Cloudfare Ditches Captchas for Tor Users
If you regularly use Tor to ensure your privacy while browsing, you’ve probably noticed that you frequently meet a Cloudflare ‘challenge’ when trying to access certain websites.
Sites that use Cloudflare have been automatically rerouting Tor users to these CAPTCHAs to ensure that traffic is genuine and not malicious.
But for many users, it’s made their favourite sites a real pain to use in Tor. Sometimes, the Captchas appeared multiple times in the same session, leading some Tor users to complain that the system was too clumsy and could be restricting legitimate traffic.
Cloudflare has now announced that it’s toning down the CAPTCHAs for Tor users providing they upgrade to the latest versions of the browser. The latest versions have a Cloudflare Onion Service bundled in, allowing the browser to signal to the Cloudflare server that it’s not a bot.
Any malicious traffic from Tor will still be caught with a CAPTCHA as before.
6 Million Sites and Counting
Cloudflare is a content delivery network that speeds up the loading time of websites and protects against malicious attacks.
A content delivery network functions by geographically distributing content to multiple servers around the world, visitors to those sites always get media files from the closest location to them. This also helps to reduce load on the original web server.
Cloudflare has more than 100 servers, so it’s well-placed to serve media-heavy files quickly practically anywhere in the world.
Cloudflare has become immensely popular with website owners, partly because its basic plan is free. It also offers a customisable firewall and DDoS protection, with advanced features on its premium tier accounts.
Good News for Our Privacy
Cloudflare is used by more than six million websites, including well-known sites like Zopim, 4chan, and MediaFire. It’s also provided as a simple plug-in with thousands of web hosting providers, making it very simple for practically anyone to deploy. With this update, Cloudflare has made all of these sites much more accessible in Tor.
The only real downside is that this new Onion Service is only available to Tor 8 and Tor for Android users. Those new versions have the new Onion Service needed for Cloudflare to pick out good traffic from bad, so it’s a good idea to upgrade now if you haven’t updated your software yet.
At the moment, it’s not a completely failsafe solution; those with the older versions of the browser will still see those CAPTCHAs. Also, site owners can switch off Onion Routing if they want to keep the CAPTCHA challenges in place, so Tor users may still hit a few along the way..
But considering Cloudflare’s promise to provide convenience, security, and anonymity, these changes are a big step in the right direction.