Today we are announcing an experiment in secure communication, and launching an alternative way for people to access our site: we are making the nytimes.com website available as a Tor Onion Service.
The New York Times reports on stories all over the world, and our reporting is read by people around the world. Some readers choose to use Tor to access our journalism because they’re technically blocked from accessing our website; or because they worry about local network monitoring; or because they care about online privacy; or simply because that is the method that they prefer.
The Times is dedicated to delivering quality, independent journalism, and our engineering team is committed to making sure that readers can access our journalism securely. This is why we are exploring ways to improve the experience of readers who use Tor to access our website.
One way we can help is to set up nytimes.com as an Onion Service — making our website accessible via a special, secure and hard-to-block VPN-like “tunnel” through the Tor network. The address for our Onion Service is:
This onion address is accessible only through the Tor network, using special software such as the Tor Browser. Such tools assure our readers that our website can be reached without monitors or blocks, and they provide additional guarantees that readers are connected securely to our website.
Onion Services exist for other organizations — most notably Facebook and ProPublica, each of which have created custom tooling to support their implementations. Our Onion Service is built using the open-source Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK), which automates much of the configuration and management effort.
The New York Times’ Onion Service is both experimental and under development. This means that certain features, such as logins and comments, are disabled until the next phase of our implementation. We will be fine-tuning site performance, so there may be occasional outages while we make improvements to the service. Our goal is to match the features currently available on the main New York Times website.
Over time, we plan to share the lessons that we have learned — and will learn — about scaling and running an Onion Service. We welcome constructive feedback and bug reports via email to email@example.com.
Finally, we would like to extend our thanks to Alec Muffett for his assistance in configuring the Enterprise Onion Toolkit for our site.
Runa Sandvik is the Director of Information Security at The New York Times
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