A Usability Evaluation of Tor Launcher

Authors: Linda Lee (University of California, Berkeley), David Fifield (University of California, Berkeley), Nathan Malkin (University of California, Berkeley), Ganesh Iyer (University of California, Berkeley), Serge Egelman (University of California, Berkeley and International Computer Science Institute), David Wagner (University of California, Berkeley)

Volume: 2017
Issue: 3
Pages: 90–109
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/popets-2017-0030

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Abstract: Although Tor has state-of-the art anticensorship measures, users in heavily censored environments will not be able to connect to Tor if they cannot configure their connections. We perform the first usability evaluation of Tor Launcher, the graphical user interface (GUI) that Tor Browser uses to configure connections to Tor. Our study shows that 79% (363 of 458) of user attempts to connect to Tor in simulated censored environments failed. We found that users were often frustrated during the process and tried options at random. In this paper, we measure potential usability issues, discuss design constraints unique to Tor, and provide recommendations based on what we learned to help more users connect to Tor while reducing the time they take to do so. Tor Browser incorporated the changes proposed by this study.

Keywords: Usable Security, User Studies, Tor, Security, Censorship, Anonymity

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