Tor Browser Essentials

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Introduction[edit]

Warning: Only Tor Browser is recommended for use in Whonix when browsing the Internet. [1]

Tor Browserarchive.org [2] is a forkarchive.org of the Mozilla Firefox ESRarchive.org web browser. It is developed by The Tor Projectarchive.org and optimizedarchive.org and designedarchive.org for Tor, anonymity and security. [3] Most will have browsed with Firefox and be familiar with the user interface that resembles those found in other popular, modern browsers. [4]

It is strongly encouraged to read this entire chapter so Tor Browser is used effectively and safely on the Whonix platform. Advanced users may also be interested in the Tor Browser Adversary Model. Regularly consult the Tor Project blogarchive.org to stay in tune with Tor / Tor Browser news and the latest release information. The Tor Browser release schedule for each platform can also be found herearchive.org.

Anonymity vs Pseudonymity[edit]

If browsers other than Tor Browser are used in Whonix, the IP address and Domain Name Service (DNS) requests [5] are still protected (proxy obedience). However, only Tor Browser provides protocol level cleanup, which includes unique features like state separation, network isolation, and anonymity set preservation.

In stark contrast to regular browsers, Tor Browser is optimized for anonymity and has a plethora of privacy-enhancing patchesarchive.org and add-ons. [6] By sharing the Fingerprint with around two million other peoplearchive.org, [7] Tor Browser users "blend in" with the larger population and better protect their privacy.

Browsers other than Tor Browser[edit]

Warning: Using regular browsers is pseudonymous rather than anonymous.

Encryption[edit]

HTTPS Encryption[edit]

It is important to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS: [8]

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an extension of the Hypertext Transfer Protocolarchive.org (HTTP). It is used for secure communicationarchive.org over a computer networkarchive.org, and is widely used on the Internet. In HTTPS, the communication protocolarchive.org is encryptedarchive.org using Transport Layer Securityarchive.org (TLS), or, formerly, its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). The protocol is therefore also often referred to as HTTP over TLS, or HTTP over SSL.
The principal motivation for HTTPS is authenticationarchive.org of the accessed websitearchive.org and protection of the privacyarchive.org and integrityarchive.org of the exchanged data while in transit. ...

HTTPS Advantages[edit]

Info Only rely on services providing HTTPS when sensitive information is sent or received. Otherwise, passwords, financial / personal information or other sensitive data can be easily stolen or intercepted by eavesdroppers. HTTP webpage contents can also be modified on their way to the browser for malicious purposes.

HTTPS advantages include: [8]

  • Authentication of the website and web server that is being communicated with.
  • Protection against Man-in-the-middle Attacks.
  • Bidirectional encryption of communications between a client and server. This protects against eavesdropping and tampering with / forging of communication contents.
  • A reasonable expectation that the website being communicated with is genuine. [9]

In the Tor Browser context, this means HTTPS should be preferred over HTTP so communication is encrypted while browsing the Internet. While traffic is encrypted throughout the Tor network, the exit relay (third of three servers) can see traffic sent into Tor if it is plain HTTP. If HTTPS is used, the exit relay will only know the destination address. [10]

As an example, the screenshot below captures the browser appearance when visiting the Whonix website. [11]

Figure: A Secure Connection to www.whonix.org

Take note of the small, left-hand area of the address bar. Indicators of an encrypted connection are www.whonix.org is highlighted with a padlock and "Secure Connection" in green writing, and the URL begins with https:// instead of http://

HTTPS-Only Mode[edit]

Nowadays when visiting a website that does not support encryption (HTTPS), Tor Browser will show a warning. This is because nowadays HTTPS-Only Mode is enabled by default in Tor Browser.

Figure: Tor Browser HTTPS-Only Mode Alert - Warning when visiting a unencrypted (HTTP only) website

HTTP / HTTPS Connections with and without Tor[edit]

The following figures from EFF provide an overview of HTTP / HTTPS connections with and without Tor, and what information is visible to various third parties. The descriptors are as follows: [12]

Potentially visible data includes: the site you are visiting (SITE.COM), your username and password (USER/PW), the data you are transmitting (DATA), your IP address (LOCATION), and whether or not you are using Tor (TOR).

Figure: Tor and HTTPS

Figure: Tor and No HTTPS

Figure: No Tor and HTTPS

Figure: No Tor and No HTTPS

Onion Services Encryption[edit]

Whenever possible, utilize Onion Services (.onion addresses) so communications and web browsing stay within the Tor network. These resources are still commonly referred to as "hidden services", even when their location is publicly known. [13]

Onion Services Advantages[edit]

URLs ending in the .onion extension provide a superior level of security and privacy, since the connection forms a tunnel which is encrypted (end-to-end) using a random rendezvous point within the Tor network; HTTPS is not required. These connections also incorporate perfect forward secrecy (PFS)archive.org. PFS means the compromise of long-term keys does not compromise past session keys. As a consequence, past encrypted communications and sessions cannot be retrieved and decrypted if long-term secrets keys or passwords are compromised in the future by adversaries. [14]

Onion services provide several other benefits: [15]

  • Passive surveillance by both network observers and the Tor exit node is prevented, unlike the plain Tor + HTTPS configuration. Adversaries cannot easily determine which destination is being connected from/to.
  • Onion services establish "rendezvous points" in the Tor network for web services, meaning neither the hosting service nor the user can discover the other's network identity.
  • Onion services can be combined with SSL/TLS to provide additional protection. Only a handful of sites currently provide this service with v3 onions, such as DuckDuckGo: https://duckduckgogg42xjoc72x3sjasowoarfbgcmvfimaftt6twagswzczad.onion/onion [16] [17] [18]
  • Onion services do not use the insecure DNS system. Strong authentication comes from the self-authenticating address: the address itself forms a cryptographic proof of the .onion's identity. [19] [20]

To learn more about how onion services work, refer to the technical description.

Tor Browser Add-Ons[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Any default add-ons that are installed in Tor Browser should not be removed or disabled in the about:addons page. Tor developers have considered the security and anonymity benefits of this configuration, even though NoScript blocking is disabled (JavaScript is enabled) in Tor Browser by defaultarchive.org (see footnote). [21] Developers have reasoned that this helps to avoid feature breakage and focuses efforts on designing a private browsing environment that does not rely on filters.

NoScript[edit]

NoScript logo

NoScript is a free, open source extension that comes bundled with Tor Browser and other Mozilla-based web browsers. NoScript can provide significant protection with the correct configuration: [22]

By default, NoScript blocks active (executable) web content, which a user can wholly or partially unblock by whitelisting a site or domain from the extension's toolbar menu: Sites can be set as 'allowed', 'trusted', or 'untrusted', and the whitelist persists between sessions. Temporarily allowed sites won't by added to the permanent whitelist, and work only until the browser session ends. Active content may consist of JavaScriptarchive.org, web fonts, Javaarchive.org, Flasharchive.org, Silverlightarchive.org, and other pluginsarchive.org. The add-on also offers specific countermeasures against security exploits. ... This is based on the assumption that malicious websites can use these technologies in harmful ways.

NoScript protects against cross-site scriptingarchive.org (XSS), whereby attackers inject malicious client-side scripts into destination web pages, bypassing the same-origin policyarchive.org. [23] The same-origin policy refers to web browser enforcement of permissions -- scripts in the first web page are usually only allowed to access data in a second web page if they have the same origin (URL scheme, hostname and port number). [24]

When NoScript is enabled, a host of tracking / profiling services are neutralized because they rely on JavaScript. For example, various operating system and browser configuration details are revealed if JavaScript is not disabled. [22] Another unintended benefit concerns the use of system resources. When JavaScript is disabled, studies reveal that bandwidth consumption can be reduced by more than 40 per cent on the top 150 Alexa websites. Similarly, less system resources are required to display a web page in the browser. [25]

Security vs Usability Trade-off[edit]

Info The Security Slider (see further below) also involves a security versus usability trade-off. Higher slider levels improve security and reduce usability, while the opposite is true of other settings. Fingerprinting risks are greatly reduced at higher slider levels, but some site functionality may also be lost.

In the stock Tor Browser configuration, JavaScript is enabled by default for greater usability. The Tor Project FAQ provides a rationale for this decision: [26]

We configure NoScript to allow JavaScript by default in Tor Browser because many websites will not work with JavaScript disabled. Most users would give up on Tor entirely if a website they want to use requires JavaScript, because they would not know how to allow a website to use JavaScript (or that enabling JavaScript might make a website work).
There's a trade-off here. On the one hand, we should leave JavaScript enabled by default so websites work the way users expect. On the other hand, we should disable JavaScript by default to better protect against browser vulnerabilities (not just a theoretical concern!archive.org). But there's a third issue: websites can easily determine whether you have allowed JavaScript for them, and if you disable JavaScript by default but then allow a few websites to run scripts (the way most people use NoScript), then your choice of whitelisted websites acts as a sort of cookie that makes you recognizable (and distinguishable), thus harming your anonymity.

The take-home message is disabling all JavaScript with white-list based, pre-emptive script-blocking may better protect against vulnerabilities (many attacks are based on scripting), [27] but it reduces usability on many sites and acts as a fingerprinting mechanism based on the select sites where it is enabled. [22] On the other hand, allowing JavaScript by default increases usability and the risk of exploitation, but the specific fingerprint has more in common with the larger user pool. [28] [29] [30]

Developers are unaware of any JavaScript vulnerabilities that could compromise Whonix anonymity. That said, it is inadvisable to change NoScript settings in Tor Browser unless the potential impacts are known. To enable/disable JavaScript, Java and/or plugin execution, left-click the NoScript status bar icon or use the the contextual menuarchive.org. [31] Permissions can be granted either temporarily or on a permanent basis using a whitelist. "Temporarily Trusted" will only enable a script(s) for that site until the browser session is closed, or until the permission is manually revoked.

For further information, refer to the NoScript websitearchive.org and features overviewarchive.org, or the Torbutton design documentarchive.org.

You should Disable JavaScript by Default![edit]

As noted in the previous section, disabling JavaScript by default may worsen fingerprinting. There are several other reasons why Whonix has not made any modifications:

  • Different development team: Tor Browser is developed by a different development team, The Tor Project. From Whonix's (and others') perspective, this is often called upstream because Whonix as a Linux distribution is downstream from the provider of the software project Tor Browser. For an elaboration of the organisational differences, see Kicksecure logo Linux User Experience versus Commercial Operating Systems The Web Archive Onion Version .
  • Technical challenges: There is no stable application programmable interface (API) to reliably disable JavaScript by default in Tor Browser [32] that Whonix developers could use, and there won’t be[33] one unless someone contributes this feature to upstream, Tor Browser.[34] Therefore, making this change by default as a Linux distribution is difficult.[35]
  • Not a browser project: Whonix is not a "secure browser" project - the focus is on creating a stable, reliable anonymity distribution which aligns with best practice security and privacy principles, informed by educated researchers in the field, based on other upstream projects as much as possible. Similarly, for example, neither Debian nor Qubes are developing secure browser sub-projects and instead bundle existing upstream projects.
  • User support: As per Self Support First Policy, support requests, bug reports, and feature requests are [[unspecific|unspecific to Whonix and can almost always be redirected to upstream, the Tor Browser, a much larger and better funded project.
  • Fingerprinting: Possible fingerprinting or security issues with default settings in Tor Browser are the domain of core Tor developers.
  • Shared fingerprint: Having Whonix share the fingerprint of other Tor Browser users might be good for anonymity.
  • Limited resources: Whonix has limited manpower, meaning the resources do not exist to create a more secure browser, even if it was desirable.[36] No suitable, ethical, reliable Kicksecure logo Open Source Business Model The Web Archive Onion Version has been found or developed yet.
  • Simpler security audits: Tor Browser is not significantly modified for the same reasons Whonix does not modify or attempt to improve Tor.[37]
  • Legal: Potential legal, trademark-related issues.[38]

Experienced Tor developer Mike Perry has provided justification for enabling JavaScript by default in a tor-talk mailing list topic; see "Tor Browser disabling Javascript anonymity set reduction"archive.org. In summary, Tor Button and Tor Browser patches handle the most serious JavaScript concerns, such as IP address/location bypass problems.[39]

Due to the loss in functionality, disabling JavaScript by default might place Whonix users in a small subset of the Tor Browser population. The JavaScript behavior of the broader population is an open research question, so it's safest to avoid changes which might reduce the anonymity set. Keep in mind the fingerprinting potential is also dependent on Tor Browser's securityarchive.org slider settings. Ultimately, individuals are free to turn JavaScript on or off, depending on their security, anonymity, and usability preferencesarchive.org.

