Analyzing China's Blocking of Unpublished Tor Bridges


Arun Dunna, Ciarán O'Brien, and Phillipa Gill, University of Massachusetts Amherst


At the end of 2011, China's Great Firewall (GFW) began to block unpublished Tor bridges. Past studies of this blocking have found that the firewall implements both deep packet inspection (DPI) and active probing in order to identify and block usage of the Tor protocol. We build upon the information from previous studies conducted in 2012 and 2015, using a vantage point in China, and bridge relays that we deploy in the US, Canada, and the UK. We determine the extent to which both published and unpublished relays, specifically bridges, are currently blocked by the GFW. We also analyze the active scanners employed by the GFW, and determine the viability of various deployed circumvention methods. We specifically observe that a simple technique to identify and not respond to the GFW's scanners is effective in keeping a bridge relay from being blocked. We conclude by discussing the current circumvention methods, and how best to implement these circumvention methods to improve the accessibility of the Tor based on our measurements.

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@inproceedings {220213,
author = {Arun Dunna and Ciar{\'a}n O{\textquoteright}Brien and Phillipa Gill},
title = {Analyzing China{\textquoteright}s Blocking of Unpublished Tor Bridges},
booktitle = {8th USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI 18)},
year = {2018},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,