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From what little I know about how Tor works (I might be wrong about some things), it seems like if more users were incentivized to use Tor for downloading and sharing files, the number of endpoints would increase, making it less likely that your traffic would end up in an evil logging/scanning/sniffing endpoint, and the increased amount of traffic would make it harder for malicious third party to sift through so much data to find someone's specific data packets.

I've seen installers which simplify setting up VPN and whatnot that would benefit user, but which would deter new users if they had to configure everything manually. So it can be done, and regular users may only need to hit "install > yes > yes > ok" and everyone on the Tor network would benefit tremendously. It seems they only need to say "we're moving to Tor!" and it's as good as done.

So why isn't this a thing in 2017? Are there some hidden downsides to inviting millions of new users to join Tor? And are there some problems associated specifically with bittorrent filesharing traffic over Tor? And if Bittorrent is not a desirable way to share data over Tor, what would be?

  • Yes, if your millions of new users are only using Tor and not acting as relays, they're slowly down the network dramatically for everyone. – immibis May 4 '17 at 3:59
  • And If a large percentage (or almost all) of new users became endpoints? – user1306322 May 4 '17 at 4:01
  • Do they also become relays? If so, now they'll (on average) download files 4x as slower because every download is passing through 4 computers (which means on average every computer is handling 4 downloads for each download they actually initiate). If not, they'll slow down the network dramatically for everyone. – immibis May 4 '17 at 4:04
  • Where is the number 4 coming from? Are you saying every new user would slow down everyone else's download speed by… some factor of 4? – user1306322 May 4 '17 at 4:06
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    Every Tor connection goes through the client, the server, and three (by default) relays. – immibis May 4 '17 at 4:13
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Some of your questions are answered on Tor website. Notably, How can I share files anonymously through Tor? says:

File sharing (peer-to-peer/P2P) is widely unwanted in the Tor network, and exit nodes are configured to block file sharing traffic by default. Tor is not really designed for it, and file sharing through Tor slows down everyone's browsing. Also, Bittorrent over Tor is not anonymous!

Also only Tor relays route traffic between nodes, and Tor endpoints are not relays unless explicitly configured. Thus adding a large number of non-relay endpoints is not going to help the network. And there are reasons not to make the endpoints relays by default, Thus this approach would only puts stress on other relays without significantly* increasing network anonymity.

(*even non-relay users do provide some increase in anonymity to overall network, making some attacks such as traffic correlation more costly to execute - and thus more difficult to achieve. The increase however would be significantly larger if they ran relays)

  • So if Bittorrent is out of the question, what would be more desirable? – user1306322 May 4 '17 at 4:13
  • @user1306322 More desirable for who / what purpose? – immibis May 4 '17 at 4:44
  • @immibis for anonymizing file sharing and improving the Tor network's properties at the same time (I'm looking at inviting the file sharing users from the perspective of benefiting the existing and potential new Tor users) – user1306322 May 4 '17 at 4:52
  • @user1306322 To make BitTorrent anonymous over Tor I think you would need to modify BitTorrent - if you just run normal BitTorrent over Tor then you're still telling the world your IP address. And to benefit Tor, you want to run more relays and exit nodes more than you want to run more clients. – immibis May 4 '17 at 5:46
  • running BitTorrent over Tor will really upset Tor users. It will not improve Tor! – Rory Alsop May 4 '17 at 20:05

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