NoScript Custom Setting Persistence[edit]

It is possible to save custom NoScript settings between browser restarts with a preference. [40] This preference is disabled by default, which means custom NoScript settings will not persist across successive Tor Browser sessions.

Warning[edit]

This preference sacrifices privacy for convenience and is therefore not recommended. While frequently visited sites do not require the constant enabling/disabling of scripts across separate Tor Browser sessions, a number of anonymity risks are introduced: [41]

  • Disk hygiene: Tor Browser is designed to prevent the persistent storage of history records and other on-disk information. This preference violates that design principle by allowing the storage of NoScript per-site permissions, thereby increasing the chance an adversary can extract valuable information from that data.
  • Long-term fingerprinting vectors: Persistent per-site settings allow a website to profile Tor Browser users, particularly if first-party isolationarchive.org is not enforced. For example, consider the negative anonymity impact of whitelisting Google or Facebook, since their advertisements and tracking widgets are ubiquitous.
  • Expert opinion: Experienced Tor developers have confirmed that enabling this preference is dangerous and caution should be exercised. [42]

Persistent NoScript Settings[edit]

Info Note:

  1. By defining custom settings in NoScript, this will override the current Tor Browser Security Slider setting.
  2. When extensions.torbutton.noscript_persist is set to true, these changes will persist across Tor Browser restarts.

If this is acceptable, in the Tor Browser address bar:

  • "Type" about:config"Press" enter"Choose" I accept the risk!"Type" extensions.torbutton.noscript_persist"Toggle" to true [43]

This preference will be overridden and all custom per-site settings lost, if:

  • The security slider setting is changed afterwards; or [42]
  • extensions.torbutton.noscript_persist is again set to false, [44] since NoScript settings are reset after Tor Browser syncs with the Security Slider position.

Non-default Add-ons[edit]

As Tor Browser is based on Firefox, any browser add-on that is compatible with Firefox can also be installed in Tor Browser. In this context, add-ons are the collective name given to extensions, themes and plugins: [45]

  • Extensions add new features to Firefox or modify existing ones, like video downloaders, ad blockers and so on.
  • Themes change the appearance of the browser, such as buttons, menus and the background image.
  • browser plugins add support for Internet content and often include patented formats like Flash and Silverlight which are used for video, audio, online games and more. [46]

Non-default Add-on Risks[edit]

The Tor Project explicitly warns against using non-default add-ons with Tor Browser: [45]

However, the only add-ons that have been tested for use with Tor Browser are those included by default. Installing any other browser add-ons may break functionality in Tor Browser or cause more serious problems that affect your privacy and security. It is strongly discouraged to install additional add-ons, and the Tor Project will not offer support for these configurations.

...

Video websites, such as Vimeo make use of the Flash Player plugin to display video content. Unfortunately, this software operates independently of Tor Browser and cannot easily be made to obey Tor Browser’s proxy settings. It can therefore reveal your real location and IP address to the website operators, or to an outside observer. For this reason, Flash is disabled by default in Tor Browser, and enabling it is not recommended.

Recommendations[edit]

Warning: For the safest Tor Browser experience, it is recommended to avoid Java, JavaScript, Flash, themes, browser plugins and other non-default add-ons.

The problem with non-default add-ons is that they are often comprised of non-free software, which can lead to the linkage of activities conducted under one pseudonym. They also worsen fingerprinting and open up attack vectors in the form of remote exploits.

This advice holds true even though Whonix is configured to prevent these applications (along with malware) from leaking the real external IP address, even if they are misconfigured (see Features). Before installing non-default add-ons, first consider the various alternatives such as HTML5 or online media converters. [47]

Torbutton[edit]

Info

As noted in the Tor Button Design entry, the release of Tor Browser 9.0archive.org resulted in both the Torbutton and Tor Launcher extensions being tightly integrated into Tor Browser:

... Torbutton has been moved from the URL bar and neither appears on the about:addons page. Other changes include the New Identity function shifting to the URL bar and the New Tor Circuit function being accessible via the hamburger menu. ... No functionality has been lost -- Torbutton's functions in Tor Browser behavior have simply moved into direct Firefox patchesarchive.org.

Tor alone is not enough to protect anonymity and privacy while browsing the Internet. All modern web browsers support JavaScriptarchive.org, Adobe Flasharchive.org, cookiesarchive.org and other features which are capable of defeating the anonymity [48] provided by the Tor network.

In Tor Browser, these features are handled from inside the browser, because it is a modified (patched) version of Firefoxarchive.org and it contains direct patches (based on the former Torbutton extensionarchive.org) that take care of application-level security and privacy concerns in Firefox. This means many types of active content are disabled. [49]

It is recommended to learn more about Fingerprinting and Data Collection Techniques to better understand the potential threats. Advanced users can also review detailed information about the former Torbutton design and its various functions here.

New Identity Function[edit]

New Identity Broom Symbol

There are two ways to get a new identity in Tor Browser. Chose one.

  • A) Restart Tor Browser Method: Simply close all Tor Browser windows and restart Tor Browser. Or,
  • B) New Identity Button Method: Use Tor Browser "New Identity" button. It clears the browser state, closes all browser tabs, and obtains a fresh Tor circuit for future requests. [50]

There are two ways to reach the New Identity button. Chose one.

  1. Left-click the Hamburger IconSelect "New Identity"
  2. Left-click the 'broom' icon in the URL bar

Figure: New Identity in Tor Browser

Whonix / Kicksecure™ default admin password is: changeme The New Identity feature will likely create a new Tor exit relay and a new IP address, but this is not guaranteed.

Sometimes Tor only replaces the middle relay while using the same Tor exit relay; this is by design and the Tor default.

In Qubes-Whonix, the safest option when performing sensitive activities is using a Whonix-Workstation Disposable. To completely separate distinct activities, shut down the Disposable and create a new one between sessions.

Please read New Tor Circuit Design and the New Identity Design to learn more about this option and its limitations as well as consider reading about Stream Isolation more more background information and ever stronger isolation features.

New Tor Circuit Function[edit]

Warning: This function does not attempt to clear Tor browsing session data or unlink activity, unlike the "New Identity" feature.

The "New Tor Circuit for this Site" feature creates a new circuit for the current Tor Browser tab, including other open tabs or windows from the same website. [51] If it is really necessary to separate contextual identities, it is always safer to close and then restart Tor Browser.

There are several, potential use cases for this feature: [52]

  • The Tor exit relay is located in a country which negatively affects the presentation of the website due to language localization.
  • The site is censored due to the current Tor exit relay in use (caused by Tor IP address blacklisting).
  • To bypass Google CAPTCHAarchive.org or reCAPTCHAarchive.org systems protecting sites from abuse if these are showing unsolvable captcha or no captcha at all.
  • Connections to websites become unresponsive or slow.
  • To change the Tor exit relay IP address without losing all open tabs.

To use it: Left-click the Hamburger IconSelect "New Tor Circuit for this Site"

Figure: New Tor Circuit Button In Tor Browser

Advanced users who want to learn more about this function should refer to the New Tor Circuit Design entry.

Check for Tor Browser Update[edit]

Notifications will automatically appear if a Tor Browser update is available; see Tor Browser Internal Updater for further information and screenshots of this process. Note that multiple methods exist for updating Tor Browser.

To manually check for Tor Browser updates: Enter about:preferences in the URL barScroll down to "Tor Browser Updates"Click "Check for updates"

Disabled Functions[edit]

Readers who are interested in why the "Open Networking Settings" and "Tor Circuit View" features have been disabled in Whonix can learn more here.

Tor Browser: How-To[edit]

Security Slider[edit]

Tor Browser includes a “Security Slider” that allows the disabling of certain web features that can be used to compromise security and anonymity. At present there are three levels: "Safest", "Safer" and "Standard". It is necessary to make a trade-off between security, usability and privacy. At the higher levels the slider will prevent some sites from working properly. [53] Note that as of Tor Browser release v8.5, the security slider function has shifted to the taskbar. [54] [55]

To use this feature: Click Security Level button (taskbar 'shield')Click "Advanced Security Settings..."Select desired security level

Figure: Tor Browser Security Slider

To learn more about the exact effect of each setting level, refer to the Security Slider design entry. For information on related Tor plans for redesigning browser security controls, see herearchive.org.

Start Tor Browser[edit]

From the Menu[edit]

Start Tor Browser.

Using Tor Browser Starter by Whonix. [56]

If you are using Qubes-Whonix.

Qubes Start MenuWhonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly called anon-whonix)Tor Browser

If you are using Non-Qubes-Whonix.

Start MenuTor Browser

From the Command Line[edit]

Using Tor Browser Starter by Whonix.

From the command line, Tor Browser can either be started normally, in verbose mode or in debugging mode (see next sections).

Open a terminal.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, complete the following steps.

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly named anon-whonix)Xfce Terminal

If you are using a graphical Whonix with Xfce, run.

Start MenuXfce Terminal

To start Tor Browser "normally" in a terminal, run.

torbrowser

In Verbose Mode[edit]

Using Tor Browser Starter by Whonix.

This will show verbose output messages which might be useful for the user to identify eventual issues issue. In doubt, Support might help interpreting these messages. Verbose mode is not useful unless there are actual issue or for purpose of curiosity. In the latter case, please se support request policy.

Open a terminal.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, complete the following steps.

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly named anon-whonix)Xfce Terminal

If you are using a graphical Whonix with Xfce, run.

Start MenuXfce Terminal

To start Tor Browser Starter by Whonix in verbose mode in a terminal, run.

bash -x torbrowser

Manual Start[edit]

If Tor Browser problems emerge, launch it from the command line for detailed output. This will show verbose output messages which might be useful for the user to identify the issue. In doubt, Support might help interpreting these messages.

Starting Tor Browser directly without Tor Browser Starter by Whonix. [57]

Open a terminal.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, complete the following steps.

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly named anon-whonix)Xfce Terminal

If you are using a graphical Whonix with Xfce, run.

Start MenuXfce Terminal

~/.tb/tor-browser/Browser/start-tor-browser

In Debugging Mode[edit]

Same as above in debugging mode for even more detailed output.

Starting Tor Browser directly without Tor Browser Starter by Whonix.

To start Tor Browser in debugging mode, run.

~/.tb/tor-browser/Browser/start-tor-browser --debug

Successful Tor Browser Connection[edit]

If Tor Browser successfully launches and connects to the Tor network, Check Torprojectarchive.org should show the following message.

Figure: Successful Tor Network Check in Whonix

File Downloads[edit]

Warnings[edit]

Whonix protects against the threats outlined below, such as files that inadvertently or maliciously attempt to reveal the real IP address of the user, or third-party, external applications that can leak information outside of Tor. Despite this protection, it is recommended to always follow best safety practices.

