Sub-menu: Countermeasure

The Countermeasure sub-menu of TorBox v.0.4.2.
The Countermeasure sub-menu of TorBox v.0.4.2.

The primary purpose of the Countermeasure sub-menu is to offer a simple way of using OBFS4, Snowflake, and Meek-Azure bridges. Bridges circumvent censorship, e.g., on networks where Tor guard nodes and Tor connection handshakes are blocked. Thus, they are providing an entry to the Tor network. Additionally, the implementation of pluggable transports theoretically makes it possible to disguise Tor traffic in such a way that an ISP, network, government, or other censors cannot detect the use of Tor. The traffic then looks like http or another protocol. However, because, in general, using bridges lowers the network speed, it is best only to use them if necessary. Meek-Azure and Snowflake are probably slower than OBFS4, why it is preferable to try first OBFS4 before activating Snowflake or Meek-Azure. 

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  • OBFS4 makes Tor traffic look random. Activating OBFS4 bridges can be problematic behind a tightly configured (see more here).
  • Snowflake is an improvement upon Flashproxy. It sends your traffic through WebRTC, a peer-to-peer protocol with built-in NAT punching
  • Meek uses a technique called “domain fronting” to send a message to a Tor relay in a way that is hard to block. Meek-Azure makes it look like you are browsing to Microsoft’s Azure server  instead of using Tor.

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After installing TorBox either, by using the image file and the corresponding start-up instruction or by running our installation script, OBFS4 bridges, Snowflake and Meek-Azure are already configured and can be activated with the first start-up of TorBox or later by using menu entries 2, 8, or 9. However, only one of these pluggable transports can be activated at once.

In the following, we look at all menu entries one by one:

  • Menu entry 1: All about bridges and pluggable transports – read me first: This brief introduction is intended to help new users, in particular, to understand and simplify the use of tor bridges and pluggable transports.
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  • Menu entry 2: Activate configured OBFS4 bridges to circumvent censorship: Use that menu entry to start the OBFS4 bridge mode. Unlike Snowflake and Meek-Azure, OBFS4 supports the use of several different bridges, which makes your connection more stable. With this menu, you can activate all OBFS4 bridges, only the ones, which are online, or you can specifically select bridges to be activated.
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  • Menu entry 3: Add additional OBFS4 bridges: OBFS4 bridges can either added automatically (one bridge every 24 hours) or manually. If manually added, the input box takes only one bridge address at a time. In other words: if you want to add three bridges, then the input box appears three times. If you’re going to add several bridges at once, then select menu entry 8. Apart from the automatic method, you have two other ways to obtain OBFS4 bridges:
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  1. Direct from the Tor Bridge database (chose “Advanced Options”, “obfs4” and press “Get Bridges”).
  2. Via email to [email protected], using an address from Gmail or Riseup with “get transport obfs4” in the body of the mail.
  3. (Not recommended, only if needed): Via Telegram: https://t.me/tor_bridges
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  • Menu entry 4: List all xy OBFS4 bridges: This menu entry will list all already configured OBFS4 bridges and show the bridge’s state (online, offline, or doesn’t exist). However, the status of the OBFS4 bridge can only be shown if Tor’s bridge database can be contacted. Each line is one OBFS4 bridge and is listed as Number: IP:Port FingerprintStatus (name, certificate, packet size, and timing obfuscation are not shown). You can even look up more information using the Relay Search Tool on the Tor Metrics with a bridge’s fingerprint.
The elements of a bridge address
The elements of a bridge address

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  • Menu entries 5: Remove configured OBFS4 bridges: OBFS4 bridges can be removed all, only the ones that don’t exist anymore or can specifically remove bridges. With removing all OBFS4 bridges, the OBFS4 mode will automatically be deactivated, and TorBox will try to reach the Tor network directly through the Internet, which is the default. However, to deactivate the OBFS4 mode, removing all OBFS4 bridges is unnecessary – to deactivate them (menu entry 6) is quite enough.
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An example of a list of bridges.
An example of a list of bridges.
  • Menu entries 6: Deactivate OBFS4 and/or configured OBFS4 bridges: Use that menu entry to deactivate the OBFS4 bridge mode. With choosing to deactivate all OBFS4 bridges, the OBFS4 mode will also be automatically deactivated, and TorBox will try to reach the Tor network directly through the Internet, which is the default. Alternatively, you can also only deactivate bridges that are offline or specifically select bridges to be deactivated. In this case, the OBFS4 mode will still be activated until all OBFS4 bridges are deactivated.
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  • Menu entry 7: Enter the advanced configuration editor: This menu entry gives access to the Tor configuration file. You should know what you are doing before you change anything in the configuration file — here, you can break your TorBox. If you are unsure, then contact us. Did you something wrong? You can always overwrite this configuration with the default one, stored in ~/torbox/etc/tor/. After changing the configuration, use the following commands in the editor: CTRL-O followed with an ENTER to save the changes. CTRL-X to exit the editor.
The advanced configuration editor
The advanced configuration editor

