Report: Tor Project Leaders Call Out Fake Tor Browser

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 21, 2014

Now here is a sneaky malware story that you don't hear every day: According to an online post being widely covered in the media (though it appears to have been taken down now) members of the Tor Project said that a fake application on the iOS App Store was billing itself as a Tor Browser and delivering up ads to users without permission from project leaders.  As we've written about before, using Tor to stay anonymous online is a practice seen around the world, and, in recent months Tor usage has soared due partly to user concerns over online snooping. Apple has reportedly taken the fake Tor browser down at this point.

According to The Register:

"Following months of protests, Apple has apparently removed from its App Store software that claimed to be a Tor-friendly web browser yet was allegedly loaded with adware and spyware. Members of the Tor Project said that a rogue application on the iOS App Store was billing itself as a Tor Browser and serving up ads to users without a license or permission from the group. Numerous attempts to remove the "fake" app were ignored by Apple before the application was made unavailable on Thursday afternoon, US West Coast time, amid growing pressure on Cupertino."

It's not hard to see how users getting stung by the fake browser would be upset. The whole reason users reach for Tor is to be anonymized and protect personal privacy online. Who wants opting in for it to lead to ads and malware? PCMag has collected some of the frustrated messages that users sent about the fake browser.

It's notable that according to recent statistics available through Tor Metrics Portal there has been a large 1increase in the number of Tor clients used and more than a million users are now connecting to the network. Tor, from the Tor Project, is one of the most powerful and flexible open source solutions for online anonymity, and it's clearly gaining popularity.  

In some areas in the world, opressive government regulations threaten free speech, and even in the U.S. there has recently been uproar over NSA snooping. That has helped boost usage of Tor. 

The process for getting an app listed with Apple is not all that easy, so it's surprising that a fake browser would make it up for availability and then stay up. It seems that even if you reach for software to keep you safe these days, that may be the first step in being unsafe.