Overturn network censorship: Tor Browser 11.5 automates the connection to the Tor network

Overturn network censorship: Tor Browser 11.5 automates the connection to the Tor network

The Tor Project has released a new major version of its eponymous privacy-focused browser. The Tor Browser 11.5 contains a tool that should make it easy to bypass country-wide bans on the Tor network. In addition, encrypted connections via the integrated HTTPS-only mode are now switched on by default and the network settings have been revised and simplified. The Tor Project describes this in a blog post about the release of the new browser version. With the Tor Browser, users can surf the web anonymously and have their tracks covered by the Tor anonymization network behind it.

If the Tor network is blocked at your own location, users previously had to configure the Tor browser themselves for a bridge to the Tor network – this could, however, be complicated, tedious and frustrating. Now a new browser component called Connection Assist takes over this work – with just one click by the user. Connection Assist determines the location (with the user’s consent) and pulls directly from the Tor project a list of settings for bridges that are likely to work in that country. Bridges are gateways to the Tor network that are operated by volunteers. The Tor project also wants to keep these lists up to date.

Because Connection Assist has only just reached version 1.0, the developers are calling for the tool to be tested and problems reported. With the new function, the Tor Project is making good on a promise to make its browser even simpler and at the same time to take effective action against network censorship. The developers had already announced the ‘anti-censorship button’ at the rC3 congress at the end of 2021. Previously, users in a region with a blocked Tor network had to contact the Tor project makers to get the ID of a bridge that was suitable for them, and then store it in the browser.

Connection Assist in action: If no connection to the Tor network can be established, just one click and the Tor Browser automatically searches for a suitable bridge.

The developers have also revised the network settings of the Tor browser. They are now called Connection Settings (formerly Network Settings) and are intended to simplify the management of settings and especially the bridges: for example with emoji symbols to identify a bridge more easily, and the possibility of showing the address of a bridge to other users via QR code to share.

Another important innovation in version 11.5 is enabling the ‘HTTPS-Only’ mode as the default browsing mode. The Firefox browser on which the Tor browser is based already contains this mode by default. It is now activated in favor of the HTTPS Everywhere extension and the extension is no longer available.

All improvements of version 11.5 are summarized in a blog post by the Tor developers. Tor Browser is a free download for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.

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