In this page we present a few ways to mitigate DoS attacks currently. However there is no single one-size-fits-all solution for this problem at the moment. Defending a site under attack requires creativity and a custom-tailored approach. Here are a few tips:

Configuration parameters

Since Proposal 305 was implemented, some torrc options were added to help mitigating DoS attacks at the introduction points:

  • HiddenServiceEnableIntroDoSDefense: Enable DoS defense at the intropoint level. When this is enabled, the rate and burst parameter will be sent to the intro point which will then use them to apply rate limiting for introduction request to this service.

  • HiddenServiceEnableIntroDoSBurstPerSec: The allowed client introduction burst per second at the introduction point. If this option is 0, it is considered infinite and thus if HiddenServiceEnableIntroDoSDefense is set, it then effectively disables the defenses.

  • HiddenServiceEnableIntroDoSRatePerSec: The allowed client introduction rate per second at the introduction point. If this option is 0, it is considered infinite and thus if HiddenServiceEnableIntroDoSDefense is set, it then effectively disables the defenses.

For more information on how they work, check the tor(1) manpage and the [EST_INTRO_DOS_EXT] section of the Onion Services v3 specification.

The following configuration options can be used to limit connections in the rendezvous circuits:

  • HiddenServiceMaxStreams: The maximum number of simultaneous streams (connections) per rendezvous circuit. The maximum value allowed is 65535. (Setting this to 0 will allow an unlimited number of simultaneous streams.)

  • HiddenServiceMaxStreamsCloseCircuit: If set to 1, then exceeding HiddenServiceMaxStreams will cause the offending rendezvous circuit to be torn down, as opposed to stream creation requests that exceed the limit being silently ignored.


Onionbalance allows Onion Service operators to achieve the property of high availability by allowing multiple machines to handle requests for an Onion Service. You can use Onionbalance to scale horizontally. The more you scale, the harder it is for attackers to overwhelm you. Onionbalance is available for v3 Onion Services.

Client authorization or multiple onion addresses to compartmentalize your users

If you have users you trust, give them dedicated Onion Service and client authorization credentials so that it can always be available. For users you don't trust, split them into multiple addresses. That said, having too many onion addresses is actually bad for your security (because of the use of many guard nodes), so try to use client authorization when possible.

Captchas and cookies

If you need to further rate-limit users, split your infrastructure into layers and put Captchas near the frontend. This way attackers will have to solve Captchas before they are able to attack deeper into your infrastructure.

Captchas are a way to mitigate DDoS attacks. When a request comes from a client checks if the client contains the correct secure cookie otherwise redirects to the recaptcha page. The client inputs the captcha letters. Nginx sends this input letters to recaptcha server for verification.

The correct answer from recaptcha server with beginning of "true...", else it's beginning with "false...". Add the secure cookie for the correct verified client, redirect the client to the page which he wants to view.

It is possible to implement Captchas directly at your webserver with Nginx and OpenResty using Lua to generate and verify the captcha images. This implementation isn't easy to configure.

An alternative might be to just implement a test-cookie challenge. At your webserver check that clients can set valid cookies, malicious clients often do not have this feature. In Nginx, Cloudflare provide a library to interact with cookies.

Other methods include making sure that clients connecting to your .onion have valid User-Agent header and the Referer header is not set to a value you can associate with the attack.

Webserver rate limiting

If attackers are overwhelming you with aggressive circuits that perform too many queries, try to detect that overuse and kill them using the HiddenServiceExportCircuitID torrc option. You can use your own heuristics or use your web server's rate limiting module.

The above tips should help you keep afloat in turbulent times. At the same time we are working on more advanced defenses, so that less manual configuration and tinkering is needed by onion operators.