Do Onions Make You Cry?

John Baldock

Onions have been cultivated for centuries for their characteristic, pungent aroma and flavour, as well as their medicinal properties. They can be as sweet and juicy as they can be spicy and tangy, and they host an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Eating onions can reduce risk of heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
They are also well known for making people cry.

Onions

But what does that have to do with network security? The TOR network is also known as the Onion network, and also referred to as the dark web.

Tor Network

TOR is the acronym for The Onion Router, and onion routing is implemented by encrypting data, or traffic, at the application layer of the OSI model, nestled like layers of the aforementioned onion. The onion network encrypts the data multiple times and sends it through randomly selected TOR relays; the idea behind the technology is that sender and receiver are not able to identify one another through the normal uniquely identifiable means, such as IP addresses.

Today we ask: Should businesses have a presence on the Onion network?

Since its inception, TOR has primarily been associated with illegal activity and illicit usage; referred to as the dark corner of the web. Indeed, it has been linked to anonymous defamation, unauthorised leaks of sensitive information, copyright infringement, distribution of illegal sexual content, selling controlled substances, weapons, stolen credit card numbers, money laundering, bank fraud…  the list goes on!

Generally, the media love the drama of bad news and criminal activity, so it is easy to see this technology as nothing but a playground for wrong-doing.

However, the objective of launching TOR originally was about human rights, freedom of speech, and protecting privacy – which are all things most people consider hugely important. Parallel to TOR we also have Bitcoin, a de-centralised currency ensuring financial protection for society: Another technology widely associated with criminal activity. These grand ideas, it seems, provide both a means for criminals to continue their lawless ways as well as a platform to ensure freedom of society and escaping unavoidable persecution from their own government.

You cannot have one without the other. What we can do is shift our perception to a more positive perspective. Privacy

For example: Facebook can be accessed on the TOR network. You might have used Facebook several times already today, checking family updates or community news groups, or perhaps sneaking a peak at a love interest. Whatever your motives were, and whether you love it or hate it, Facebook is a social platform used by millions. It is a collection of the voices of the people. But Facebook is not available to all through normal browsing! Some may congratulate themselves for ‘taking a break from Facebook’, or ‘not doing Facebook’ by choice… but entire countries have censored Facebook, either blocking it altogether, or blocking parts of it. In North Korea, anyone who tries to access it is subject to punishment.

So… Facebook exists on TOR. This is an example of freedom of speech being protected by the technology. Well done to Facebook for providing an anonymous means to access a hub of content created by millions of users around the world.

Who else should be taking these steps to protect our privacy and freedom of speech? Technology giants like Facebook certainly have an obligation to lead the way in this regard. Although neither Google or Twitter have a TOR presence.

There are 3 main reasons for having a service on the TOR network:

  1. To provide access to your services / information from countries where your domain is blocked
  2. To provide anonymous access to your services / information
  3. To demonstrate technological knowledge

For activereach, there is little need to launch a server on TOR, if anyone wishes to access our content anonymously they could do so through a proxy or over VPN. But certainly for social media platforms, news providers, and activists it would be a good thing to ensure accessibility of your content.

And of course, revisiting the negative connotations of this “dark corner of the web”, is anyone who uses TOR (or Bitcoin) to be deemed someone likely engaged in criminal behaviour? Well, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ from us.

So, do onions make you cry? Yes; but the benefits are clear.

At activereach Ltd, we embrace technology; we innovate and educate, and our security expertise and DDoS technology strengthens the security of our customers.