Which crowdfunded privacy routers are worthy of your trust?


After the spectacular rise and fall of Anonabox, a kickstarted $45 router that was supposed to protect your privacy but had its campaign yanked for not being entirely forthright with backers, a spate of shady, silly, and even serious projects have sprung up to fill the demand that Anonabox's $615,000 Kickstarter near-win demonstrated.

Andy Greenberg looks at the offerings and finds several fly-by-night examples, many sporting the classic signs of security snake-oil ("proprietary" security whose details you're not allowed to know, for example). But among the danger signs, there's a few promising-looking projects in the bunch:

More promising, perhaps, are projects like Cloak and PORTAL. Cloak is a $56, open-source Tor router set to launch with a Kickstarter campaign early next week. Cloak’s creators, a group of developers spread across Britain, Malaysia, and China, are developing their device’s hardware from scratch. One member of the team, a founder of the Shenzhen, China-based hardware maker Dragino, is leading the creation of Cloak’s board and injection molded case, which isn’t yet finished. And Cloak’s open-source code has already been published for public appraisal. “This is the right attitude,” says Lord. “They’re doing it the way that Anonabox should have done it.”

PORTAL, by contrast, focuses more on software than hardware: The project, whose name is an acronym for “Personal Onion Router To Assure Liberty” uses a “hardened” version of OpenWRT combined with Tor that’s designed to be installed on any stock router. Marc Rogers, a security consultant and one of PORTAL’s creators, says they’ve carefully pruned features out of OpenWRT to minimize attack points for any hacker trying to compromise the router. And unlike other projects, he says PORTAL’s developers have taken pains to integrate Tor so that it’s guaranteed to “fail closed”—Even if the router somehow can’t connect to Tor, no data will ever be sent over the unprotected Internet. “If Tor isn’t working, it’s a brick,” Rogers says.

Now Everyone Wants to Sell You a Magical Anonymity Router. Choose Wisely [Andy Greenberg/Wired]