Tor is an open source software that allows accessing various kinds of resources, known as hidden services, while guaranteeing sender and receiver anonymity. Tor relies on a free, worldwide, overlay network, managed by volunteers, that works according to the principles of onion routing in which messages are encapsulated in layers of encryption, analogous to layers of an onion. The Tor Web is the set of web resources that exist on the Tor network, and Tor websites are part of the so-called dark web. Recent research works have evaluated Tor security, its evolution over time, and its thematic organization. Nevertheless, limited information is available about the structure of the graph defined by the network of Tor websites, not to be mistaken with the network of nodes that supports the onion routing. The limited number of entry points that can be used to crawl the network, makes the study of this graph far from being simple. In the present paper we analyze two graph representations of the Tor Web and the relationship between contents and structural features, considering three crawling datasets collected over a five-month time frame. Among other findings, we show that Tor consists of a tiny strongly connected component, in which link directories play a central role, and of a multitude of services that can (only) be reached from there. From this viewpoint, the graph appears inefficient. Nevertheless, if we only consider mutual connections, a more efficient subgraph emerges, that is, probably, the backbone of social interactions in Tor.
Bernaschi, M., Celestini, A., Cianfriglia, M., Guarino, S., Lombardi, F., & Mastrostefano, E. (2022). Onion under Microscope: An in-depth analysis of the Tor Web. WORLD WIDE WEB [10.1007/s11280-022-01044-z].