The Onion Router, popularly known as Tor, has seen its number spike in the last week as citizens in both Russia and Ukraine seek access to news, communication, and bypass restrictions.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, internet users are seeking information in whatever form they can find, and Tor has witnessed an increase in users as a consequence, allowing them to circumvent censorship while also keeping their privacy, as per data from The Tor Project.
“A growing number of people in Russia and Ukraine are using @torproject to communicate, access news, and get around censorship. You can help them by setting up a Tor bridge.”
Since the invasion, the enormous spike can also be seen in bridge users from Russia.
Host of Privacy Beat Naomi Brockwell noted:
“It’s only in a time of crisis that most people realize the value of privacy tools. Take the time to understand how these things work today, because one day they might save your life.”
Tor calls for help against Russia
Back in December, Tor called for help as Russia blocked privacy services to tighten internet control. Tor said in a blog post at the time that foreign lobby organizations should push on Russia to restore regular services in order to minimize any potential hazards that may arise as a result of the suspension.
Tor noted that over 300,000 Russian users began experiencing challenges accessing the platform daily from December 1. The restriction was an enormous blow to Tor, considering that Russia accounts for the second-highest number of users.
The Tor restriction was part of Russia’s widescale crackdown targeting foreign tech companies as the country moves to ban content shared on the platforms.
Anonymous declares war on Russia
Meanwhile, the infamous hacking group Anonymous has officially declared a cyberwar against Russia on February 24 as the country’s forces continue to advance into Ukraine.
The group made the announcement on Twitter and stated that it has taken down a number of Russian government websites in the course of doing so. Among the well-known websites that have been impacted is the state-sponsored news portal Russia Today.
Notably, the conflict that started on Thursday has taken on a cyber-attack dimension, with Russia launching attacks against a number of Ukrainian websites. The malware used in the assault on Ukrainian systems was data-wiping software, which infected hundreds of computers, including those in neighboring nations.
Additionally, according to Ukraine’s cybersecurity organization, mobile networks were also disrupted by users who were unable to make calls.