Towards Predicting Efficient and Anonymous Tor Circuits


Armon Barton, Mohsen Imani, and Jiang Ming, University of Texas at Arlington; Matthew Wright, Rochester Institute of Technology


The Tor anonymity system provides online privacy for millions of users, but it is slower than typical web browsing. To improve Tor performance, we propose PredicTor, a path selection technique that uses a Random Forest classifier trained on recent measurements of Tor to predict the performance of a proposed path. If the path is predicted to be fast, then the client builds a circuit using those relays. We implemented PredicTor in the Tor source code and show through live Tor experiments and Shadow simulations that PredicTor improves Tor network performance by 11% to 23% compared to Vanilla Tor and by 7% to 13% compared to the previous state-of-the-art scheme. Our experiments show that PredicTor is the first path selection algorithm to dynamically avoid highly congested nodes during times of high congestion and avoid long-distance paths during times of low congestion. We evaluate the anonymity of PredicTor using standard entropy-based and time-to-first-compromise metrics, but these cannot capture the possibility of leakage due to the use of location in path selection. To better address this, we propose a new anonymity metric called CLASI: Client Autonomous System Inference. CLASI is the first anonymity metric in Tor that measures an adversary's ability to infer client Autonomous Systems (ASes) by fingerprinting circuits at the network, country, and relay level. We find that CLASI shows anonymity loss for location-aware path selection algorithms, where entropy-based metrics show little to no loss of anonymity. Additionally, CLASI indicates that PredicTor has similar sender AS leakage compared to the current Tor path selection algorithm due to PredicTor building circuits that are independent of client location.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {217612,
author = {Armon Barton and Matthew Wright and Jiang Ming and Mohsen Imani},
title = {Towards Predicting Efficient and Anonymous Tor Circuits},
booktitle = {27th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-46-1},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {429--444},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},