Do not Open Documents Downloaded via Tor while Online[edit]

The Tor Project explicitly warns against opening documents handled by external applications. The reason is documents commonly contain Internet resources that may be downloaded outside of Tor by the application that opens them. [58]

This warning is not strictly relevant to the Whonix population since all traffic is forced over Whonix-Gateway and the IP address will not leak. Nevertheless, for better safety files like PDFs and word processing documents should only be opened in offline VMs.

Malicious files or links to files pose a greater threat and can potentially compromise your system. Therefore, follow the wiki advice and avoid opening random links or files in Whonix-Workstation. Instead:

Do not Torrent over Tor[edit]

See File Sharing.

Secure Downloads[edit]

Preventing SSLStrip Attacks[edit]

Info If clicking or pasting a download link, make sure it is https://. The s in https:// stands for "secure".

A common misconception is that a secure, green padlock and a https:// URL makes any download from that particular website secure. This is not the case because the website might be redirecting to http. In fact, an SSLstrip attackarchive.org might succeed if a link is pasted or typed into the address bar without the https:// component (e.g. www.torproject.org instead of https://www.torproject.orgarchive.org) -- the reason is a padlock is not visible; it just appears empty. [59]

To avoid this risk and similar threats, always explicitly type or paste https:// in the URL / address bar. The SSL certificate button or padlock will not appear, but that is nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately, few people follow this sage advice; instead most mistakenly believe pasting or typing www.torproject.org into the address bar is safe.

Other Precautions[edit]

For improved safety when downloading files or installing software, follow the advice below.

Table: Software and File Download Advice

Category Recommendations
File Source and Verification
Multiple Whonix-Workstation Consider using Multiple Whonix-Workstation when downloading and installing additional software. It is safer to compartmentalize discrete activities and minimize the threat of misbehaving applications.
Onion Service Downloads Files should be downloaded from Onion Services (via .onion addresses) whenever possible. Onion service downloads improve security for several reasons:
  • The connection is encrypted end-to-end (with PFS).
  • It is difficult for network adversaries to:
    • Target specific individuals.
    • Determine where someone is connecting to/from.

Navigating Tor Browser Downloads[edit]

For those who regularly download Internet files, Tor Browser's default download folder is inconvenient. For example, if the sample image below was downloaded with Tor Browser, the download path is /home/user/.tb/tor-browser/Browser/Downloads by default. It is time-consuming to navigate to this folder so far down the directory tree.

Figure: Default Tor Browser Download Folder

To make things simpler, the following steps change Tor Browser preferences so files are saved directly inside /home/user/Downloads.

1. Navigate to Tor Browser preferences.

Choose one of the following three methods:

  • Click the "hamburger" symbolClick Preferences
  • Navigate to the Edit menuclick Preferencesclick General tab
  • Enter about:preferences in the Tor Browser address bar.

Figure: Tor Browser Preferences

2. Select the Save files to download option.

Figure: Custom Download Path Option

3. Change the default download folder location.

It is recommended to set /home/user/Downloads as the custom path.

Figure: Set the Custom Download Path

User files will now be downloaded to the /home/user/Downloads folder. Navigate to this folder using either file manager or terminal.

To access files that were stored inside the "wrong" download folder, please press Expand on the right.

1. Start Thunar.

2. Enable the hidden files view.

To show hidden files:

Navigate to the View menuclick Show Hidden Files

Figure: Hidden Files in Thunar

3. Navigate to the downloaded files.

Double-click the .tb folder

Figure: Hidden Tor Browser Folder

Use the following path: tor-browserBrowserDownloads

Figure: Default Tor Browser Download Folder

Now it is possible to review the downloaded files.

Figure: Downloaded Files

Savings Files in Shared Folder[edit]

For advanced users only, see Savings Files in Shared Folder.

Prioritize Onion Connections[edit]

The release of Tor Browser v9.5 provides a new Onion Location function: [60]

Website publishers now can advertise their onion service to Tor users by adding an HTTP header. When visiting a website that has both an .onion address and Onion Location enabled via Tor Browser, users will be prompted about the onion service version of the site and will be asked to opt-in to upgrade to the onion service on their first use.

This feature has been implemented across the entire whonix.org ecosystem, including the homepage, wiki, forums, phabricator and repository. [61]

Figure: Onion Location Indicator for Whonix Forums

Once the "Always Prioritize Onions" option is set in Tor Browser, the relevant onion resource will always be preferred in the future. If you want to only upgrade to the onion resource one time, click "Not Now" and then press the "Onion Available" button one more time. This browser feature is located in about:preferences#privacy and can be changed at any time. [62]

Figure: Prioritize the Onion Site

Figure: Prioritized Whonix Onion Forums

Security impact: none. [63]

For security improvement it might help to force connections to onions for websites that are reachable over clearnet and onion. This is currently only documented for Forcing .onion on Project but undocumented for arbitrary websites. Doing so would be possible as per Self Support First Policy.

Onion Client Authorization[edit]

There are two options to setup Onion Service Client Authentication. Chose either option A) or B).

These options should never be combined for the same onion service.

Figure: Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization [64]

800

Before Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization in Whonix can be used, in other words, before private keys can be pasted into Tor Browser's Onion Client Authorization popup, an additional configuration step must be applied on Whonix-Gateway.

Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization requires additional Tor control protocol access. A supported Whonix-Gateway modification is therefore necessary for full functionality; see instructions below.

This is not enabled by default as this is a potential cross VM linking identifier in context of using Multiple Whonix-Workstation. When one Whonix-Workstation would login to an authenticated onion v3 services, this would login potential other Whonix-Workstation too. In any case, Whonix is the safest choice for running it.

[65]

Before proceeding, two things are required:

  • A) The onion domain name, and
  • B) The onion client authorization private key.

To setup Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization, perform the following instructions.

1. Extend the onion-grater whitelist in Whonix-Gateway (sys-whonix).

On Whonix-Gateway.

Add onion-grater profile.

sudo onion-grater-add 40_onion_authentication

2. Learn how a client authorization private key looks.

Sample onion client authorization private key.

NOTE: The user must not use the following private key because it is only an example and will not work.

XAJKD2BRVOI4C4IHK2OWF3EKIJNVIDBVCP2IM2Z2ZHPN456HNRZA

3. Open the onion service link in Tor Browser in Whonix-Workstation.

4. Get the onion client authorization private key from the onion service host.

The onion client authorization private key can only be provided by the onion service administrator.

5. Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization normally.

6. Done.

Tor Browser Onion Client Authorization setup is complete.

Troubleshooting:

  1. Consider to always check the Remember this key option. In the experience of the author, this works more reliable.
  2. Make sure regular torified internet connections are functional.
  3. Make sure regular connections to unauthenticated onions service are functional.
  4. When setting up your own onion service:
  • Exercise setting up the following outside of Whonix first before attempting to replicate the same inside of Whonix for simplicity. See also unspecific.
  • Exercise setting up a unauthenticated onion service first before attempting setting up an authenticated onion service.
  • Exercise authenticated onion service but first attempt to use it without using Tor Browser's Onion Client Authorization feature. Try using it using Tor on the command line first.
  • Only then attempt the same using an authenticated onion service in combination with Tor Browser's Onion Client Authorization feature.

Browser Language[edit]

In 2021, the stable and experimental Tor Browser binaries with additional language packs support 34 languages. Recent additions include: Catalan, Irish, Indonesian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Hebrew, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Macedonian and Romanian. [66] [67] [68] For instructions on changing the Tor Browser interface to a language other than English, see Tor Browser Language. [69]

Local Connections[edit]

Info Web HTTP(S)/SOCKS proxies have different instructions and will not work with these steps, see Tor Browser Proxy Configuration.

Sometimes it is necessary to access the local application interface on 127.0.0.1 in order to run specific applications like I2P. [70] Due to potential fingerprinting and information leakage risks, this behavior is no longer possible in Tor Browser unless an exception is configured. [71] [72]

To configure an exception for local connections in Tor Browser: [73]

URL bar → Type: about:config → Press Enter key → search for and modify network.proxy.no_proxies_on → write addresses separated by comma: localhost, 127.0.0.1click "Save"

The configured exception means a small trade-off in privacy, but it is much safer than using another browser (see Local Connections Exception Threat Analysis).

Recommendations[edit]

For better anonymity:

  • Browse with JavaScript disabled in Tor Browser and enable it only when needed. Disabled JavaScript mitigates these browser fingerprinting issues completely.
  • Set passwords for web interfaces listening on the localhost.
  • Run sensitive daemons with local WebGUIs on a separate, dedicated Whonix-Workstation and virtual network instance. TODO: expand or link how to do that

Tor Censorship[edit]

Censors[edit]

Info Tor Censorship can mean two different things.

  • A) Destination website level: This section outlines Tor blocks by destination websites.
  • B) internet service provider (ISP) level: If connections to the Tor network are blocked by the user's ISP, then bridges or other circumvention tools are necessary.

A number of websites or services actively block Tor usersarchive.org via:

  • A DNS query-based list used to tag IP addresses.
  • Content delivery network (CDN) and/or blocking software like Akamaiarchive.org and Cloudflarearchive.org.
  • Other individual blocks.

This issue is unspecific to Whonix and specific to Tor.

Can Whonix be the cause of the inability to access specific destination websites? No. If connectivity is generally functional (some websites can be reached), never in the history of Whonix, any website were reachable in Tor Browser outside of Whonix (such as Tor Browser on Debian) while unreachable in Tor Browser inside of Whonix. Neither the Whonix Tor Browser Differences nor Whonix firewall discriminate against specific websites.

A potential cause for confusion is the following. Cloudflare treats Tor Browser users different than other browsers (such as Firefox) or command line substitutes (such as curl) when being used over Tor. Quote Cloudflare Introducing the Cloudflare Onion Servicearchive.org:

Today’s edition of the Crypto Week introduces an “opportunistic” solution to this problem, so that under suitable conditions, anyone using Tor Browser 8.0 will benefit from improved security and performance when visiting Cloudflare websites without having to face a CAPTCHA.

It is therefore possible that some websites can be visited with Tor Browser while attempting to fetch these websites with command line utilities such as curl would lead to a different result, a captcha.

The CDN provider Cloudflare is used by millions of websites. [74] Many of the top websites are using Cloudflare. See also the Great Cloudwall / Stop Cloudflare / #deCloudflare #Crimeflare projectarchive.org (This redirection link might always link to a functional version.archive.org) (on hackernewsarchive.org), which has (non-exhaustive list):

Bypass Tor Censorship[edit]

There are various ad-hoc methods available to try and circumvent blocks. In most cases it is unnecessary to create a tunnel which pairs Whonix with other protocols (such as a VPN) in order to access the content.

The following services fetch content via other websites, which is a privacy trade-off. Further, only some services are effective with embedded, non-static content or support specific file types like PDF, .exe and mp3. [75]

Table: Tor Censorship Circumvention Options [76]

Service URL Comment Non-static Embedded Content PDF, .exe, mp3
The Internet Archive's WaybackMachine https://web.archive.org/web/<URL>

https://web.archive.org/save/_embed/<URL>

Archive.org respects robots.txt restrictions, works best with JS enabled No Yes
Archive.is https://archive.ph/?run=1&url=<URL> Ideal for news sites, doesn't require JS No No
Google Cache https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:<URL without "http://"> Google sometimes blocks these requests No - static only No
Startpage.com
  1. Go to startpage.com
  2. Find the URL by searching for the URL
  3. Click on the Anonymous View mask icon (proxy option) next to the search result [77]
Not always efficacious No No
Any Searx Instance [78]
  1. Choose one from searx available instances The Web Archive .
  2. Find the URL by searching
  3. Click on the proxied option
Not always efficacious No No
Hypothes.is https://via.hypothes.is/<URL> Behind Cloudflare Yes Yes
Online Proxies hide.me/en/proxy, proxysite.com, hidester.com/proxy - Yes Yes

The Tor community also recommends: [79]

To avoid captchas that are sometimes required when visiting YouTube, use hooktube.com/ (behind Cloudflare).

imgur.com blocks Tor uploads, to upload images on an imgur domain go to a stackexchange website (for example tor.stackexchange.com), click on Ask a Question, use the image upload tooltip to upload the image, the resulting url will have a i.stack.imgur.com/... form.

