With all the bad press that TOR has had of late, you can probably forgive most mainstream users for thinking that it is a hive of scum and villainy – because the mainstream press overlooks all of the good that it does in keeping lines of communication open in conflict zones and allowing professional reporters and citizen journalists in countries that do not enjoy the same freedoms of the press to be face less risk when they press publish. The fact is that TOR is a lifeline for a lot of people. For those that deal in sensitive information at a time when the NSA has been shown to be snooping on just about anyone and everyone, it makes good sense. So why not build your own TOR wireless access point?
Why build a TOR access point? There are a few good reasons: 1) it eliminates the potential for accidental non-anonymized connection; 2) it operates independently of your operating system and browser; and 3) it is more likely to be used. While the TOR browser helped a lot with the first reason, there is something that feels more than a little icky about having TOR and non-TOR communications running side-by-side. It seems like a potential attack vector. However, it is the second point that I find most compelling. Running an access point from a separate system adds another layer of security, not all that important in most situations, but very nice if you find your system infested with the wrong sort of malware. The third point is no less significant. If you go to the trouble of building an access point, you are more likely to use it.
The Onion Pi is a simple solution, which will set you back in the neighborhood of $108 if you need to buy everything, less if you have some of the stuff lying around – or you can head over to Adafruit Industries and buy the whole kit for $95 (which includes a donation to the Tor Foundation).
The Adafruit kit includes:
- Raspberry Pi Model B
- Adafruit Pi Case
- WiFi adapter with antenna – to connect to the Pi proxy
- 10 foot Ethernet cable – to connect Onion Pi to router
- MicroUSB cable – 3 feet long
- 5V 1A power adapter – specially designed for the Pi
- USB console cable – good for debugging and setting up your Pi when running it without a monitor/keyboard
- 4 GB SD Card with Wheezy – a 4GB card with Raspbian 7 already installed.
You will need to snap a few parts together and do some configuration, but the more tedious parts of the process (e.g. installing Raspbian 7) have been completed – and having the same WiFi adapter as everyone else has advantages if you run into configuration difficulties.
By far the biggest part of the job is configuration. If you have used command line before then it will be a piece of cake, if not then it is a good project to gain a little experience. There is an Adafruit great tutorial to walk you through the process – if you know what you are doing, the job should only take a few minutes.
Once everything is set up, you will have a separate access point with a name of your choosing, which will only access the Internet via TOR – clear your browser history, cache and cookies and you will be ready for molasses-slow but properly anonymous browsing.