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The Pirate Bay's new censorship-dodging browser 'not secure'

Iranians can now access 'ayatollahsucks.com'*. Oh S$%t, actually...

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The Pirate Bay has released a bundle of add-ons to help people search for and access bits of the internet that governments and ISPs have locked away. The only hitch is: despite the fact that it contains a Tor client, security experts have said that it doesn't completely anonymise internet traffic.

This has raised concerns about users' security.

PirateBrowser, released in celebration of the torrent site's 10th birthday – and with a bunch of torrent sites already bookmarked, natch – is based on Firefox Portable and comes bundled with proxy-management toolset Foxyproxy and the Tor client Vidalia.

In its FAQ, The Pirate Bay says:

Does it [allow me to] surf the net anonymously?

No, while it uses Tor network, which is designed for anonymous surfing, this browser is intended just to circumvent censorship — to remove limits on accessing websites your government doesn't want you to know about.

If you are looking for something more secure you may want to try a VPN like PrivacyIO.

Security experts have complained that The Pirate Bay failed to adhere to Tor security protocols, with one observer claiming the new browser was "unsafe".

The new browser was released on Saturday, the notorious file-sharing site's 10th anniversary.

The Pirate Bay said: "Do you know any people who can't access TPB or other torrent sites because they are blocked? Recommend PirateBrowser to them. It's a simple one-click browser that circumvents censorship and blockades and makes the site instantly available and accessible."

It added: "This browser is intended just to circumvent censorship — to remove limits on accessing websites your government doesn't want you to know about."

But Twitter has erupted in criticism. The Spy Blog, which focuses on security, privacy and surveillance issues, tweeted:

Jacob Appelbaum, a security bod and a spokesman for the Tor Project, also tweeted:

In an FAQ about the browser, The Pirate Bay reassured torrent-seekers that there were no hidden nasties in their software.

It said: "There have been no modifications to any of the packages used, no adware, Trojans, toolbars, etc. This is simply a tool to help people get around censorship."

The creators of PirateBrowser lumped the UK and other countries that have issued court orders blocking access to torrent search sites together with international badboys like Iran and North Korea, claiming that nations around the world want to "limit" their citizens' online access.

TPB described the PirateBrowser thus:

PirateBrowser is a bundle package of the Tor client (Vidalia), FireFox Portable browser (with foxyproxy addon) and some custom configs that allows you to circumvent censorship that certain countries such as Iran, North Korea, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Ireland impose onto their citizens.

The Pirate Bay has come under attack in recent months, with founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Sweden after being found guilty of hacking. ®

* Sites expressing anti-government views or which include "undesirable content", such as YouTube, are routinely blocked in Iran. VPN services and certain social networking websites are also blocked.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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