New me: Understanding expert and non-expert perceptions and usage of the Tor anonymity network

Kevin Gallagher, Sameer Patil, Nasir Memon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Proper use of an anonymity system requires adequate understanding of how it functions. Yet, there is surprisingly little research that looks into user understanding and usage of anonymity software. Improper use stemming from a lack of sufficient knowledge of the system has the potential to lead to deanonymization, which may hold severe personal consequences for the user. We report on the understanding and the use of the Tor anonymity system. Via semi-structured interviews with 17 individuals (6 experts and 11 non-experts) we found that experts and non-experts view, understand, and use Tor in notably different ways. Moreover, both groups exhibit behavior as well as gaps in understanding that could potentially compromise anonymity. Based on these findings, we provide several suggestions for improving the user experience of Tor to facilitate better user understanding of its operation, threat model, and limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017
PublisherUSENIX Association
Pages385-398
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781931971393
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Event13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017 - Santa Clara, United States
Duration: Jul 12 2017Jul 14 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017

Conference

Conference13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017
CountryUnited States
CitySanta Clara
Period7/12/177/14/17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

Cite this

Gallagher, K., Patil, S., & Memon, N. (2019). New me: Understanding expert and non-expert perceptions and usage of the Tor anonymity network. In Proceedings of the 13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017 (pp. 385-398). (Proceedings of the 13th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2017). USENIX Association.