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What are the benefits of enterprise cloud bridge usage?

Is a cloud bridge right for your enterprise? Learn what a cloud bridge is and the benefits it can offer, as well as when you might consider using one in the workplace.

Though the Tor Project Inc. pulled the plug on its Tor Cloud project -- which would have enabled anonymous cloud...

usage -- its founders suggest enterprises should set up their own cloud bridging projects. What is a cloud bridging project, and when would a cloud bridge be beneficial for enterprises to use?

Tor is a freely available software package and network for anonymously using the Internet. The Tor network consists of multiple types of components, one of which is called a "bridge." A Tor bridge is a relay that is not listed in public indexes of relays. Tor users can set up their own bridge and use it with the Tor protocols for maintaining privacy online. The Tor Cloud project existed for several years with the goal of providing an easy way to set up a Tor bridge in AWS.

Individuals or organizations that are concerned about the surveillance of their activities and want to prevent monitoring of their activities are the canonical use cases for Tor. Potential Tor users range from political dissidents in countries with oppressive regimes to organized crime to enterprises concerned about industrial espionage.

Although you might think at first that Tor is designed for cybercriminals and others that want to hide their illegal activities online, there are legitimate uses for Tor or Tor-like applications in the business world. Imagine the scenario of a multinational firm with offices in a country suspected of monitoring and stealing intellectual property from foreign-owned companies. Employees on site in that country may want to mask activities on the Web related to research and development, long-term strategy and business proposals.

While the Tor Cloud project has shut down, Tor users still have access to the Tor browser, which maintains lists of some bridges. While these bridges may be used in many cases, adversaries can block these known bridges since their addresses are distributed along with the Tor browser. On the other hand, another option is to create and maintain a bridge in the cloud, and configure Tor browsers to use it. However, this option requires more system administration and networking skills and will, of course, entail long-term maintenance.

Running a Tor bridge in the cloud can help mask user activities. A bridge server can be configured as a machine image and launched as needed. The cloud bridge could be assigned a long-lived IP address -- such as an address from the pool of AWS Elastic IP addresses -- or it could be assigned a new IP address each time it is launched. Frequently changing IP addresses and running the bridge in different regions may help increase the difficulty in finding and tracking the bridge.

Documentation on Tor is available here, including instruction for installing Tor on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Details on using bridges are available here.

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Learn more about the Tor Cloud project shutdown

This was last published in September 2015

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