PTPerf: On the Performance Evaluation of Tor Pluggable Transports

This website represents the code and the research work conducted to measure the performance of pluggable transports that was published in Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) 2023.


Abstract:Tor, one of the most popular censorship circumvention systems, faces regular blocking attempts by censors. Thus, to facilitate access, it relies on “pluggable transports” (PTs) that disguise Tor’s traffic and make it hard for the adversary to block Tor. However, these are not yet well studied and compared for the performance they provide to the users. Thus, we conduct a first comparative performance evaluation of a total of 12 PTs—the ones currently supported by the Tor project and those that can be integrated in the future.

Our results reveal multiple facets of the PT ecosystem. (1) PTs’ download time significantly varies even under similar network conditions. (2) All PTs are not equally reliable. Thus, clients who regularly suffer censorship may falsely believe that such PTs are blocked. (3) PT performance depends on the underlying communication primitive. (4) PTs performance significantly depends on the website access method (browser or command-line). Surprisingly, for some PTs, website access time was even less than vanilla Tor.

Based on our findings from more than 1.25M measurements, we provide recommendations about selecting PTs and believe that our study can facilitate access for users who face censorship.


We publish the PT setup details along with the measurement and the analysis scripts on Github and Zenodo (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.8352813).

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