At the DEF CON hacking convention in Las Vegas, one of the three co-founders of Tor, Roger Dingledine, corrected a few misconceptions regarding what the Tor Project is really being used for and slammed journalists for the negative way it has been covered in the media. According to Dingledine, a mere 3% of Tor users employ the browser to access .onion websites.
‘There Is Basically No Dark Web’
According to The Register, Roger Dingledine decided to use part of his speaking time at DEF CON to criticize journalists for the way they have painted the Tor Project in the media — as a tool for drug dealers and pedophiles to hide from law enforcement and get away with criminal activity.
He added that only 3% of Tor users connect to hidden (.onion) websites, meaning the other 97% use the browser to anonymously browse clearnet sites such as Reddit, Wikipedia, Yahoo, and The Merkle. In Dingledine’s mind, most Tor users are just people wishing to hide their identities from website owners, not new-age criminals.
Dingledine even dismissed the concept of the “dark web”, implying that what people call the dark web is so insignificant that it should not even get its own term. He notably stated:
“There is basically no dark web. It doesn’t exist. It’s only a very few webpages.”
During his talk, he also addressed the fear of law enforcement agencies infiltrating the network and running a large number of nodes. The concern is that this would allow them to reveal the true identity of Tor’s users.
Edward Snowden had previously revealed that nodes were being run by intelligence agencies. According to Dingledine, however, there were only a few such infiltrators and these could not compromise the network. He added that he himself knew two-thirds of the people running Tor relays, and that agencies do not need to set up nodes of their own. If they really wanted to compromise the network, they could merely monitor those who do run them.
The Most Popular Website Among Tor Users Is… Facebook
The Tor Project’s co-founder revealed that the most visited website by Tor users is Facebook, which opened its doors to Tor back in 2014 when it launched an .onion address. At the time, Facebook’s senior engineer, Alec Muffet, stated:
“The idea is that the Facebook onion address connects you to Facebook’s Core WWW Infrastructure – check the URL again, you’ll see what we did there – and it reflects one benefit of accessing Facebook this way: that it provides end-to-end communication, from your browser directly into a Facebook datacentre.”
Facebook had barred Tor users from accessing its website in the past, citing security concerns. At the time, it claimed that the network could be used to attack its servers. Now, according to reports, as many as one million people use Facebook via the Tor browser. This may be an insignificant amount for Facebook, but it is a major figure for Tor.