AppArmor Confinement[edit]

AppArmor can help to protect the user's system and data. It confines programs according to a set of rules that specify what files a given program can access, and with what privileges. This also provides some protection against zero-day attacks and exploits via unknown application flaws. An AppArmor profile for Tor Browser is by default nowadays in Whonix.

Since package apparmor-profile-torbrowser AppArmor is applied, Tor Browser can only read and write to a limited number of folders. Permission denied errors are quite common, for example when trying to download files directly to the ~/home folder.

The workaround for AppArmor denied errors is saving files from Tor Browser to the ~/Downloads folder that is located within the ~/home folder. In order to upload files with Tor Browser, first copy them to that folder.

Harden Tor Browser[edit]

Anonymity and safety can be materially improved via: AppArmor, Tor Browser settings, sandboxing, multiple Tor Browser instances, and operation of multiple Whonix-Workstation or Whonix-Workstation Disposables (Qubes-Whonix).

Tor Browser provides reasonable security in its stock configuration. However, mitigating the risk of Tor Browser security breaches makes sense, because it is an untrusted application with a huge attack surface; it is frequently attacked successfully in the wild by adversaries.

Table: Tor Browser Hardening Options

Domain Recommendations
Multiple Tor Browser Instances and Whonix-Workstation
  • Multiple Tor Browser Instances: To better separate different contextual identities, consider starting multiple Tor Browser instances and running them through different SocksPorts. This method is less secure than the method outlined below.
  • Multiple Whonix-Workstation: For tasks requiring different identities and/or additional software, it is recommended to compartmentalize activities and use two or more Whonix-Workstation VMs. In this way, an exploit in Tor Browser in one Whonix-Workstation cannot simultaneously read the individual's identity in another VM (for example, an IRC account). [80] This method is less secure than using a Whonix-Workstation Disposable with Tor Browser (see below).
Sandboxing and Disposables
  • Sandboxing: The Tor Project's official sandboxed Tor Browser is compatible with Whonix 14 and later releases, however it is no longer recommended since The Tor Project has officially abandoned its development. [81]
  • Whonix-Workstation Disposables: One of the safest configurations is to assume future compromise and run all instances of Tor Browser in an uncustomized Whonix-Workstation Disposable in Qubes-Whonix. This configuration creates fresh Whonix-Workstation and Tor Browser instances for discrete Internet activities, while ensuring that previous, potentially compromised versions of both are destroyed. [82]
Tor Browser Series and Settings
  • Series: Prefer the stable Tor Browser release over the alpha series in line with Tor developer recommendations; see footnotes. [83] [84] [85] [86] Both the stable and alpha Tor Browser series now benefit from Mozilla's content level sandboxing, as well as being multi-process (e10s) compatible.
  • Settings: Follow relevant System Hardening Checklist recommendations, such as routinely using onion services for search queries and browsing (where possible), running the Security Slider in the highest position and disabling Javascript by default.

Update Tor Browser[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Info It is recommended to follow The Tor Project blogarchive.org to stay informed about recent updates.

Unfortunately, updating Tor Browser is more complex than regular system updates due to technical limitations outside of Whonix control. [87] However, the following instructions will keep Tor Browser up-to-date at all times.

There are three options for updating Tor Browser in Whonix:

  1. The Whonix Tor Browser Downloader. [88]
  2. The Tor Project's Tor Browser Internal Updater. [89]
  3. Tor Browser manual updates.

The first two methods are suitable in most circumstances. Manual updates are only required if the Whonix Tor Browser update script ever breaks. Never continue to use an outdated version of Tor Browser, otherwise serious security flaws may degrade anonymity or result in a VM compromise. [90]

Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix[edit]

Configuration[edit]

Manual Download Version Choice[edit]

If the online detected version (for example INFO: Online detected version: 10.5) is different from the version number intended for download, it is possible to manually choose the download version on the command line. This can be useful when a new version of Tor Browser has been released but the version file [91] has not been updated yet by The Tor Project. The version file which is used to programmatically detect the latest Tor Browser version is usually updated a few days after new releases. [92]

Syntax:

tbb_version=version.number update-torbrowser

Example:

Note: Replace 10.5 with the actual version number.

tbb_version=10.5 update-torbrowser

Onion Download[edit]

It is possible to download over onion rather than clearnet.

To permanently set downloads over onion, apply the following instructions.

1. Open file /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf in an editor with root rights.

Non-Qubes-Whonix

This box uses sudoedit for better security.

Qubes-Whonix

NOTE: When using Qubes-Whonix, this needs to be done inside the Template.

Others and Alternatives

  • This is just an example. Other tools could achieve the same goal.
  • If this example does not work for you or if you are not using Whonix, please refer to this link.

sudoedit /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf

2. Add the following setting.

tb_onion=true

3. Save the file.

The procedure is complete.

Alternatively, the following command could be used to download over onion only once.

update-torbrowser --onion

Alpha Version[edit]

Testers only! Testers only!

It is possible to configure the downloading of alpha rather than stable Tor Browser versions. Becoming a tester is a helpful way to contribute to Whonix.

To permanently enable downloading alpha versions, apply the following instructions.

1. Open file /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf in an editor with root rights.

Non-Qubes-Whonix

This box uses sudoedit for better security.

Qubes-Whonix

NOTE: When using Qubes-Whonix, this needs to be done inside the Template.

Others and Alternatives

  • This is just an example. Other tools could achieve the same goal.
  • If this example does not work for you or if you are not using Whonix, please refer to this link.

sudoedit /etc/torbrowser.d/50_user.conf

2. Add the following setting.

tbb_download_alpha_version=true

3. Save the file.

The procedure is complete.

Alternatively, the following command could be used to download the alpha version only once. Choose either option A) or B).

  • A) tb-updater command line interface (CLI) version: update-torbrowser --alpha
  • B) tb-updater graphical user interface (GUI) version: update-torbrowser --alpha --input gui

Installation Process[edit]

Note: Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) is really just a downloader, not an updater. This means it is incapable of retaining user data such as bookmarks and passwords. In order to preserve data, use the Internal Updater method instead.

To use Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix), follow these instructions in Whonix-Workstation.

1. Perform standard ("everyday") upgrades. [93]

2. Launch Tor Browser Downloader.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, to ensure that new App Qubes and Disposables are created with a copy of the latest Tor Browser version, complete the following steps:

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17) → Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix)

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, to re-install the latest Tor Browser version in existing Whonix-Workstation App Qubes, complete the following steps:

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation App Qube (anon-whonix) → Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix)

If you are using a graphical Whonix-Workstation, complete the following steps:

Start MenuApplicationsSystemTor Browser Downloader (Whonix)

If you are using a terminal, complete the following steps: update-torbrowser

The downloader will show it is checking for updates.

Figure: Checking for Updates

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) checking for updates.

3. Selected the preferred Tor Browser version when prompted.

Select the Tor Browser version and confirm installation. Take heed of the warning in the confirmation box stating the existing Tor Browser user profile (including bookmarks and passwords) will be lost during this process.

Figure: Download Confirmation

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) Download Confirmation

After agreeing to the download process, a progress indicator will be displayed by the downloader. This process can be lengthy depending on the speed of the Tor network connection.

Figure: Downloading Tor Browser

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) Downloading Tor Browser.

4. Check the Tor Browser signature was correctly verified.

Once the download has finished, the downloader will provide verification (or not) of the cryptographic signature associated with the Tor Browser binary, highlighting the key used to sign it and the date. The downloader will then ask for confirmation to install the package: see Installation Confirmation Notification for steps on identifying a possible targeted attack.

Figure: Tor Browser Installation Confirmation

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) Installation Confirmation.

5. Confirm installation of Tor Browser.

If the installation process is confirmed, the downloader will extract Tor Browser.

Figure: Extracting Tor Browser

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) Extracting.

6. Optional: Launch Tor Browser.

In the final step, the downloader will prompt whether the upgraded Tor Browser should be launched, unless the procedure was completed in a Qubes Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17).

Figure: Finalized Tor Browser Installation

Tor Browser Downloader (Whonix) Finished Installing Tor Browser.

(Also available as CLI versionarchive.org.)

Download Confirmation Notification[edit]

This step is designed to keep Whonix users safe, since at present there is no reliable and secure way for a program to determine the latest stable version of Tor Browser with reasonable certainty. [94] [95] When the version format changes, the automated parser of version information could falsely suggest:

  • An earlier stable version that is still considered secure.
  • An alpha series release.
  • A beta Tor Browser build.
  • A release candidate or nightly Tor Browser build.

Alternatively, one might be targeted by a denial of service, indefinite freeze or rollback (downgrade) attack. [96] [97]

To counter these threats, user intelligence is utilized as a sanity check. The Download Confirmation Notification provides a way to detect such situations and abort the procedure. In this instance, it is recommended to rotate the Tor circuits and attempt the download process again.

Version numbers that are visible under Online versions come from an online resource. The Tor Browser RecommendedTBBVersionsarchive.org versions file is provided by The Tor Project, and is parsed by Whonix Tor Browser Downloader. The Whonix downloader will indicate that no upgrade is required if the installed Tor Browser version matches the up-to-date online version.

TODO: expand.

Installation Confirmation Notification[edit]

This step is also designed to protect users, since at present there is no reliable and secure way for a program to determine (with reasonable certainty) if the Tor Browser download was targeted by an indefinite freeze or rollback attack. [98] [99]

When verifying cryptographic signatures, several important aspects must be considered:

  • The signature should be made by a trusted key.
  • Trusted keys will have signed other files in the past. It is also necessary to check if the right file was received, and not just any file that was signed by a trusted key.
  • Even if the correct file type is received, [100] it is necessary to check it has a current signature attached and not a historical one. This step counters the threat of indefinite freeze and rollback attacks.

By the time the Installation Confirmation Notification is visible, the verification of the signature (and hash) will have already succeeded. However, the signature creation dates in the figure below must be carefully examined to confirm that an indefinite freeze or downgrade attack did not occur.

Previous Signature Creation Date: When Tor Browser was previously installed by tb-updater, the creation date of the accompanying signature that signed Tor Browser will have been stored. The Previous Signature Creation Date field displays that date.
Last Signature Creation Date: This field displays the date of signature creation for the downloaded file.

Figure: Tor Browser Installation Confirmation

torbrowser-updater_signature_verification_screen.

[101] [102]

TODO: expand.

In Qubes-Whonix[edit]

Do not run Tor Browser in a Template (whonix-workstation-17) or Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm)!

Unfortunately, updating Tor Browser is more complex than regular system updates due to technical limitations outside of Whonix's control. [103] Apply the following instructions to keep Tor Browser up-to-date at all times.

New App Qubes and Disposables[edit]

In Qubes-Whonix, Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix (update-torbrowser) automatically runs when the Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17) package tb-updater is updated. Therefore, running Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix inside the Template (whonix-workstation-17) ensures that new App Qubes and Disposables are created with a copy of the latest Tor Browser version.

If the Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix package tb-updater has not been updated yet, it is advised to manually run it in the Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17). For instructions, see Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix.

