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In consideration of recent article by Das Erste publication, do bridges, and Pluggable Transports bridges utilization hinder anonymity and are essentially circumvention tools?

Following, please find an excerpt from Das Erste:

This code demonstrates the ease with which an XKeyscore rule can analyze the full content of intercepted connections. The fingerprint first checks every message using the "email_address" function to see if the message is to or from "bridges@torproject.org". Next, if the address matched, it uses the "email_body" function to search the full content of the email for a particular piece of text - in this case, "https://bridges.torproject.org/". If the "email_body" function finds what it is looking for, it passes the full email text to a C++ program which extracts the bridge addresses and stores them in a database. The full content of the email must already be intercepted before this code can analyze it.

  • What's your reasoning for thinking this might be the case? – Andrew Lott Feb 1 '14 at 9:23
  • Dear Andrew, Lets be clear, I am not proclaiming that bridges and pluggable transports hinder anonymity. However, there are some indications that points to this hypothesis. Let me list some of them numerically. – Roya Feb 1 '14 at 14:44
  • 1. The philosophy of existance of bridges and pluggable transport is circumvention and not anonymity. 2. The strict design criteria that is demanded out of Guard nodes are relaxed when it come to bridges, Pluggable or otherwise. 3. The bridges are not generally of lower quality than Guard nodes; They are not tested for months before getting the role of the Guard nodes and so on. – Roya Feb 1 '14 at 15:00
  • On No. 3, I meant to say: 3. The bridges are generally of lower quality than Guard nodes; They are not tested for months before getting the role of the Guard nodes and so on. – Roya Feb 1 '14 at 15:10
  • Dear Andrew, I understand that there is a trade off when designing such a complicated system, and I congratulate the Tor team for creating such an effective circumvention tool. All I am saying is that, in my humble opinion, it should be clearly stated that, Tor without bridges is a superior anonymity tool, and it should be a first priority before considering bridges or pluggable transport. – Roya Feb 1 '14 at 15:54
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Originally, bridges and Pluggable Transport bridges came about because some countries (mainly china) blocked Tor use, and as they escalated the blocking criteria, first the concept of bridges and later Pluggable Transport bridges came about and implemented to circumvent the blocking. Later some companies, organizations, educational institutions, and even universities have started to do the blocking and people behined those blocking walls started to use bridges and Pluggable Transport bridges depending on the level of blocking imposed on them. All this was perceived OK until Edward Snowden has revealed the extent of spying done by global adversaries and state actors, primarily the five eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). This time the snooping were extended to any individual, organization, company, government, and living sole that existed on earth and beyond. Any living sole who may communicate by any communication device, being a landline phone, cellphone, satellite phone, internet, intranet, TV, cable, and word of mouth became legitimate target of snooping by five eyes. In this new Matrix like environment created by five eyes, its is prudent to be cautious. I beleive a rethink is necessary regarding bridges and Pluggable Transport bridges utilization in Tor environment. The thinking heads should collaborate to alleviate this present and imminent danger.

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