Aussies Love Online Anonymity: Local Tor Use On The Rise

With everything from the data retention hearings, the internet filter talk and telecommunication interception activities all going on at once, is it any wonder that more and more Australians are turning to the anonymised Tor network to do their illicit browsing? Stats from the Tor network indicate that the once steady curve of users accessing the Tor network has shot up over the last few months.

For the uninitiated, the Tor network is an encrypted network that users can connect to that offers anonymity. Users connect to a series of trusted relays and the data is encrypted twice over to ensure security. It makes it harder to track a user online.

Many illicit services are run via the Tor network, including a prominent online drug marketplace and several gun running operations, and use of the network by Aussies is on the up and up.

These figures come from the Tor Project's own metrics page, which calculates users like so:

After being connected to the Tor network, users need to refresh their list of running relays on a regular basis. They send their requests to one out of a few hundred directory mirrors to save bandwidth of the directory authorities. The following graphs show an estimate of recurring Tor users based on the requests seen by a few dozen directory mirrors.

The Tor Project reports that in the first six months of 2012, just under 4000 people were using the Tor network every day. Around June, though, more and more people jumped on board. Australian Tor Project users are now in a spike period, with user numbers currently topping over 5000 people a day.

When graphed, the figures look a bit like this:

While Australian use is on the rise, we still pale in comparison to other countries. The top user of the Tor Project's anonymous network is the US, which currently has around 61,000 people connecting every day. The top three is filled out by Iran in second place with 44,000 average daily users and then Italy with 39,000 users.

Coming in at the bottom of the top 10 is the UK with 11,000 average daily users. We've got a bit of work to do here, methinks.

It's worth noting at this stage that the Tor network, while anonymised, can't protect the traffic at either end of the network. Nor can it protect you from yourself. That is, when you allegedly buy drugs via the Tor network and have them shipped to Australia, you won't be protected when sniffer dogs have their day. [Tor Project via Reddit]

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