Disposable Template[edit]

Do not run Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix inside the Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm)! It should only be run in the Template (whonix-workstation-17) or in a whonix-workstation-17-based App Qube (anon-whonix). [104] [105]

For further information on installing, updating and using Tor Browser in Qubes Disposables, see: How to use Disposables in Qubes-Whonix.

Existing App Qubes[edit]

Follow these steps to update Tor Browser in an existing Whonix-Workstation App Qube such as anon-whonix:

  1. Start Tor Browser: Qubes Start MenuWhonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly called anon-whonix)Tor Browser
  2. Use Tor Browser Internal Updater.

Summary[edit]

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers):

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) is useful to run inside:

  • Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17): to ensure that new App Qubes and Disposables are created with a copy of the latest Tor Browser version.
  • Whonix-Workstation App Qube (anon-whonix): to re-install the latest Tor Browser version in existing Whonix-Workstation App Qubes.

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) is less useful if run inside:

  • Disposables: because upgrades won't persist

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) should not be run in:

  • Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm)

Tor Browser:

Tor Browser is useful to run in:

  • Whonix-Workstation App Qube (anon-whonix)
  • Dispoables

Tor Browser should not be run in:

  • Whonix-Workstation Template (whonix-workstation-17)
  • Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm)

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) Issues downloading Tor Browser[edit]

Figure: Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) failed to download Tor Browser

Possible reasons:

  • Internet connectivity issue.
  • The download server is down.
  • File size exceeded (endless data attack triggered).
  • Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) has been broken due to upstream changes.

Recommendations:

  • If this happened during an APT upgrade, this will not fix itself. In that case, the user must manually take steps to Update Tor Browser.
  • Wait a bit and try again later.
    • If the error persists it probably won't solve itself before the next update.
  • Check News: Stay Tuned
  • Last resort, Tor Browser manual updates.

Expired Key[edit]

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix Developers):

  • Can only automate what is supported by upstream, The Tor Project anyhow.
  • Is fully optional. A usability feature. It does not do anything that could not also be done manually by the user.

First, exercise: verify Tor Browser according to upstream instructionsarchive.org. Unspecific to Whonix. If that is not possible, if that includes "key expired" then nothing that can be fixed in Whonix.

Tor Browser Internal Updater[edit]

Tor Browser upgrades are possible from within the browser using Tor Browser Internal Updater (by The Tor Project). [106] When a new Tor Browser version is available but the browser has not completed an automatic upgrade in the background (the default), a warning prompt appears recommending a manual upgrade. To upgrade, either:

  • Enter about:preferences in the URL barScroll down to "Tor Browser Updates"Click "Check for updates"; or
  • Open MenuHelpAbout Tor BrowserWait until the download finishesRestart to update Tor Browser

Figure: Tor Browser Update Notification

Using Tor Browser Internal Updater automatically makes use of its built-in software signatures verification feature. [107] Manual software resignation verification is not required when using this update method.

Tor Browser Manual Update[edit]

Info If the Tor Browser update script ever breaks it is advised to update manually.

Modern Tor Browser releases are generally easy to install and update on well-supported platforms like Whonix, leading most to have a comfortable and reliable experience over long periods. However, if/when Tor Browser "breaks", some might find it difficult to perform a manual installation. [108]

Whonix Bugs[edit]

Sometimes Tor Browser Downloader inside Whonix-Workstation breaks because torproject.org changes the way Tor Browser can be downloaded or verified. This program is maintained by the Whonix contributors and The Tor Project is not responsible for necessary fixes. Generally, Whonix newsarchive.org will be published within a few days with working instructions on how to fix the problem. If this does not happen, then Whonix developers are unaware of the issue.

Any bugs should be discussed in the Whonix User Help Forumarchive.org. To date, no bugs were ever discovered in Tor Browser that were directly related to Whonix code and which might cause serious problems such as website pages failing to load.

Prerequisite Knowledge[edit]

The manual Tor Browser download procedure assumes essential knowledge of:

  • Software Verification: For better security, the Tor Browser package should be verified with GnuPG, using the associated file signature and Tor signing keys (relevant links are provided). [109]
  • Troubleshooting: If Tor Browser problems occur in Whonix such as webpages failing to resolve, then:
    • The same tests should be performed on the host (Non-Qubes-Whonix) or in a non-Whonix VM (Qubes-Whonix); see Non-Whonix Tor Browser. This step helps to determine whether the problem is related to Whonix or not.
    • It is also sensible to search for the problem on torproject.org's bug trackerarchive.org and report a bug upstream if it has not been notified yet. In that case, when upstream (TPO) fixes the issue, the issue will most likely also get fixed in Whonix.

Unsafe Tor Browser Habits[edit]

It is important to develop a set of safe habits when communicating, browsing or downloading with Tor Browser. Even the world's premier anonymity software cannot protect people if they shoot themselves in the foot.

The following is an inexhaustive list of unsafe behaviors. It is recommended to also read the Whonix Tips on Remaining Anonymous entry, along with Tor Project documentationarchive.org before using Tor Browser for serious activities necessitating anonymity.

Table: Unsafe Tor Browser Habits

Category Insecure Configuration or Behavior
Add-ons Add non-default add-ons to Tor Browser.
Configure persistent, customized NoScript settings.
Remove or disable default add-ons in Tor Browser.
Anonymity Modes Mix modes of anonymity.
Fail to compartmentalize Tor Browser activities.
Bookmarks Use the bookmarking feature in Tor Browser; bookmarks can be used as a tracker if the page is special/unique to you. [110] [111]
Bridges Expect that Tor relay bridges will absolutely disguise all use of Tor / Tor Browser.
Browser Settings Change browser settings if the implications are unknown. [112]

Display the Menu Bar or remove the Bookmark Toolbar. [113]

Communications Send "anonymous" communications or other data over unencrypted channels using plain HTTParchive.org.
File Downloads Torrent over Tor.
Open documents or other files downloaded by Tor while online.
Open random files or links.
Paste or type download links into the address bar without https://
Download and install unsigned software from the Internet.
Download and install signed software or import keys without first verifying key fingerprints and digital signatures.
Full Screen
HTML5 Canvas Image Data Allow extraction of canvas image data by websites.
Identities Disclose identifying data.

Use different online identities at the same time.

JavaScript Enable JavaScript for websites of a dubious nature.
Links Enter sensitive information into websites before verifying their authenticity due to potential phishing attacks.

Routinely click on URL-shortened links. [114]
Regularly click on links to popular websites via emails, social networking or other sites due to the threat of IDN homograph attacks.
Use search engines to find out links to important websites. There have been visually undetectable scam links on search engines. Search engines usually show the domain name, website title and excerpt in search results. However, Google allowed the domain name to be chosen by the advertiser, which was a scammer impersonating a real company. [115]
Instead, manually type the website address into the URL bar, use bookmarks or local notes text files.

Logins Login to Google, Facebook or other corporate accounts with a real name or pseudonym. [116]
Login to accounts that have ever been used without Tor.
Generally login to banking, financial, personal or other important accounts.
Local Connections Configure a local connection exception for applications, unless aware of the risks.
Multiple Tab Isolation Do not assume that different tabs in Tor Browser are completely isolated and recognized as different pseudonyms by destination websites. Tor Browser has some first party isolation that isolates local storage such as cookies per-website. However, there are certain side channel attacks that can be used to bypass this. [117] FingerprintJS (Browser Tests) demonstrates its capability of linking two different tabs in Tor Browser to the same identifier. A malicious or compromised website may also be able to exploit a vulnerability in the browser to see your activities in website y since Firefox's sandbox does not isolate websites from each other yet. [118] Better use Multiple Whonix-Workstation.
Networking Configure Tor Browser so that it leads to a Tor over Tor scenario.
Other Browsers Use browsers other than Tor Browser with Tor.
Use a clearnet browser and Tor Browser at the same time.
Passwords and Usernames Save passwords and usernames with the Tor Browser Password Managerarchive.org feature. [119] [120] [121] [122]
Personal Websites and Links Visit personal websites over Tor.
Be the first person to spread a personal link.
Phone Verification Use (mobile) phone verification.
Proxy Settings Change or remove default proxy settings if unaware of the implications.
Qubes-Whonix Launch Tor Browser in a Template (whonix-workstation-17) or Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm).
Launch Tor Browser Downloader in a Disposable Template (whonix-workstation-17-dvm).

Launch Tor Browser in a Standalone anon-whonixarchive.org. [123] [124]

Server Connections Connect to a server anonymously and non-anonymously at the same time.
Tor Browser Functions Use the "New Identity" and "New Tor Circuit for this Site" functions and expect complete anonymity in the following browsing session.
Updates Ignore download and/or installation confirmation notifications or warnings when updating Tor Browser.
Use an outdated version of Tor Browser.
User Mentality Feel invincible running Tor Browser (irrespective of the platform), due to significant adversary capabilities and interest in unmasking or infecting Tor users.
Window Size Maximize or changearchive.org [125] the default window size setting. [126] Keep the default window size. -- Letterboxingarchive.org which was introduced in Tor Browser version 9 does not change this recommendation. [127]
Virtual Machine (VM) Multiple Purpose Use Re-using the same VM for browsing and other applications.
  • Qubes-Whonix: Do not install additional applications in a Template that is intended to serve as base for App Qubes / Disposables that run Tor Browser. Use multiple Templates. Use a dedicated Template, ideally updated and otherwise unmodified for App Qubes / Disposables for browsing with Tor Browser.
  • Non-Qubes-Whonix: Use a dedicated or multiple Whonix-Workstation for browsing with Tor Browser.

Consider using Multiple Whonix-Workstation if installing additional software. It is safer to compartmentalize discrete activities to minimize the threat of VM Fingerprinting. This protects from the schemeflood vulnerabilityarchive.org, which could be used for browser fingerprinting / identity correlation among VM / browser restarts. See also schemeflood.com (Browser Test).

Whonix Tor Browser Differences[edit]

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) Differences[edit]

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) essentially is and does:

  1. An optional usability enhancement, a tool, Tor Browser Downloader.
  2. Download Tor Browser.
  3. Perform digital signature verification.
  4. Extracts Tor Browser to folder ~/.tb/tor-browser.

Tor Browser Downloader (by Whonix developers) is not and does not:

  1. A mandatory requirement to download and use Tor Browser inside Whonix.
  2. Modify any files inside the Tor Browser folder ~/.tb/tor-browser.

Does Whonix Change Default Tor Browser Settings?[edit]

Tor Browser changes implemented by Tor developers are sometimes mistakenly attributed to Whonix developers: [128] [129]

I've been looking for how to fix some bad default settings in the Whonix tor browser. Namely, they removed NoScript from the toolbar, so that the NoScript cannot be used as intended.

As noted in the Whonix Tor Browser Differences entry, Whonix does not:

  • Apply file system level changes to the Tor Browser folder. In other words, there are no modifications of any files inside Tor Browser's data folder. Files such as startup script, default settings and so on are untouched.
  • Change Tor Browser's internal updater checking mechanism;
  • Change or remove proxy settings by default; or

In fact, the NoScript URL bar change was a conscious decision by Tor developers which became part of a recent release: [130] [131] [132] [133] [134]

Quote Tor Browser developer Nicolas Vigier (@boklmarchive.org):

NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere are still present in the URL bar if you upgraded from an older version. They are not present if you did a new install with a recent version.

If you want to turn off javascript, then you can change the security level. There is also nothing preventing you from adding NoScript on the toolbar even if it is not there by default.

Tor Browser Bundle versus Whonix Tor Browser[edit]

The regular Tor Browser Bundle and Whonix Tor Browser slightly differ. The reason is Tor Browser must be adjusted by Whonix to work behind Whonix-Gateway.

