Creating Private V3 Onion Services

This post first appeared on my old blog in January 2019. It is preserved, but maybe not updated, here.

This post is about v3 onion services with 56 characters in their name. For the old post for creating private v2 onion services, see here.

In that old post I talked about some of the great features of Tor onion services. The features still apply with the new onion services: they are still end-to-end encrypted, they still assure you that it is impossible for anyone to modify your traffic, etc.

Regular v3 onions fix the issue that v2 onions had where a malicious HSDir could snoop and learn about onion services that the owner literally never advertised. This is great, you no longer have to make your onion service regular authorization in order to avoid malicious HSDirs. If you never tell anyone your v3 onion address, no one will ever know it exists.

Regardless of whether you're okay with people knowing your v3 onion address or not, what if you still wanted to require people to know a secret key in order to be allowed to connect to your v3 onion service? You can do that now.

Here's how you set this up.

Alice is the client. Bob runs an onion service and wants to allow Alice to connect to it. Everyone has Tor or newer.

0. Know how to set up an onion service

If you don't know how to set up a regular onion service, go figure that out now. Don't come back until you can connect to it successfully.

Note that all the file and directory paths used her make sense for me, but may not make sense for you on your computer. Only copy/paste things intelligently.

I will assume the onion address is y34f3abl2bou6subajlosasumupsli2oq7chfo3oqfqznuedqhzfr5yd.onion

1. Generate a key for Alice

Someone needs to generate a key for Alice to use. I don't think it really matters if Bob generates it for her instead. I will assume it is Alice. I would like to see Tor produce something themselves (perhaps inside little-t tor, perhaps a script shipped with its source code, etc.) but for now you have to figure out how to do it yourself.

I wrote a simple python3 script to generate an x25519 key pair. It requires PyNaCl.

Record the base32-encoded key pair somewhere. You'll need it soon. Here's some example output.


2. Bob tells his Tor about the public key for Alice

Assume Bob already has this torrc snippet.


HiddenServiceDir /var/lib/tor/foo_v3_onion/
HiddenServicePort 5248

He should have an authorized_clients directory inside foo_v3_onion/. If it doesn't already exist, he should figure out what is wrong because Tor should have made it for him.

Inside authorized_clients/, Bob should make a file ending in .auth; for example, alice.auth. Inside that file, he should put the following content.


Using an example public key ...



Bob should then restart his Tor.

If Bob wants to add more users, he can repeat this process with additional files in this directory.

3. Alice tells her Tor about her private key

First she should check that her torrc has a ClientOnionAuthDir option set. These paths will be significantly different based on if she is configuring her system's background Tor daemon or if she is configuring Tor Browser. (T) means an example system Tor daemon path and (TB) means an example Tor Browser path. Remember, yours may still be different.

(T) /etc/tor/torrc

ClientOnionAuthDir /var/lib/tor/onion_auth

(TB) [Tor Browser folder]/Browser/TorBrowser/Data/Tor/torrc

# In case this path ends up not making sense on your system ...
# The directory I'm aiming for onion_auth to be in is the same
# directory that contains the torrc
ClientOnionAuthDir TorBrowser/Data/Tor/onion_auth

After restarting Tor, if this directory doesn't exist, Alice should make it with 0700 permissions.

Inside this directory, she then should add a file ending in .auth_private; for example, bob.auth_private. Inside that file, she should add the following content.


Using an example onion address and private key ...

(T) /var/lib/tor/onion_auth/bob.auth_private


(TB) [Tor Browser folder]/Browser/TorBrowser/Data/Tor/onion_auth/bob.auth_private


Alice should then restart her Tor.

If Alice needs keys for more onion addresses, she can repeat this process with additional files in this directory.


  • The .onion suffix in the address is removed in those .auth_private files.
  • I haven't actually tried this on Tor Browser, I'm merely relaying what a brave Redditor managed to figure out.
  • Tor Browser doesn't expect you to edit its torrc, so if you change Tor settings graphically in Tor Browser, you may find it has generated a new torrc without your changes.

4. Done

If everyone's Tor processes are running without error, then setup should be complete. Alice should be able to connect, but no one else should be able to.

Bob can authorize up to about 350 clients per onion service.

Matt Traudt (pastly)

Tech, Pets, and Vettes