Opened 9 months ago

Last modified 9 months ago

#32503 needs_information defect

With Startpage.com, Anonymous Mode does not work if Startpage.com is configured to use EU servers

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

Description

The Startpage.com search engine has a setting where the user can choose to have Startpage.com only use servers in the EU (European Union.) Alternatively, the user can configure Startpage.com to only use servers in the US, or to use whichever servers are the closest/fastest.

In addition, Startpage.com has an ''Anonymous Mode'' where Startpage.com will fetch the page for the user with Startpage.com functioning as a proxy of sorts.

From what it appears, when Startpage.com is accessed in Tor Browser and has been configured to only use servers in the EU, then accessing a Web site in Anonymous Mode will not work.

Steps:

  1. Visit https://www.startpage.com/
  2. Click the hamburger button (three stacked horizontal lines) in the upper-right corner of the page.
  3. Click "Settings" in the menu that appears.
  4. On the Settings page, scroll down to the "Results Appearance" section and deselect the "Open search result in a new window" option.
  5. Scroll down to the "Privacy and Safety" section. Under the "Only connect to servers that are" option, select "EU servers".
  6. Click the Save button to save the preferences.
  7. At the Startpage.com home page, enter the search term "free software" (without quotes) and press return to do a search.
  8. On the page that comes up, there will be a list of search results, each with an "Anonymous View" link. Click the "Anonymous View" link for one of the search results.
  9. A page will come up showing a figure with a covered head in the center, and with the text "Anonymous View by Startpage.com" in the lower left. However, the requested page will fail to load.

When accessing a page in Tor Browser, it is possible to open the Network pane which shows HTTP and HTTPS requests, among other things. This pane can be opened by clicking the hamburger button in the upper-right part of the Tor Browser window (to the right of the "New Identity" button), clicking "Web Developer" in the menu that appears, and then clicking on "Network" in the menu under the Web Developer heading.

From the looks of things, when Startpage.com is accessed in Tor Browser and has been configured to use EU servers, one of the requests made by Startpage.com in Anonymous Mode is to a URL at the domain session.eu-proxy.startpage.com, and it appears that this request fails. (This may be due to a DNS issue; when testing with a different (non-Tor Browser) connection, it was possible to make Anonymous Mode functional by having the connection use or include the Cloudflare DNS servers (1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1 for IPv4, 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001 for IPv6) for DNS instead of just using the normal DNS servers.)

Child Tickets

Change History (2)

comment:1 Changed 9 months ago by pili

I have managed to reproduce this and, checking the tor logs, it seems like we are indeed unable to resolve some domain:

[NOTICE] Have tried resolving or connecting to address '[scrubbed]' at 3 different places. Giving up.

comment:2 Changed 9 months ago by pili

Status: newneeds_information

Can you try reproducing this in vanilla firefox ESR 68 configured to use tor and let us know if you still see the same behaviour?

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