Opened 4 years ago

#21939 new defect

start-tor-browser.desktop hack will soon stop working

Reported by: micahlee Owned by: tbb-team
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Applications/Tor Browser Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords:
Cc: Actual Points:
Parent ID: Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor:


The Linux version of Tor Browser is made more usable by a kind of hacky start-tor-browser.desktop file. Users can both execute it in a terminal to launch Tor Browser, and also double-click it from a GUI file manager like nautilus.

However, .desktop files can be used to hide malware. See this upstream nautilus bug [1], which has already been resolved. Also see this blog post [2] for more about how this bug allows attackers to compromise Subgraph OS.

Once this patch makes it to the versions of nautilus that Linux users have installed on their computers, the Tor Browser desktop file will break. Instead of saying "Tor Browser" with the Tor icon, it will say "start-tor-browser.desktop" with a default icon, and when the user tries double-clicking it it will pop up an "Untrusted application launcher" warning that the user has to click through.

One possible solution to this problem is to start distributing Tor Browser as a real Linux package that can be installed system-wide, with a .desktop file installed to /usr/share/applications like other software. I discussed this idea a bit in this thread [3].


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