Note: this was not updated accordingly to the way this feature is being implemented yet.

Given the increasing practice of blocking Tor usage in more authoritarian countries, censorship resistance is getting more important. To merely try to use Tor might even be dangerous in these countries as the government can log it and take action against the user. Hence we should provide an easy to use facility for our users to achieve:

  • Reliability: make sure that they always can reach the Tor network, and
  • Obfuscation: prevent others from knowing that our user may be using the Tor network.

In Tor there is the concept of bridges. By relaying the user's Tor traffic through a so called bridge node which is not listed in Tor's directory the user may be able to achieve a reliable connection and hide the fact that the user is connecting to a Tor server. Tor's bridging makes no attempt to mask the (Tor) nature of the traffic between the Tails user's client and the bridge node. Therefore the users access to the Tor network can still be determined by simple traffic analysis. See ?obfsproxy for a much better solution to the obfuscation problem.

Bridges in Tails

While Vidalia makes it straight-forward to use bridges there are some special considerations that needs to be accounted for in the context of Tails. Since all Tor is started at boot, it is immediately disclosed that Tor is used. We need to make it possible for our users to prevent this, for instance by toggling some option in the boot menu. However, since all internet traffic is routed through Tor, if a user doesn't know of any bridges we have a Catch-22 situation since the user's best possibility to get a bridge is by getting it over the Internet, for instance from the Tor project's website, IRC or IM buddies and similar.


The use of bridges should be optional, and if desired it must be chosen before Tor starts. The best place for such an option is probably in tails-greeter. When activated the following things should happen:

  • Tor doesn't try to connect directly to the Tor network.
  • The user is somehow helped to setup a bridge, and possibly instructed how to get one.
  • Once a bridge has been chosen, Tor should immediately start to use it.

Current work

We are going to use Vidalia's bridges configuration UI.

When bridges are enabled (by adding bridge to the kernel command-line):

  • config/chroot local-includes/lib/live/config/204-bridge adds a buggy bridge ( to /etc/tor/torrc and enables UseBridges so that Tor does not even try to connect directly to the network, even when restarted.
  • Vidalia is started with the -bridgeconf option brought by our custom patch (XXX):
    • network settings are displayed on startup
    • UseBridges is enabled
    • a Tails-specifig pop-up is shown.
  • As a workaround to bug #2355 on Tor Project's Trac, config/chroot local-includes/etc/NetworkManager/dispatcher.d/ cleans up the Tor data directory when a network interface goes up. A real fix for this bug is being worked on, see the bug page for details and status updates.
  • When a network interface goes up, Tor and Vidalia are restarted. Tor cannot reach its network until the real (working) bridges configuration is applied by Vidalia, either saved from previous input or newly entered by the user.

Left to do


Fix all child tickets of ?bridge support: complete phase one.

Find bridges button

Vidalia has a "Find bridges now" button which won't work for us since it can't reach To get it to work we would need some kind of exception in the firewall rules.

Anyway, bridges.tpo now asks for a CAPTCHA, so an automated, out-of-the-browser solution seems not doable this way.

It should be noted that just connecting to can be dangerous if the regime is hostile towards Tor, and/or it could simply be censored. This must be explained to the user, and manual input of bridges must be available as an alternative.

One can also get Obfsproxy bridges by email (currently sent from Yahoo and Gmail email accounts only).

Until a solution is found for this issue, we should probably ?hide this button.