The main Whonix Tor Browser differences can be summarized as follows: [135]

  • All changes are done through global environmental variable adjustments. [136]
  • Despite environmental variable adjustments, the network and browser fingerprint remain the same.
  • tor-launcher (Tor connection wizard) will not be shown in Whonix-Workstation Tor Browser. Instead, Anon Connection Wizard is available in Whonix-Gateway.
  • The Tor Circuit View and Open Network Settings functions have been disabled. The former is unsupported for security reasons, [137] while the latter would have no effect since Tor must be configured in Whonix-Gateway.
  • The default landing page after Tor Browser starts is set to a local Whonix resource through an environment variable. [138]
  • Tor over Tor scenarios are prevented in Whonix-Workstation. [139]
  • Extracted to folder ~/.tb/tor-browser.

Whonix does not:

Changes are kept minimal and for integration purposes only. This is a deliberate design decision. Quote Tor Browser, advanced users, Tor Browser Update: Technical Details:

Therefore it would be unwise for a downstream Linux distribution such as Whonix to attempt to separate binaries and user data.

Tor Browser Functionality on Different Platforms[edit]

Info It is not valid to make a comparisonarchive.org between the Windows version of Tor Browser Bundle (TBB) and the Whonix Tor Browser concerning functionality, for instance why the warning message does not appear in Whonix when maximizing the browser window. [141]

The reason is this comparison includes a host of platform-specific differences which confound the result. For example, a more valid comparison would examine the differences between:

  • TBB in Debian (real Debian, not in Qubes) versus Tor Browser in Non-Qubes-Whonix.
  • TBB in a Qubes App Qube based on a Debian Template versus Tor Browser in Qubes-Whonix.

Similarly, these comparisons would be helpful in order to help with TBB (non-Whonix) development:

  • TBB in Debian (real Debian, not in Qubes) vs TBB in Windows.
  • TBB in different Linux distributions.
  • TBB in different Windows platforms.

Troubleshooting[edit]

Tor Browser Download, Installation and Digital Software Verification Issues[edit]

  1. Check Whonix forumsarchive.org for existing discussions.
  2. Compare with Tor Browser outside of Whonix as per Tor Browser Reliability Recommendations.
  3. See Tor Browser Manual Update.

Tor Browser Reliability Recommendations[edit]

Info It is recommended to always have the latest Tor Browser Bundle (TBB)archive.org (.onion)onion installed outside of Whonix. Just in case. This can be useful in case there are any Tor Browser Download, Installation and Digital Software Verification Issues or other problems such as browser crashes or high CPU usage.

  • Non-Qubes-Whonix users: It is recommended to always have TBB installed on the host operating system (OS).
  • Qubes-Whonix users: It is recommended to always have TBB installed in a non-Whonix Template, like (preferably) Debian, Fedora.

For avoidance of doubt, Whonix users should always prefer using Tor Browser inside of Whonix. A copy of Tor Browser outside of Whonix is only recommended in case there will be any issues with future Tor Browser versions.

This is an application of the Generic Bug Reproduction concept.

This process is useful to test whether or not there are any issues related to TBB with:

  • downloading,
  • digital software verification, or
  • installation.
  • Another benefit of installing TBB in this fashion is that if Tor Browser unexpectedly stops running in Whonix, then Tor Browser can still be independently used to visit the Whonix website for a solution to this issue.

If TBB fails to properly download, pass digital software signature verification or installation on the host operating system or from a non-Whonix App Qube in Qubes, then Tor Browser inside Whonix will similarly fail to work.

There are two options to install TBB outside of Whonix.

This process is unspecific to Whonix.

  1. Navigate to https://www.torproject.org/download/archive.org (.oniononion) website and download Tor Browser and the associated file signature (.asc).
  2. Read https://support.torproject.org/tbb/how-to-verify-signature/archive.org (.oniononion) and learn how to perform digital software signature verification ("gpg"). Download and import the necessary keys.
  3. Perform digital software signature verification for the Tor Browser download.
  4. If the old version of Tor Browser is still open, close it.
  5. Extract Tor Browser: Right-click on the downloaded archiveextractextract archive here
  6. The process is complete.
  7. Start Tor Browser.

For any issues during manual download, digital software verification and installation of TBB, the user should perform Generic Bug Reproduction.

Tor Browser Crash Errors[edit]

Occasionally, Tor Browser might crash. Either:

  • At browser startup. For example, after a new Tor Browser update is released, errors might occur upon launch. [143] [144]
  • At browser runtime. [145]
ERROR: Tor Browser ended with non-zero (error) exit code!

Tor Browser was started with:

/home/user/.tb/tor-browser/Browser/start-tor-browser --allow-remote /usr/share/homepage/whonix-welcome-page/whonix.html

Tor Browser exited with code: 1

To see this for yourself, you could try:
Start Menu -> System -> Xfce Terminal
Then run:
torbrowser
  • A) 1) Happening inside VirtualBox? 2) Using Linux as host operating system? 3) Tor Browser crash issues happening recently since upgrade to host kernel version 5.10.0-15 or above? If the answer to all 3 questions is "yes" then see Kicksecure logo Linux Host Kernel versus Tor Browser and other Crashes The Web Archive Onion Version .
  • B) Otherwise, see below.

Even though this is happening inside Whonix, the cause is most often unrelated to Whonix code. Tor Browser is developed by The Tor Projectarchive.org, which is an independent entity. The is the norm in Linux distributions. To learn more about such relationships see Kicksecure logo Linux User Experience versus Commercial Operating Systems The Web Archive Onion Version .

Whonix does integration work to get Tor Browser into the platform. To use a simple analogy, Whonix stays "on the outside". Very few internal modifications are made to Tor Browser as described in the Whonix Tor Browser Differences chapter.

Before attempting to resolve the issue, the user might want to consider to Backup and Restore Browser Settings (or alternatively Backup VMs) if there are any browser bookmarks or settings the user would rather keep.

To remedy this kind of issue, there are three different promising approaches.

Delete and Reinstall Tor Browser[edit]

If browser settings like bookmarks, saved passwords and so on are not too important, Tor Browser can be completely deleted and reinstalled. Tor Browser usually functions normally after this procedure. The easiest method is using Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix for this process.

Attempt to Debug the Issue[edit]

Info Debugging attempts are not guaranteed to work, but are encouraged to help fix outstanding issues.

  • During debug attempts, do not use torbrowser command (/usr/bin/torbrowser script) or the Tor Browser start menu entry because these are provided by Whonix and are not the cause here.
  • The Tor Project is responsible for errors that emerge when Tor Browser is started manually or in debug mode.
    • Issues such as Segmentation fault (core dumped) are very most likely caused by Tor Browser, not Whonix.

A) Advanced users can try to start Tor Browser without the help of /usr/bin/torbrowser by Whonix, thereby bypassing that part of Whonix Tor Browser integration. Tor Browser resides in folder ~/.tb/tor-browser. Therefore Tor Browser can be launched in Debugging Mode, which is a Tor Browser (not Whonix) feature. If that does not help...

B) Additionally, the whole ~/.tb/tor-browser folder could be copied to a Debian bookworm machine or better yet, a virtual machine. For better security, a virtual machine might even be non-networked before attempts are made to launch Tor Browser. This error is likely to be reproducible outside Whonix and this step will provide confirmation.

1. Generic Bug Reproduction is unfortunately required.

2. Meaning, the issue is unfortunately required to be reproduced without any reference to Whonix, without using Whonix, outside of Whonix. On Debian.

3. The whole ~/.tb/tor-browser folder needs to be copied to a Debian bookworm machine, ideally a VM.

4. The issue needs to be reproduced on Debian. Not Whonix.

5. Report the bug to The Tor Project.

6. Please notify Whonix forums about any outcomes.

Be aware the Tor Bug Trackerarchive.org already has various, existing bug reports related to incremental updates via the Tor Browser internal updater. These are most likely related to Tor Browser launch failures:

Backup and Restore Browser Settings[edit]

Steps to perform a backup and restore of browser settings (like bookmarks) is currently undocumented in the Whonix wiki. However, any online instructions for this process in Tor Browser or even Firefox should equally apply in Whonix. The only difference is the Whonix Tor Browser folder location: ~/.tb/tor-browser.

Close Tor Browser[edit]

Sometimes the following error message appears when no Tor Browser window is open.

Figure: Running Tor Browser Instance

Tor Browser is already running, but is not responding. To use Tor Browser, you must first close the existing Tor Browser process, restart your device, or use a different profile.

Most likely Tor Browser is still/already running in the background but without a visible desktop environment window due to an existing software bug.

To kill the Tor Browser process, run the following command.

pkill firefox.real

See also: Tor Browser Crash Errors.

Why do I have White Bars around my Tor Browser Content?[edit]

Users who ignore advice to not maximize/resize the Tor Browser window will now notice white borders surrounding the Tor Browser content: [146]

Ever since 9 update I have had white bars at the bottom and top of my browser. Even with using the TBB on non-whonix I still have them. Am I the only one & am I exposed?

This is not an indicator of compromise, but a new fingerprinting defense called Letterboxingarchive.org:

Tor Browser in its default mode is starting with a content window rounded to a multiple of 200px x 100px to prevent fingerprinting the screen dimensions. The strategy here is to put all users in a couple of buckets to make it harder to single them out. That worked so far until users started to resize their windows (e.g. by maximizing them or going into fullscreen mode). Tor Browser 9 ships with a fingerprinting defense for those scenarios as well, which is called Letterboxingarchive.org, a technique developed by Mozilla and presented earlier this yeararchive.org. It works by adding white margins to a browser window so that the window is as close as possible to the desired size while users are still in a couple of screen size buckets that prevent singling them out with the help of screen dimensions.

Tor Browser Consumes 100% CPU after Clock Sync or Suspend/Resume[edit]

An upstream bugarchive.org in Tor Browser causes the firefox.real process to consume excessive CPU whenever the connection to Tor's ControlPort is broken, which continues until Tor Browser is restarted. This is known to occur when the sdwdate clock synchronization daemon is restarted in Whonix-Gateway, whether manually via the sdwdate-gui time synchronization systray, or automatically via post-resume hooks. For details, refer to the related forum discussionarchive.org. (original report on Qubes issue trackerarchive.org)

As a workaround:

  1. Open about:config in the Tor Browser URL bar.
  2. Search for and set extensions.torbutton.display_circuit to false.
  3. Restart Tor Browser.

In Qubes-Whonix, see Disposable Customizationarchive.org to make this change persistent in Disposables.

Permission Issues[edit]

[147]

Tip: If something does not work, do not arbitrarily try to use sudo / root without indication that this would be appropriate. That only risks messing up user home folder permissions. See Inappropriate Use of Root Rights.

Attempt to fix:

1. Open a terminal.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix, complete the following steps.

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation App Qube (commonly named anon-whonix)Xfce Terminal

If you are using a graphical Whonix with Xfce, run.

Start MenuXfce Terminal

2. Owner Permissions Fix

Run the following command to reset permissions of user user's home folder /home/user back to owner user and group user. That command is often sufficient to fix previous inappropriate use of root rights issues.

sudo chown --recursive user:user /home/user

3. Folder Permission Fix

If that does not resolve permission issues, run the following slightly more experimental command to set chmod 0770archive.org on all folders inside the user user's home folder. [148]

find /home/user -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 0770

4. Files Permission Fix

Similar to the previous step, if that does not resolve permission issues, run the following slightly more experimental command to grant user user read and write access on all files inside the user user's home folder. This may have some disadvantages. The only known example is for users of git. See footnote for further information. [149]

chmod --recursive ug+rw /home/user

6. Done.

Chances are good that permission issues have been resolved. Try starting Tor Browser. In case the issue is persisting, the following options could be considered.

