Tor Browser 11.5 is optimized to automatically bypass censorship

Pierluigi Paganini July 18, 2022

The Tor Project team has announced the release of Tor Browser 11.5, which introduces functionalities to automatically bypass censorship.

The Tor Project team has announced the release of Tor Browser 11.5, the new version of the popular privacy-oriented browser implements new features to fight censorship.

With previous versions of the browser, circumventing censorship of the Tor Network itself was a manual process that required users to dive into Tor Network settings and chose a bridge to unblock Tor. 

Experts pointed out that censorship of Tor isn’t uniform, this means that a certain pluggable transport or bridge configuration may work in one country could not work elsewhere.

The Tor Browser version 11.5 implements a new feature called “Connection Assist”, which was developed to assign automatically the bridge configuration that could allow users in a specific location to bypass censorship.

“In collaboration with the Anti-Censorship team at the Tor Project, we’ve sought to reduce this burden with the introduction of Connection Assist: a new feature that when required will offer to automatically apply the bridge configuration we think will work best in your location for you.” reads the announcement published by the Tor Project. “Connection Assist works by looking up and downloading an up-to-date list of country-specific options to try using your location (with your consent). It manages to do so without needing to connect to the Tor Network first by utilizing moat – the same domain-fronting tool that Tor Browser uses to request a bridge from”

Tor browser

Connection Assist downloading up-to-date list options that optimize the connection from the user’s country. To do this, the browser requests user consent.

Maintainers at the Tor Project pointed out that this is only version 1.0 of the Connection Assist, for this reason, they invite users to submit their feedback to help them improve the user experience in future releases.

“Users from countries where the Tor Network may be blocked (such as Belarus, China, Russia and Turkmenistan) can test the most recent iteration of this feature by volunteering as an alpha tester, and reporting your findings on the Tor forum.” continues the annoucement.

Another feature implemented in version 11.5 is making ‘HTTPS-Only Mode’ which is enabled by default for desktop, and HTTPS-Everywhere will no longer be bundled with Tor Browser.

The above features are all for desktop, the announcement provides updates for Androidrs because the Tor Browser for Android is quite behind desktop in terms of feature parity. 

Since the beginning of the year our priorities for Android have been three-fold:

  1. Start releasing regular updates for Android again
  2. Fix the crashes that many Android users have experienced
  3. Begin catching up with Fenix (Firefox for Android) releases

The latest version of the Tor Browser is available on the official download portal.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Tor Project)

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