Filename: 132-browser-check-tor-service.txt
Title: A Tor Web Service For Verifying Correct Browser Configuration
Author: Robert Hogan
Created: 2008-03-08
Status: Obsolete


  Tor should operate a primitive web service on the loopback network device
  that tests the operation of user's browser, privacy proxy and Tor client.
  The tests are performed by serving unique, randomly generated elements in
  image URLs embedded in static HTML. The images are only displayed if the DNS
  and HTTP requests for them are routed through Tor, otherwise the 'alt' text
  may be displayed. The proposal assumes that 'alt' text is not displayed on
  all browsers so suggests that text and links should accompany each image
  advising the user on next steps in case the test fails.

  The service is primarily for the use of controllers, since presumably users
  aren't going to want to edit text files and then type something exotic like into their address bar. In the main use case the controller
  will have configured the actual port for the webservice so will know where
  to direct the request. It would also be the responsibility of the controller
  to ensure the webservice is available, and tor is running, before allowing
  the user to access the page through their browser.


  This is a complementary approach to proposal 131. It overcomes some of the
  limitations of the approach described in proposal 131: reliance
  on a permanent, real IP address and compatibility with older versions of
  Tor. Unlike 131, it is not as useful to Tor users who are not running a


  Provide a reliable means of helping users to determine if their Tor
  installation, privacy proxy and browser are properly configured for
  anonymous browsing.


  When configured to do so, Tor should run a basic web service available
  on a configured port on The purpose of this web service is to
  serve a number of basic test images that will allow the user to determine
  if their browser is properly configured and that Tor is working normally.

  The service can consist of a single web page with two columns. The left
  column contains images, the right column contains advice on what the
  display/non-display of the column means.

  The rest of this proposal assumes that the service is running on port
  9999. The port should be configurable, and configuring the port enables the
  service. The service must run on

  In all the examples below [uniquesessionid] refers to a random, base64
  encoded string that is unique to the URL it is contained in. Tor only ever
  stores the most recently generated [uniquesessionid] for each URL, storing 3
  in total. Tor should generate a [uniquesessionid] for each of the test URLs
  below every time a HTTP GET is received at for index.htm.

  The most suitable image for each test case is an implementation decision.
  Tor will need to store and serve images for the first and second test
  images, and possibly the third (see 'Open Issues').

  1. DNS Request Test Image
  This is a HTML element embedded in the page served by Tor at

  <IMG src="http://[uniquesessionid]:9999/torlogo.jpg" alt="If you can see
  this text, your browser's DNS requests are not being routed through Tor."
  width="200" height="200" align="middle" border="2">

  If the browser's DNS request for [uniquesessionid] is routed through Tor,
  Tor will intercept the request and return as the resolved IP
  address. This will shortly be followed by a HTTP request from the browser
  for This request should be served with
  the appropriate image.

  If the browser's DNS request for [uniquesessionid] is not routed through Tor
  the browser may display the 'alt' text specified in the html element. The
  HTML served by Tor should also contain text accompanying the image to advise
  users what it means if they do not see an image. It should also provide a
  link to click that provides information on how to remedy the problem. This
  behaviour also applies to the images described in 2. and 3. below, so should
  be assumed there as well.

  2. Proxy Configuration Test Image

  This is a HTML element embedded in the page served by Tor at

  <IMG src="[uniquesessionid].jpg" alt="If you can see
  this text, your browser is not configured to work with Tor." width="200"
  height="200" align="middle" border="2">

  If the HTTP request for the resource [uniquesessionid].jpg is received by
  Tor it will serve the appropriate image in response. It should serve this
  image itself, without attempting to retrieve anything from the Internet.

  If Tor can identify the name of the proxy application requesting the
  resource then it could store and serve an image identifying the proxy to the

  3. Tor Connectivity Test Image

  This is a HTML element embedded in the page served by Tor at

  <IMG src="[uniquesessionid]-torlogo.jpg" alt="If you
  can see this text, your Tor installation cannot connect to the Internet."
  width="200" height="200" align="middle" border="2">

  The referenced image should actually exist on the Tor project website. If
  Tor receives the request for the above resource it should remove the random
  base64 encoded digest from the request (i.e. [uniquesessionid]-) and attempt
  to retrieve the real image.

  Even on a fully operational Tor client this test may not always succeed. The
  user should be advised that one or more attempts to retrieve this image may
  be necessary to confirm a genuine problem.

Open Issues:

  The final connectivity test relies on an externally maintained resource, if
  this resource becomes unavailable the connectivity test will always fail.
  Either the text accompanying the test should advise of this possibility or
  Tor clients should be advised of the location of the test resource in the
  main network directory listings.

  Any number of misconfigurations may make the web service unreachable, it is
  the responsibility of the user's controller to recognize these and assist
  the user in eliminating them. Tor can mitigate against the specific
  misconfiguration of routing HTTP traffic to to Tor itself by
  serving such requests through the SOCKS port as well as the configured web
  service report.

  Now Tor is inspecting the URLs requested on its SOCKS port and 'dropping'
  them. It already inspects for raw IP addresses (to warn of DNS leaks) but
  maybe the behaviour proposed here is qualitatively different. Maybe this is
  an unwelcome precedent that can be used to beat the project over the head in
  future. Or maybe it's not such a bad thing, Tor is merely attempting to make
  normally invalid resource requests valid for a given purpose.