Attempt to debug:

Start Tor Browser Start by Whonix in In Verbose Mode. This will show verbose output messages which might be useful for the user to identify the issue. In doubt, Support might help interpreting these messages.

Other options:

Glossary and Key Terminology[edit]

Glossary[edit]

It is recommended to become familiar with terms regularly used by The Tor Project and Whonix. One useful resource is the v1.0 Tor glossaryarchive.org which is now available on The Tor Project community wiki page.

Key Terminology[edit]

Tor vs Tor Browser[edit]

Tor is an anonymizer developed by The Tor Project. Tor Browser is a web browser developed by the Tor Project which is optimized for privacy. Please do not confuse Tor with Tor Browser when conversing about Whonix topics.

Tor Browser Transparent Proxying[edit]

The Tor Browser "transparent proxying" feature [150] and/or the environment variable TOR_TRANSPROXY=1 often cause confusion. It was an unfortunate naming decision by The Tor Project. This feature actually removes proxy settings. With no proxy set, the user's system reverts to its default configuration. The effect of this decision is that Tor Browser networking will work in a similar fashion to an unconfigured Firefox browser.

This is potentially dangerous when done outside of Whonix because Tor Browser's transparent proxying feature could result in clearnet traffic; for instance if the gateway does not have a transparent torification feature (like Whonix-Gateway). In the case of Whonix, even if the transparent proxying feature is set, Whonix-Gateway will "torify" traffic and force it through Tor. Similarly, if transparent proxying is set and happens to use a JonDo-Gateway, traffic will be forced through JonDo.

One downside of the transparent proxying feature is that even when it is used inside Whonix, it breaks Tor Browser's top level isolation for each separate tabarchive.org.

Transparent proxying should not be confused with:

TODO: expand.

Advanced Users[edit]

Refer to this wiki entry if any of the following advanced topics are of interest:

  • Tor Browser and former Torbutton design.
  • Tor Browser without Tor.
  • Setting a custom homepage.
  • A custom Whonix configuration or Workstation is in use.
  • Proxy settings changes are necessary.
  • Differences between tor-launcher and tor-browser launcher.
  • Qubes-Whonix topics:
    • Split Tor Browser.
    • Tor Browser in a Disposable.
    • Tor Browser in a Qubes Disposable Template.
  • Tor Browser debugging is required.

Running Tor Browser in Qubes Disposable Template[edit]

This entry has been moved here.

See Also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. For a comprehensive list of reasons, readers are encouraged to review some or all of the references in this section.
  2. https://tb-manual.torproject.org/archive.org
  3. https://blogs.gnome.org/muelli/2018/12/the-patch-that-converts-a-firefox-to-a-tor-browser/archive.org
  4. A good overview of the browser component is provided by The Tor Project design documentarchive.org.

    The Tor Browser is based on Mozilla's Extended Support Release (ESR) Firefox branch. We have a series of patches against this browser to enhance privacy and security. Browser behavior is additionally augmented through the Torbutton extension, though we are in the process of moving this functionality into direct Firefox patches. We also change a number of Firefox preferences from their defaults.

    Tor process management and configuration is accomplished through the Tor Launcher add-on, which provides the initial Tor configuration splash screen and bootstrap progress bar. Tor Launcher is also compatible with Thunderbird, Instantbird, and XULRunner.

    To help protect against potential Tor Exit Node eavesdroppers, we include HTTPS-Everywhere. To provide users with optional defense-in-depth against JavaScript and other potential exploit vectors, we also include NoScript. We also modify several extension preferences from their defaults.

    To provide censorship circumvention in areas where the public Tor network is blocked either by IP, or by protocol fingerprint, we include several Pluggable Transports in the distribution. As of this writing, we include Obfs3proxy, Obfs4proxy, Scramblesuit, meek, and FTE.

  5. DNS is a distributed database which keeps track of computer's names and their corresponding IP addresses on the Internet https://web.stanford.edu/class/msande91si/www-spr04/readings/week1/InternetWhitepaper.htmarchive.org. DNS servers enable the browser to know where resources are located on the Internet, and the corresponding IP address for fetching these.
  6. See below for a further description of these features.
  7. On average. Mid-2019 has seen a sudden spike to over 3 million users -- in recent years, sharp increases in the number of Tor clients were suspected to be adversary attacks on the network.
  8. 8.0 8.1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTPSarchive.org
  9. HTTPS is not foolproof due to reliance on the Certificate Authority (CA) system that issues digital certificates (private keys) for websites. As a trusted third party, this trust can be abused or the CAs can be subject to adversary attacks.
  10. https://2019.www.torproject.org/docs/faq#AmITotallyAnonymousarchive.org
  11. https://www.whonix.orgarchive.org
  12. https://www.eff.org/pages/tor-and-httpsarchive.org
  13. https://riseup.net/en/security/network-security/tor/onionservices-best-practicesarchive.org
  14. This does not however defend against improved cryptanalysis that breaks underlying ciphers being used, for example by the emergence of quantum computers. Only post-quantum ciphers resistant to these attacks will prevail.
  15. https://2019.www.torproject.org/docs/onion-servicesarchive.org
  16. Tests reveal the v3 onion address defaults to the clearnet search engine if JavaScript is not enabled.
  17. Extra layers of encryption are not strictly necessary, since a completely encrypted tunnel is already formed (but it certainly does not hurt). Until recently, these certificates would not validate because of the *.onion hostname.
  18. https://riseup.net/en/security/network-security/tor/onionservices-best-practicesarchive.org
  19. https://blog.torproject.org/cooking-onions-names-your-onionsarchive.org
  20. This is why onion addresses appear absurdly long and random.
  21. Experienced Tor developer Mike Perry has noted that even with scripts globally enabled, NoScript still provides significant protection in Tor Browserarchive.org:

    We provide NoScript mostly for the non-filter features it provides, such as click-to-play for media, webgl and plugins, XSS protection, remote font blockage, and so on.

  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NoScriptarchive.org
  23. XSS effects vary in range from petty nuisance to significant security risk, depending on the sensitivity of the data handled by the vulnerable site and the nature of any security mitigation implemented by the site's owner.

  24. Anti-clickjackingarchive.org was previously available to protect against hidden or disguised user interface elements masquerading as trusted web page buttons, links and so on. This is no longer available following the shift to Firefox extensions in Tor Browser based on Firefox 60 ESR. This feature protected against malicious activation of microphones or webcams, as well as user interaction with hidden elements to steal important financial, personal or other data.
  25. https://ianix.com/pub/firefox-addons-and-bandwidth-consumption.htmlarchive.org
  26. https://2019.www.torproject.org/docs/faq#TBBJavaScriptEnabledarchive.org
  27. Javascript has previously been used in Windows to deanonymize Tor Browser users with a zero-day exploitarchive.org which revealed the computer's MAC address to the attackers.
  28. Having a large user base is important for strong anonymity, as Roger Dingledine explains herearchive.org.
  29. Another related discussion justifying JavaScript's enabling by default was held on tor-talk; see Tor Browser disabling Javascript anonymity set reductionarchive.org.
  30. The Tor Project bug report: NoScript configured to globally allow all scriptsarchive.org
  31. https://noscript.net/archive.org
  32. https://gitlab.torproject.org/tpo/applications/tor-browser/-/issues/25391archive.org
  33. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/25391#note_2277828archive.org
  34. Whonix for a while shipped a desktop file and menu options which affect the security slider setting after first launching Tor Browser but it was removed due to unreliability, see this forum threadarchive.org for further details.
  35. It is easier for Tails to change Tor Browser because it is a Live distribution, not a persistent Linux distribution upgradeable through the standard package manager mechanism. Due to Tails spending a lot of effort on Tor Browser customization, Tails might lack other security featuresarchive.org that were added to Whonix.
  36. Even if the manpower existed, it would make more sense to establish a new "Privacy Browser" project, rather than merge its development with Whonix. At a later stage, the theoretically more secure browser could then be bundled with the Whonix platform.
  37. Whonix includes Tor Browser by default, with only minor differences.
  38. Even if Open Source, if Tor Browser was modified except for environment variables, a rebuild from source code might be required to remove the Tor Browser trademarks, which would be a huge effort.
  39. Although there are unresolved tbb-fingerprintingarchive.org and tbb-linkabilityarchive.org issues.
  40. This preference was first offered in alpha Tor Browser v8.5a2, but is now available in both the alpha and stable Tor Browser series.
  41. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/27175archive.org
  42. 42.0 42.1 https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/27175#comment:12archive.org
  43. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-85a2archive.org
  44. The default Tor Browser setting.
  45. 45.0 45.1 https://tb-manual.torproject.org/plugins/archive.org
  46. https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/find-and-install-add-ons-add-features-to-firefoxarchive.org
  47. For example, most videosarchive.org can be viewed in HTML5 which Tor Browser supports and prefers.
  48. Tips_on_Remaining_Anonymous#Study:_Anonymity_and_Pseudonymity_are_not_the_same
  49. https://2019.www.torproject.org/docs/torbutton/torbutton-faq.html.enarchive.org
  50. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/9442archive.org
  51. https://tails.boum.org/doc/anonymous_internet/Tor_Browser/index.en.htmlarchive.org
  52. https://tb-manual.torproject.org/security-settings/archive.org
  53. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-85archive.org
  54. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/29825archive.org
  55. Tor Browser Starter by Whonix (/usr/bin/torbrowser) simply navigates to the Tor Browser folder and runs ./start-tor-browser. The former has more features like reporting error conditions or the absence of a Tor Browser folder, generation of non-zero exit code failures, and more.
  56. Or manually navigate to the Tor Browser folder and then launch it in debugging mode. cd ~/.tb/tor-browser/Browser ./start-tor-browser --debug
  57. https://www.torproject.org/download/archive.org
  58. And that website does not:
  59. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-95archive.org
  60. https://forums.whonix.org/t/onion-forum-site-redirects-to-clearnet/197archive.org
  61. The Tor Project server side Onion Location feature is documented herearchive.org.
  62. Onion location header is a server side feature. Not a client side feature. Quote Onion redirects using Onion-Location HTTP headerarchive.org:

    3. Drawbacks

    3.1. No security/performance benefits

    While we could come up with onion redirection proposals that provide security and performance benefits, this proposal does not actually provide any of those.

    As a matter of fact, the security remains the same as connecting to normal websites, since for this proposal to work we need to trust their HTTP headers, and the user might have already provided identifying information (e.g. cookies) to the website. The performance is worse than connecting to a normal website, since Tor first needs to connect to the website, get its headers, and then finally connect to the onion.

    Still _all_ the website approaches mentioned in the "Motivation" section suffer from the above drawbacks, and sysadmins still come up with ad-hoc ways to inform users about their onions. So this simple proposal will still help those websites and also pave the way forward for future auto-redirect

    techniques.

  63. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-80archive.org
  64. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-90archive.org
  65. https://www.torproject.org/download/languages/archive.org
  66. Language packs might be another fingerprinting vector, but this issue requires further investigation.
  67. Since it uses predetermined ports on the localhost.
  68. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/10419archive.org
  69. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/11493archive.org
  70. Alternatively it is possible to remove Tor Browser's proxy settings, but this method is still vulnerable to the same fingerprinting issues as configuring an exception. There are also other factors which will worsen the user's fingerprint, such as the breaking of both stream isolation and the tab isolation by socks user name in Tor Browser.
  71. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/wikis/org/doc/ListOfServicesBlockingTor#ad-hoc-solutions-for-accessing-blocked-content-on-torarchive.org
  72. Note the icon is not visible with Tor Browser's security slider set to safest, but can still be clicked. Startpage documentationarchive.org states:

    Pages viewed through the proxy are served to you anonymously. No connection is made between your computer and the remote site. Because of their potential for being used to identify you, JavaScript is modified and cookies are disabled for proxied pages.

