The Ethereum Name Services (ENS) service, which allows you to create .eth domain names, recently added support for .onion addresses, used by the Tor search engine, focused on private Internet browsing. The implementation will allow ENS to convert .onion addresses into human-readable names.
Through a publication on its official blog, ENS points out that the fact that its Internet domain name service now resolves Tor .onion addresses demonstrates that its field of action can go beyond the Ethereum ecosystem.
ENS is a decentralized system of Internet domain names, similar to DNS (Domain Name Server), integrated into the Ethereum blockchain. Its objective is to assign to the addresses of cryptocurrency wallets and transactions in the blockchain, consisting of an illegible alphanumeric sequence, human-readable domain names. This facilitates navigation and user accessibility in the Ethereum blockchain.
For its part, the Tor network (an acronym for The Onion Routing), is responsible for hiding users’ IP addresses, to provide the possibility of using the Internet anonymously through their web browser. It also allows you to configure websites that are only accessed through the Tor network, called “onion” services, which use the domain “.onion”.
Tor is a network that implements Onion Routing, designed to protect communications in the United States Navy. The idea is to change the traditional Internet routing mode to ensure anonymity and data privacy.
The traditional routing we use to connect to servers on the Internet is direct. For example, if you want to read a website, your computer connects directly to its servers. The route is relatively simple: from your computer to your router, from there to the routers of your ISP (Internet provider) and then directly to the web servers you are visiting.
The bad thing is that if someone intercepts the data packets at an intermediate point they will know perfectly where they come from and where they are going. Even if the data of each packet is encrypted on the HTTPS pages, the headers of this packet are not encrypted, and the sender and recipient fields (among others) remain visible.
As explained in the ENS note, Tor’s exclusive web addresses are generated randomly and produce a long string of alphanumeric characters, similar to cryptocurrency addresses. Until now, the security and privacy protection standards in Tor have made it difficult to obtain human-readable .onoin addresses. ENS argues that the decentralized nature of its name service can be a useful tool to facilitate access to these websites.
The ENS service name assignment is based on a set of Ethereum smart contracts, which consist of three main components: the registry, the solvers and the contracts responsible for assigning more names. This allows, for example, that the sending of funds to an address can be done under a simple name, without resorting to the usual hexadecimal identifiers.
The new implementation also allows the Ethereum MetaMask extension to be enabled in the Tor browser, which recognizes that the .eth terminated addresses are ENS names. In this way, the Tor browser is prevented from treating it as a normal DNS search or name.
According to ENS, the idea of this functionality came from a group called Storage, who participated in a hackathon held in May this year, in the framework of the ETHGlobal event in New York.