Opera's Turbo feature circumvents site bans

Opera is not the most widely used web browser, and this is common knowledge. The browser has some of the smallest market-share of any major browser. Most estimates suggest it makes up about 2% of global web traffic, if even that. What many people don't consider is just how much functionality Opera includes as standard. Back in 2006, the browser was the first to include BitTorrent support natively. You can use Opera as a full fledged torrent client if you want to, thanks to this functionality. This is one of many features Opera has, which people tend to leave unused. Others include the Opera Mail client, Opera Dragonfly and Opera Turbo.

Turbo is an interesting feature, taking some of its inspiration from Opera's Mini web browser for mobile devices. Opera Mini compresses data to allow you to browse more quickly on a poorer data connection. and Turbo simply takes this feature and brings it right over to the desktop. When the button is pressed it enables compression, redirecting the traffic through Opera's own servers to let it reach you. The concept is pretty unique and tends to work well enough if you don't mind lower quality images as a result of the compression. Opera can obviously provide a more clear explanation of their own work, available below.

Lower quality images ought to be the last things on a pirate's mind. Some countries, including the United Kingdom, have attempted to block The Pirate Bay. Their successes are questionable, with other domains and a proxy from the UK Pirate Party allowing you to bypass it in about five seconds. It's not the most effective block and Opera might just have unwittingly given users another way to bypass the filters.

By enabling Opera Turbo, and then trying to go to The Pirate Bay's site, you can zip right past the blocks. Whether this would work in China, with its Great Firewall, isn't clear. The possibility is there but you might not be able to get anywhere with it. There's no telling how long this exploit will survive for, but it's surprising it hasn't  turned up sooner. With the traffic being rerouted through Opera's own servers it is probably confusing or difficult for a government to monitor or track. Coupled with the small market-share it is possible that governmental monitors might not even consider checking for this type of traffic.

Don't expect it to last too long though. Opera could argue this is unintentional or they had no idea about it, but at the end of the day when word gets round it'll probably be dealt with. Yeah, you use it for legitimate torrents, but the site has a reputation for other kinds of downloads.

Source: Torrent Freak

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23 Comments

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Opera mini has been a life saver through this storm and stuff..... for a long time i only had access to 1x data connection on my droid and it loaded the pages much faster then the standard android browser.... and i really needed updates for my situation like power outage updates, weather maps, etc... and it kept me going. it really does make mobile browsing so much faster.

I work in the network security field. The most popular IDS(Snort) has a rule for IDS evasion relating to opera turbo. Its been well known for over a year now that this was a side effect of the feature.

Opera is a foreign company, they have absolutely no requirement to enforce UK based blocks. The worst our government can do is shut down any operations have in the UK. They could also theoretically ask these ISP's to block downloads of Opera but I seriously doubt they will try, as there are so many sources to acquire the download.

At some point my government will simply have to realise that these kind of blanket blocks are largely unenforceable.

No. This has been known since the start. This is nothing new.
It's like loading the web pages through a server.

The only way to block it, is to block the ports in which the browser connects to Opera server.

To add it, you can browse to U.S. only sites with Opera Turbo enabled.
An example: Veoh.

cybertimber2008 said,
Hmm, wonder if the Kindle browser suffers the same ...flaw.

Depends, Amazon's Kindle browser farm is based in the US, whilst the Opera Turbo servers are based mostly in Norway & surrounding countries - so when you load a site using Opera turbo, the site thinks you're in Norway.

I generally find that turbo is very slow compared to using standard browsing. Probably because so many people use the Opera servers all at once.

Mark said,
I generally find that turbo is very slow compared to using standard browsing. Probably because so many people use the Opera servers all at once.

Probably because your connection is too fast to begin with to justify the increased latency.

Opera Turbo decreases the amount of data (e.g. KB/s), not speed up the actual speed (e.g. KB/s) costing you latency time (n ms)

GS:mac

Glassed Silver said,

Probably because your connection is too fast to begin with to justify the increased latency.

Opera Turbo decreases the amount of data (e.g. KB/s), not speed up the actual speed (e.g. KB/s) costing you latency time (n ms)

GS:mac

That's a fair point but I still found browsing slower after I moved recently, with no broadband and only a 3G connection.

Mark said,

That's a fair point but I still found browsing slower after I moved recently, with no broadband and only a 3G connection.


3G is still fast enough.
You have to see that the amount the page gets compressed to isn't THAT much saving.

If the site consists of 10 elements and each element is about 50kb big, then:
Without Turbo: 10*50KB=500KB
With Turbo: 10*(50KB*0.7)=350KB
(depending on element types, you save on average at least 30%)

Now, both 500 AND 350KB fit quite nicely through a 3G pipe, but the added latency can be massive.

Opera Turbo is great on connections less than 3G speed, I'd even go as far to say that average websites load faster on 1MBit/s connections without Turbo than with Turbo enabled.

Now, data HEAVY websites, where load time is overly influenced by download SIZE, that's a different story maybe.
Must be quite a big site then though and preferably already cached on Opera's servers if the website's hosting server is rather slow (hence, bottlenecking your speed)

GS:mac

"Don't expect it to last too long though. Opera could argue this is unintentional or they had no idea about it, but at the end of the day when word gets round it'll probably be dealt with."

Shhhhhh!

GS:mac