  73. Searx instances utilizing v3 onions can be found here The Web Archive Onion Version .
  74. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/wikis/org/doc/ListOfServicesBlockingTor#other-relevant-servicesarchive.org
  75. This does not protect against the sudden loss of networking, which could reveal to the attacker that two activities / accounts suddenly going off-line are probably related.
  76. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/25540archive.org
  77. This does not protect against potential infection of dom0 or the Whonix-Workstation Disposable Template by advanced adversaries. Traces of activity may also be left on storage media or in RAM.
  78. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-90a1archive.org
  79. Selfrandoarchive.org (load-time memory randomization) protection is being removed from alpha Tor Browser Linux buildsarchive.org. Although Selfrando provides a security improvement over standard address space layout randomization (ASLR) present in Tor Browser and other browsers, Tor developers believe it is relatively easy for attackers to bypass and not worth the effort.
  80. The "hardened" Tor Browser series has been deprecated, see: https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/21912archive.org
  81. Following the official release of the v8.0+ Tor Browser series (based on Firefox 60 ESR), the stable and alpha Tor Browser versions both have a native sandboxarchive.org.
  82. Tor Browser Update:Technical Details
  83. This does not yet notice upgradesarchive.org performed by Tor Browser's Internal Updater.
  84. Since v5.0, Tor Browser is configured to update itselfarchive.org.
  85. https://tb-manual.torproject.org/updating/archive.org
  86. At time of writing: https://aus1.torproject.org/torbrowser/update_3/release/downloads.jsonarchive.org
  87. This might be due to pragmatic reasons (work flow) or perhaps this is a staged rollout release strategy. (The term staged rollout hasn't been seen; see this definition herearchive.org.)
  88. Issues such as outdated signing keys, updated file locations might have been fixed in the upgraded version. Tor Browser Downloader can download Tor Browser. Tor Browser Downloader cannot upgrade itself. It's upgraded together with standard ("everyday") upgrades.
  89. Finalize RecommendedTBBVersions formatarchive.org
  90. Counter downgrade / stale mirror attacks on RecommendedTBBVersions - sign / verify tbb versions filearchive.org
  91. For a definition of these attacks, see the threat modelarchive.org of TUFarchive.org (The Update Frameworkarchive.org).
  92. Adversaries capable of breaking SSL could mount these attacks by replacing RecommendedTBBVersionsarchive.org with invalid, frozen or outdated version information.
  93. Unfortunately, Tor Browser signatures do not yet provide expiration dates in a manner similar to Debian's valid-untilarchive.org field.
  94. Rollback attacks are possible because if a computer's clock is wrong, there is no solid basis for comparison.
  95. That is, a browser and not a messenger or other application.
  96. GnuPG (OpenPGP) common misconceptions.
  97. The name of the file is stored in the hash file and verified to match the downloaded file name and hash.
  98. Tor Browser Update: Technical Details
  99. It is possible to run Tor Browser Downloader by Whonix inside a Disposable as well -- probably easiest using Tor Browser Internal Updater -- and then restart Tor Browser. However, these updates will not persist due to the Disposable design.
  100. See tb-updater in Qubes Template for technical details.
  101. https://blog.torproject.org/tor-browser-50-releasedarchive.org

    Starting with this release, Tor Browser will now also download and apply upgrades in the background, to ensure that users upgrade quicker and with less interaction. This behavior is governed by the about:config pref app.update.auto, but we do not recommend disabling it unless you really know what you're doing.

  102. The internal updater process involves several automatic steps (sourcearchive.org):

    1) Tor Browser contacts server "A" and asks if an update is available. If there is an update, then server "A" responds with metadata about the update file (a URL for that file, the size of the file, the SHA512 hash of the file).

    2) Tor Browser follows the provided URL and connects to server "B" and downloads the file 3) Tor Browser verifies the size of the file and sha512 hash of the file are as expected 4) Tor Browser verifies the cryptographic signature on the file. Tor Browser has two public keys hard-coded for which signatures on updates will be accepted.

    The update is installed after all checks pass.

  103. Before the introduction of Tor Browser's internal updater, manual installation was a difficult task which required the renaming (or deletion) of the old Tor Browser folder before the new version was extracted. If Tor Browser functions "under the hood" are a mystery, then unsurprisingly problems are often encountered during manual installation, particularly on the host.
  104. Whonix is not a standalone package, but a complete operating system. Whonix has a small team, while torproject.org has a much larger community and dedicated, paid support staff. Therefore, Whonix users are expected to learn Tor Browser essentials in the first instance.
  105. https://blog.torproject.org/comment/291401#comment-291401archive.org
  106. This does not relate to websites being able to read the bookmarks in the library, but rather addresses that are appended with unique parametersarchive.org like a string of random characters. The implication is:

    If you save a bookmark that contains parameters that mark you as unique and then you start a New Identity, if you open that bookmark, those parameters can be used to continue tracking you in your New Identity.

  107. For example, it is unsafe to disable Tor Browser protections in order to save cookiesarchive.org for the sake of convenience.
  108. This changes Tor Browser's fingerprint slightly. Tor project member sysrqb has statedarchive.org:

    Your browser is likely not unique, but it is one additional distinguisher from other users. You can see the effect of it on https://arkenfox.github.io/TZP/tzp.htmlarchive.org. Under the "screen" section, the "resolution" and "inner/outer window" values should change.

  109. URL shorteners are often used to mask phishing sites that seek user credentials; for example, this is common for websites designed to look identical to Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, Facebook and others.
  110. https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/beware-malicious-home-depot-ad-gets-top-spot-in-google-search/archive.org
  111. https://2019.www.torproject.org/docs/faq.html.en#AmITotallyAnonymousarchive.org
  112. See identifier-linkabilityarchive.org, sec19-shusterman.pdfarchive.org, leakuidatorarchive.org.
  113. Fissionarchive.org is still work in progress.
  114. https://forums.whonix.org/t/tor-browser-8-5-in-whonix-no-longer-can-save-passwords-and-it-deleted-all-existing-ones/7424archive.org
  115. Mozilla notes:

    Even though the Password Manager stores your usernames and passwords on your hard drive in an encrypted format, someone with access to your computer user profile can still see or use them. The Use a Master Password to protect stored logins and passwords article shows you how to prevent this and keep you protected in the event your computer is lost or stolen.

  116. Unless a strong master password is used to protect usernames and passwords, anyone with access to the computer (remote or physical) can easily see them; see herearchive.org for further information. Due to their relatively large attack surface, security professionals suggest it is far safer to use a password manager rather than trust browsers with sensitive information.
  117. A critical security bugarchive.org was found in the Password Manager in 2018: "If a user saved passwords before Firefox 58 and then later set a master password, an unencrypted copy of these passwords is still accessible."
  118. Unlike App Qubes where only the /rw/ directories are persistent, Standalones are complete clones of the template which have independent file systems. This means it is more vulnerable to the threat of persistent malware.
  119. https://forums.whonix.org/t/running-whonix-workstation-as-standalonevm/12008archive.org
  120. https://forums.whonix.org/t/should-still-recommend-against-maximizing-tor-browser-windowarchive.org
  121. New Release: Tor Browser 9.0archive.org:

    Tor Browser in its default mode is starting with a content window rounded to a multiple of 200px x 100px to prevent fingerprinting the screen dimensions. The strategy here is to put all users in a couple of buckets to make it harder to single them out. That worked so far until users started to resize their windows (e.g. by maximizing them or going into fullscreen mode). Tor Browser 9 ships with a fingerprinting defense for those scenarios as well, which is called Letterboxing, a technique developed by Mozilla and presented earlier this year. It works by adding white margins to a browser window so that the window is as close as possible to the desired size while users are still in a couple of screen size buckets that prevent singling them out with the help of screen dimensions.

  122. Anonymous (not verified) saidarchive.org:

    Is using the default window size still recommended?

    gk saidarchive.org:

    Yes, the default size is still recommended. But, if users are resizing their window they should get some protection now. Before that we only had the notification bar popping up and essentially saying "Don't do that! Danger!" which was kind of lame. Now, we have something better to offer which fits more to our privacy-by-design goal.

  123. https://www.mail-archive.com/qubes-users@googlegroups.com/msg29899.htmlarchive.org
  124. https://www.mail-archive.com/qubes-users@googlegroups.com/msg29573.htmlarchive.org
  125. Tor Bug 30600: Restore NoScript control widget icon to the Tor Browser toolbararchive.org
  126. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-853/#comment-282733archive.org
  127. https://blog.torproject.org/new-release-tor-browser-853/#comment-282735archive.org
  128. The same blog discussion confirms that moving the NoScript icon back onto the URL bar does not pose a known fingerprinting risk.
  129. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/30570archive.org
  130. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/issues/19652archive.org
  131. This is so Whonix-Workstation does not have access to the information about which Tor middle relay or Tor entry guard or Bridges are in use. See also: Indicator for current Circuit Status and Exit IP.
  132. Dev/anon-ws-disable-stacked-tor
  133. In Whonix-Workstation, anon-ws-disable-stacked-torarchive.org listens on 127.0.0.1 9150 and 9151 (Tor Browser's default ports) and forwards them to Whonix-Gateway 10.152.152.10 9150 (where a Tor SocksPort is listening) and 9151 (where onion-grater (Control Port Filter Proxy) is listening). Tor does not get started by the tor-launcherarchive.org Firefox add-on because the TOR_SKIP_LAUNCHarchive.org environment variable has been set set to 1. See also: Dev/anon-ws-disable-stacked-tor.
  134. No changes have been made in Whonix code to prevent such a warning.
  135. Still very useful for comparison of TBB outside of Whonix versus Tor Browser inside Whonix.
  136. https://forums.whonix.org/t/tor-browser-error-perhaps-from-9-0-1-update/8468archive.org
  137. The error is likely related to existing Tor bugs reported against (incremental)archive.org updatesarchive.org.
  138. https://forums.whonix.org/t/tor-browser-ended-with-non-zero-error-exit-code-again/10889archive.org
  139. https://forums.whonix.org/t/is-anyone-having-white-bars-in-the-tbb-tor-browser-letterboxing/8345archive.org
  140. https://www.reddit.com/r/Whonix/comments/ky7jqr/troubleshooting_i_just_installed_whonix_when_i/archive.org
    • As per Debian default user private groups UPGsarchive.org each created user will be given their own group to use. Therefore chmod 0700archive.org is not required and chmod 0770 is OK for all folders inside the user home folder.
    • The following command finds all directories inside user home folder /home/user and sets the "executable" bit on them. If that seems strange or a security issue, it's not, see Why must a folder be executable?archive.org. It also grants user user and UPG user the required read and write access inside the user home folder.
  141. Some applications might create write protected files inside the user's home folder. As user. Do not do this. It is just an example for explanation! rm -r .git
    rm: remove write-protected regular file '.git/objects/1c/f2f7161f7529fd600a706278e06df20eb6dfd6'
    

    After running the following command, this protection would be gone. In that case, the user is free to modify the following command to have a more narrow scope, for example.

    chmod --recursive ug+rw /home/user/.tb

    chmod --recursive ug+rw /home/user/.cache/tb

  142. https://gitlab.torproject.org/legacy/trac/-/wikis/doc/TransparentProxyarchive.org

License[edit]

Whonix Tor Browser wiki page Copyright (C) Amnesia <amnesia at boum dot org>

Whonix Tor Browser wiki page Copyright (C) 2012 - 2021 ENCRYPTED SUPPORT LP <adrelanos@whonix.org>

This program comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY; for details see the wiki source code.

This is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions; see the wiki source code for details.

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