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Tor’s Hidden Service Publishing Tool, Stormy: A Closer Look

After reading the Daily Dot story on Tor’s “point and click” hidden service publishing tool set for launch in September and easy enough for even your mom and dad to use, how could one not be filled with excited anticipation? Considering how difficult it currently is to publish hidden service sites, Stormy, Tor’s hidden service publishing tool, sounds like a Godsend.

The Daily Dot wrote:

With the release of Stormy, any whistleblower or human rights activist in the world should be able to easily and anonymously talk to anyone and everyone. Better yet, so could your mom and dad. It’s easy to imagine the vast power this kind of tool can invest in its users almost regardless of computer literacy.

I spoke with Tor’s executive director, Andrew Lewman, and came away with a slightly different idea of what exactly the Tor community should expect with the release of Stormy,

For starters, the target release date is September 15, and it will be released as a command line script completely separate from the Tor browser. Lewman said it will certainly make hosting hidden services easier and more consistent than it currently is, but it’s not going to be as easy as setting up a point-and-click website through someone like Wix.com. People with no hidden service experience will probably still find it difficult to use, said Lewman.

Tentatively code-named Stormy, but likely to be renamed to something more technical, the script is being developed in response to a massive number of help queries sent to Tor from human rights and journalistic organizations who need help with publishing hidden services.

Right now you have to open up your command line and edit your configuration file, and large organizations seem to make mistakes and need help figuring it out, so this script is aimed to help them,

Said Lewman, adding that the script will automate that process and make it more consistent.

Lewman said that the specific target audience of the script is highly technical system and network administrators who work for human rights and journalistic organizations:

People who are  already knowledgeable with command line and familiar with configuring esoteric options in the file.”

It’s command line, so when your run the script, it will ask you some questions and then it will generate a configuration file that they can use to more consistently set up hidden services,

Said Lewman.

It wont allow just anyone to publish a site. Were going to publish scripts and technical documentation, and what the world does with it beyond that is up to the world.

Sorry mom and dad.

But since it is an open-source script, it’s conceivable that the community could use the script’s code to develop a more user friendly automated point-and-click publishing tool, which would obviously be greatly desired.

When asked how he could see a human rights or journalistic organization using a hidden service publishing tool, Lewman said:

There are these secure drop sites that are designed for anonymous source work, for journalists in particular, and human rights organizations do a lot of stuff with online coordination forums, things like that. And apparently the quality and sophistication of their admins vary by region, and they are looking to have a simple little automatable thing to ship out to people to say that if you are some super admin in Argentina vs some really street activist in Vietnam, you will be able to use the same script and create the same quality hidden service for your constituents.

So while it doesn’t seem like Stormy will be as easy to use as initially reported, it’s certainly an extremely beneficial tool to have in one’s repository, and will definitely provide much needed assistance to various human rights and journalistic organizations who are fighting the good fight around the world. I for one am excited to see what kind of sensitive information various organizations from around the world will begin to share with the public. With the open-source framework and the altruistic mentality of the Tor community, hopefully more user friendly versions will be released in due time.

2 comments

  1. “Considering how difficult it currently is to publish hidden service sites” – You think it is difficult, I think you are a retard!

    • Johnnyappleseed

      Gee, thanks Noobody for that technical proclamation of your brilliance. If only the rest of us could be as smart as you.

      I think this is great. Obviously the ramifications of being a whistleblower in so called Democracies like the U.S. are bad. Any tool to help get some of the dirty secrets out is a plus.

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