We all have our favorite browsers for surfing the web, and, more often than not, it’s Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. While these account for over 95% of all users, there are some alternatives, which provide more security and anonymity. The most prominent example is Tor, boasting encryption-rich protection that caters to journalists or activists in places with active censorship or internet bans. We prepared some interesting Tor stats to keep you in the loop, so read on.
The number of Tor users makes this network among the most popular ones, offering anonymity to its users at all times. Tor stats show that the way this is achieved includes 6,000 volunteer relays. Every client builds a circuit using three relays and then connects to the server with the circuit. The selection algorithms from the relay ensure that no relays that have the same IP address connect.
On top of that, there are 44 machines running Tor clients, and some of the circuits built over those vantage points get chosen more often, Tor statistics show. While founders of this system devised it to protect the anonymity of its clients, it’s not possible to create a perfectly balanced algorithm. So, a Tor traffic analysis shows that some relays are more likely to be chosen, even three times more often. This puts the network in danger of infiltration and eavesdropping.
You would expect that most people use this network for shady websites and illicit activities. Typically, it’s not like that, with the majority of people accessing regular ‘surface’ websites, and using the platform to avoid encryptions or censorships, according to Tor statistics.
The latest accessible study of Tor traffic, based on a sample of 400 websites, has shown a great deal of them aren’t that ‘dark.’ In fact, this report focuses on both sides of the dark web activity, good and bad. From the content that was indeed illegal, most (45%) fell off on drugs.
(The Daily Dot)
A recent study has shown that 10% of these websites account for regular internet activities. For example, based on these Tor usage statistics, most people communicated via forums, hosted files and images, or used these websites for commerce. Similar research confirmed that over half of randomly selected 400 .onion domains contain legal content.
The Bureau organized a large-scale action back in 2015, aiming to track and catch those using child porn site Playpen. The FBI took it over and used malware to track users who visited the website. And it’s not an isolated case either — the FBI is thought to have controlled over half of all child porn sites on the platform at a certain point.
(The Daily Dot)
India has the largest population of those who access the dark web using technologies like Tor. Following closely, we have Russia and Brazil with 22% and 21%, respectively. Indonesia follows with 20%. Turkey, South Africa, and Sweden are behind with 16% each. The country with the lowest percentage of the population entering the dark web is Nigeria, with only 1% of people accessing it.
Based on Tor statistics, it makes it the country with the highest number of possible censorship attempts during that period. Tor uses an anomaly-based censorship detection system. Other countries on this list include Mongolia, as the runner-up (34 downturns and 39 upturns), and Barbados, with 29 downturns and 35 upturns.
The latest statistics on the number of Tor users by country show that Russia dominates the charts with 10,438 daily users. Next on the list is the US, with 7,125 mean daily users (15.34%). Iran took up the third spot with 3,868 daily users (8.32%). Tor usage statistics show that Germany also found the way on this list with 2,045 mean daily users. Other significant nations include Belarus, Brazil, India, the UK, China, and Turkey.
Research from 2020 shows that their numbers on AlphaBay (that replaced Silk Road) started growing exponentially after Snowden disclosed National Security Agency’s surveillance. For reference, the Silk Road and AlphaBay refer to online black markets, part of the dark web. These crypto markets, based on some Tor stats, mainly serve for illicit drug sales. Sometimes, however, people use these platforms to discuss politics and libertarianism. Even the admin of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, hosted a political book club on his site.
And not just that. It allowed programmers to trace 193% of additional streams. When it comes to the Tor browser, they managed to trace 9% of all streams, Tor stats show, using instrumented exit nodes and BitTorrent as the insecure app. Namely, this group of programmers devised two attacks to trace BitTorrent users on Tor and managed to reveal 10,000 IP addresses. Therefore, using Tor is not completely anonymous, as many people believe. However, by using VPNs for Tor, users can put on an additional layer of protection to preserve their data.
A great number of Tor users on these marketplaces frequent them to obtain recreational and pharmaceutical drugs or stolen documents and identities, including credit cards and bank information. Other sites are popular on-demand platforms for technological crime services, such as hacking and malware. Many of these markets rely on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, contributing to the annual cost of cybercrime, which should top $6 trillion by the end of 2021.
As one of the main forms of payment on browsers such as Tor and on dark web marketplaces, Bitcoin transactions in 2018 amounted to $872 million. Tor stats also indicate that the use of Bitcoin in paying illicit activities on the dark web has been on the decline. Additional statistics by the UN confirm that annually 2-5% of the global GDP money is laundered this way, amounting to anywhere between $1.6 and $4 trillion.
Windows is the most common platform for which users downloaded Tor, while macOS and Linux had fewer than 20,000 per day each. Similar to the number of average daily downloads on Windows, the US registered about 60,000 Tor downloads per day over the same time, Tor statistics show.
Attackers could use some Tor bridges that are currently not operational to penetrate its defense. For instance, directing traffic to all 12 operational Tor bridges could cost only $17,000 per month. If the same thing is repeated with all 38 bridges (if those out of service at the moment are back online), it could cost $31,000 per month, Tor stats indicate. Later on, researchers said that targeting TorFlow servers with DDoS attacks could cost even less (around $2,800 monthly).
Despite the common image it has in public, the Tor platform is not used only for illicit operations. Although some cases speak against that, a lot of the platform’s users include people who keep their conversations private, investigators, or residents of countries where censorship is common. Looking at Tor stats, we can say that fewer-than-expected people use it for illicit activities.