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Tor secret net service turns to Amazon cloud for bandwidth

Warwick Ashford

The Tor Project to maintain a secret layer of the internet is turning to Amazon's EC2 cloud service for additional bandwidth for people who want to route their online communication anonymously.

Tor has been used by activists to avoid censorship as well as those seeking anonymity for more nefarious reasons, according to the BBC.

The service works by using a network of “bridges” run by volunteers. Data routed via Tor appears to come from the last person in the relay rather than from the original sender.

The Tor developers are calling on volunteers to sign up to Amazon’s cloud service to set up cloud-based bridges.

“By setting up a bridge, you donate bandwidth to the Tor network and help improve the safety and speed at which users can access the internet,” says a Tor Project blog post.

The use of Amazon’s cloud services will create better places to hide, according to Amachai Shulman, chief technology officer of security firm Imperva.

With Amazon hosting millions of applications, it will be difficult for governments to distinguish between normal access to Amazon's cloud and Tor access, he told the BBC.

Tor plans to make use of Amazon’s offer of a year’s worth of free storage to promote its cloud service, but that does not mean it will be cost-free to all volunteers.

An update to the Tor blog post says the Amazon offer includes only 15GB of bandwidth per month, but Tor cloud images have been configured to use up to 40GB of bandwidth per month.

“We have estimated that customers who do not qualify for the free usage tier will pay up to $30 a month. Customers who qualify for the free usage tier, but who run bridges that use more than 15GB of bandwidth out per month, will pay up to $3 per month,” the blog says.

The Tor Project has been praised for enabling people to communicate freely without fear of punishment by repressive regimes, but it has also been criticised for enabling the distribution of pirated films and music.


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