  • Menu entry 8: Activate/Deactivate SNOWFLAKE to circumvent censorship: This activates Snowflake and restarts Tor. Before TorBox uses Snowflake, it tries to check the status of Snowflake. Not only, but especially in censored countries, it could be that the status cannot be evaluated or Snowflake seems to be down. The best is to try it anyway. Please be patient! It can take up to 5 minutes until TorBox is again ready to relay the data stream of your clients through the tor network – until then, the clients will be offline. Usually, any error messages can be ignored, just wait! You should see “Bootstrapped 100%: Done” at the end. Press CTRL-C to leave the log. Tor Statistics (and probably some other tools) will not work under Snowflake. Using that menu entry again deactivates Snowflake. Snowflake usage is steadily increasing, reaching around 300-400 users by mid-March.
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  • Menu entry 9: Activate/Deactivate MEEK-AZURE to circumvent censorship: This activates Meek-Azure and restarts Tor. This activates Meek-Azure and restarts Tor. Before TorBox uses Meek-Azure, it tries to check the status of Meek-Azure. Not only, but especially in censored countries, it could be that the status cannot be evaluated or Meek-Azure seems to be down. The best is to try it anyway. Please be patient! It can take up to 5 minutes until TorBox is again ready to relay the data stream of your clients through the tor network – until then, the clients will be offline. Usually, any error messages can be ignored, just wait! You should see “Bootstrapped 100%: Done” at the end. Press CTRL-C to leave the log. Tor Statistics (and probably some other tools) will not work under Meek-Azure. Using that menu entry again deactivates Meek-Azure. Meek Azur’s daily load fluctuates greatly and can range from 2,500 to 10,000 users. In comparison: around 40,000 users use OBFS4 bridges every day. The utilization of OBFS4 bridges is more balanced.
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  • Menu entry 10: Activate/Deactivate Guard discovery and traffic analysis protection: Even after deployment of the v3 onion service protocol, the attacks facing onion services are wide-ranging and still require more extensive modifications to fix in Tor-core itself. This menu entry activates Vanguards, which protects against guard discovery and related traffic analysis attacks. A guard discovery attack enables an adversary to determine the guard node(s) used by a Tor client and/or Tor onion service. Once the guard node is known, traffic analysis attacks that can deanonymize an onion service (or onion service user) become easier.
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  • Menu entry 11: Display the Vanguards log: As the name says if menu entry 10 is activated, the Vanguards log file is displayed and automatically refreshed when new entries are added. However, we will probably remove this menu entry again in one of the following Tor versions.
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  • Menu entry 12: Activate/Deactivate TorBox’s automatic counteractions (TACA): TACA avoids downtime and improve user experience with lower bandwidth.

Currently, TACA handles five situations (see image above):

  1. Protection against entry guard failing and overloaded tor network: This will automatically switch to a new entry guard if the current one is reporting that it is failing or potentially overloaded.
  2. Protection against interrupted wifi (wlan0/wlan1) connection with the Internet: If TorBox loses the connection to the wifi (interface wlan0 or wlan1), it tries to automatically reconnect to the best available wifi, which the user was connected to before (passwords are automatically stored and handled by wpa_supplicant). In places with several weak wifi’s, it is recommended to log into all of them by using Torbox’s Wireless Manager so that TACA can switch from one to another if necessary.
  3. Protection against an excessive number of failing tor circuits (40 failures in 2 minutes): This will restart tor. However, if connected to a wifi (interface wlan0 or wlan1), it will additionally try to reconnect to the best available wifi (see point 2).
  4. Protection against excessive connection failing with tor circuits (40 failures in 2 minutes): This will restart tor. However, if connected to a wifi (interface wlan0 or wlan1), it will additionally try to reconnect to the best available wifi (see point 2).
  5. Protection against tor bootstrapping problems (30 failures in 2 minutes): Because there are several causes of a bootstrapping problem, if connected to a wifi (interface wlan0 or wlan1), TACA will try to reconnect to the best available wifi first (see point 2). Additionally, the tor configuration is flushed.

We need your feedback to expand and improve TACA. Please, visit our GitHub page for more details. We plan to activate TACA by default in one of the following Tor versions.
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  • Menu entry 13: Countermeasure against a disconnection when idle feature: Certain Internet providers (usually at airports, in hotels, coffee houses, etc.) disconnect the network connection after a particular time of inactivity. In this case, the Tor statistics (main menu entry 1) no longer shows any data transfer. Usually, after about 15 seconds, errors in communication with the Tor network appear. This menu entry activates/deactivates a recurring Ping to google.com to prevent disconnection by an Internet provider with an activated “disconnect when idle feature”.
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  • Menu entry 14: Connect/Disconnect TorBox to/from a VPN: This menu entry will connect the TorBox to a VPN so that the local network data from the command prompt is routed through the VPN. However, this menu entry will not restart Tor, and your client network data will still be routed directly through Tor using the interface highlighted in the main menu. This is useful if your ISP censors the network traffic so that TorBox cannot update Tor or TorBox. If you want to route Tor through VPN, please, use entry 9 in the main menu.

    Before using this menu entry, please ensure that one or more *.ovpn – files are in the ~/openvpn directory so that TorBox can execute OpenVPN with that file.

    Using that menu entry again deactivates the VPN connection, and the local network data from the command prompt is routed through your Internet provider without a VPN (default). However, this menu entry will not restart. Client network data will always be routed through Tor.
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Problems and questions

  • Can I use TorBox and VPN together? –> see here.
  • I’m connected to a public wireless network; everything works as expected. However, every x minutes, the connection to the wireless network stops completely, and I have to repeat the entire login procedure. What could be the reason? –> see here.
  • I saw that TorBox is using Google’s and Cloudflare’s DNS server as well as google.com to test connectivity? Can’t you change it to xyz.dns –> see here.
  • Is it possible to activate a OBFS4 bridge relay and simultaneously use OBFS4 bridges on the same TorBox? –> see here.
  • Is there a way to force/block TorBox to use an exit node in a specific country? –> see here.