to use this technique to associate identities of camera owners with everything or everyone else they shoot. [30] It follows that governments have had the same capabilities for some time now and can apply them to their vast troves of data.

Note that this is different from file Metadata that may be sanitized with the Metadata Anonymization Toolkit.

There are no known countermeasures for this attack. Research on the question of spoofing sensor fingerprints in image files has proven non trivial and easily defeated.[31]

Operational Security Advice:

  • This advice assumes wanting to preserve anonymity when publicly sharing media in the face of even the most sophisticated adversaries on the internet. Examine your threat model. These steps don't apply for communications that never leave anonymous encrypted channels between trusted and technically competent parties.
  • Its almost a certainty that you've shared photos and videos from your current devices through non-anonymous channels. Do NOT use any of these devices to shoot media you intend on sharing anonymously.
  • You will probably want to avoid phones altogether and use tablets but for most situations they are a reasonable choice. Buy a new Android phone with cash if possible. Avoid other choices because proprietary operating system is a non starter. You MUST flash a freedom and privacy respecting ROM before using your camera. Beware that the corporate malware infestation that comes with the phone out of the box siphons your data to the cloud aka spy heaven.
  • Do NOT mix up purposes of this camera and keep it reserved for anonymous media only.
  • Do NOT do obvious stupid mistakes like taking selfies or photographing places or people associated with you.
  • Do sanitize metadata with MAT before sharing anonymously online.
  • Do blot out faces completely with solid fills using an image manipulation program because advancements in neural nets and deep machine learning makes pixelated or gaussian blurred faces reconstructable.[32][33]
  • Consider using the ObscuraCam app from The Guardian Project to protect the identities of protestors. It pixelates images using a technique resistant to facial reconstruction. ObscuraCam also offers a full pixel removal "black bar" option.[34]

Anonymous Audio Recording Sharing[edit]

A similar threat for linking audio recordings to a microphone's hardware is also possible. Its also trivial to fingerprint a device's speaker audio (think ringtones and video playback in public spaces).[35]. The same opsec measures as for #Anonymous Photo Sharing should be applied.

This applies to any data recorded by any sensor type such as accelermoeters.Mobile Device Identification via Sensor Fingerprinting. The best way to defend is simply deny access to the hardware in question and avoid sharing of data recorded by a sensor in unencrypted form. Also not sharing with incompetent or malicious parties.

Anonymous Document Sharing[edit]

Watermarking is a subset of the science of steganography. It can apply to any type of digital media. Goals of watermarking are to trace back information leaks to a source. This is done by embedding covert data into the "noise" of data imperceptible to humans. A digital watermark is said to be robust if it remains intact even if modifications are made to the files.[36]

A good countermeasure is to run documents through an OCR and share the output instead.

According to a talk by Sarah Harrison from WikiLeaks, source tracing can happen through much simpler techniques such as looking at access lists for the materials. For example if only three people have access to a set of documents then the hunt is narrowed down considerably.

Redacting identifying information in electronic documents by means of image transformation (blurring or pixelization) has proven inadequate for concealing the intended text. The words can be reconstructed by machine learning algorithms. Solid bars are sufficient but care must be given to expand their size beyond the original text they cover. Failure to do so gives clues about how long the underlying word(s) are and makes it easy to guess what it based on the context of surrounding text.[37]


  9. 9.0 9.1 User Behavior

    While somewhat outside the scope of browser fingerprinting, for completeness it is important to mention that users themselves theoretically might be fingerprinted through their behavior while interacting with a website. This behavior includes e.g. keystrokes, mouse movements, click speed, and writing style. Basic vectors such as keystroke and mouse usage fingerprinting can be mitigated by altering Javascript's notion of time. More advanced issues like writing style fingerprinting are the domain of other tools.

  14. User re-authentication via mouse movements
  15. On Using Mouse Movements as a Biometric
  17. This will trick smaller adversaries, who can not force the blog service provider to reveal the fact, when and for how long you log in. It won't trick the blog service provider nor someone recording all internet traffic.
  22. Keystroke Recognition Using WiFi Signals
  23. Stealing Keys from PCs using a Radio: Cheap Electromagnetic Attacks on Windowed Exponentiation
  24. RSA Key Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Acoustic Cryptanalysis
  25. CDH Key-Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Electromagnetic Attacks on PCs
  29. Fingerprintable Camera Anomalies
  31. Sensor Noise Camera Identification: Countering Counter-Forensics
  33. Defeating Image Obfuscation with Deep Learning
  35. Do You Hear What I Hear? Fingerprinting Smart Devices Through Embedded Acoustic Components
  37. On the (In)effectiveness of Mosaicing and Blurring as Tools for Document Redaction


Gratitude is expressed to JonDos for permission to use material from their website. (w) (w) [1] The Surfing, Posting, Blogging page contains content from the JonDonym documentation Surfing and Blogging page.

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