On Jan. 20, 2016, the Tor Project announced the results of its crowdfunding project.
Over $205,000 was raised from more than 5,200 donors. Contributions were made from personalities such as Laura Poitras, the Citizen Four director; Shari Steele, former EFF executive director; Alison Macrina, the founder and director of the Library Freedom Project; and Tor Project co-founder Roger Dingledine.
The crowdfunding campaign was an attempt to find alternate sources of funding than government and university grants.
Tor Project Gets Funding
As the project put it on its website, “Crowdfunding gives us flexibility to do what we think is most important, when we want to do it. It allows us to fund the development of powerful new privacy tools. Or make the ones we have stronger and more resilient. Or pay for things we need like a funded help desk or an Arabic version of our website.”
SecurityWeek noted that the Tor Project plans to launch a bug bounty program via the HackerOne platform this year. It has also announced ways to improve Tor browser security through a multiprocess sandbox, application-level sandboxing and Mac OS signing. Undoubtedly the new funding will help these efforts.
Problems in Fundraising
But the donation process did not go smoothly in all cases. One user who tried to donate anonymously complained loudly on Tor’s blog. “Any Tor user knows that in the last month, Tor has become unusable on 99 percent of CloudFlare secured websites,” the user wrote. “Users are presented with an impossible CAPTCHA, or even when they are presented with a solvable one, it is interpreted as incorrect. When an audio challenge is given, one number is deliberately unintelligible, or in the event of a solvable audio CAPTCHA, you are still taken to another CAPTCHA.”
Others also expressed their frustration at the difficulty of the donation process, as well as problems Tor has integrating with CloudFlare. That’s because CloudFlare has had a longstanding anti-anonymity policy, and the Tor project has been trying to deal with it — unsuccessfully — for a long time.
Privacy Can Be Misused
It’s not all peaches and cream with Tor — the service has a dark side. In fact, the “IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly – 3Q 2015” report found that the use of Tor for malicious purposes has increased. Roughly 180,000 malicious events originated from U.S. exit nodes between Jan. 1, 2015, and May 10, 2015. Malicious events also came from exit nodes in the Netherlands (150,000), Romania (80,000), France (60,000), Luxembourg (55,000) and Uruguay (53,000).
While Tor can be used for good, it can also be misused to facilitate cybercriminals. Finding the balance between allowing Internet freedom and preventing crime will be a tough challenge for the project.