TOR – The Onion Relay
I spent part of the weekend looking at ways to re-purpose my two older Raspberry Pi computers, now that I have two newer ones (a Raspberry Pi 2 and 3). I’m a big believer (in spite of being very public online) in privacy rights and the programs/hardware/utilities available to make privacy happen. We’ve all seen shows on the teevee where the cops or other government agencies try to trace a phone call or internet connection, and it bounces from one location to another. Such a thing is possible in real life, and you can use it! The system is called The Onion Relay.
The way this network works is you connect your computer to a series of “relays” using the TOR Browser. When your http request gets to its destination, it’s bounced off a few places, so that the IP address it receives is different from where you started. To participate in the TOR network, all you need do is download the TOR browser and start surfing with it. You need to follow through with the instructions to ensure your privacy, and you’re good to go.
There’s a catch, though–the network needs relays to make anon browsing solid. To that end, I decided to set up a relay here at seashell software’s Intergalactic Headquarters, using a Raspberry Pi. The website Instructables has a fantastic collection of Raspberry Pi projects whose instructions are easy to follow, so I used that site to make my TOR relay.
Steps 1-3 of the project are straightforward install/config of Raspberry Pi. Step 4 installs the TOR realy package onto Raspbian, the Debian Linux flavor for RBP computers. I like how this step shows you the lines that need to be changed in the heavily-commented /etc/tor/torrc file the package installs.
After the relay is configured, reboot the computer, and everything on that end is in place. I used the ports recommended by TOR, listening on 9001 and hosting directory services on 9030. I also used the recommended throttling settings, so this one operation on the network here didn’t overwhelm the other servers.
With the relay in place, I waited a couple of hours, then used the TOR Atlas Project to verify that the rest of the world saw my relay. It did!