Want to do something more meaningful for Iran's dissidents than turning your Twitter avatar green? EFF would like you to run a TOR bridge or relay, which will allow Iranians, and others around the world, to communicate with enhanced privacy and secrecy.
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More sophisticated users can skip this paragraph, but for the rest, here's the basic outline. Tor (an acronym of "The Onion Router") is free and open source software that helps users remain anonymous on the Internet. Normally, when accessing websites, your computer asks for and receives a webpage out in the open, a process that exposes your IP address, the URL of the website, and the contents of the site, among other information to third parties. When accessing websites while using Tor, your computer essentially whispers its requests for a website, to another computer, which passes the request on to another computer, which passes it on to another computer, which passes it onto the computer where the website is hosted; the reply returns in the same, chain-message manner. The whispers are encrypted, so that neither outside authorities, nor the computers in the middle of the chain, can tell what is being said, and to whom. And the website itself does not have your IP address either.
Internet users in Iran are using Tor to both (a) circumvent censorship systems and (b) remain anonymous while reading and writing on the Internet. Both are critically important to the safety of protesters, many of whom fear retaliation from the government. Preliminary reports indicate that use of the Tor client in Iran has increased in the days after the contested election.
Here's the final installment in the amazing Instructables series of HOWTOs inspired by my young adult novel Little Brother. This week, it's a HOWTO on TOR, The Onion Router, a technology for increasing your privacy and anonymity when you look at the web, and for getting around censorwalls.
The Instructables folks did an amazing job with this -- and the response has been great!
When you go online, you leave tracks all over the place. You could be hanging out with friends on IM, checking out websites, or downloading music. If you live in a country where snoops are prying into what ordinary citizens do online (lke, um, the US) you want a way to cover those tracks.
If you're in school, though, then it's even worse. No matter what country you're in, chances are that your access to the internets is as snooped-on as any police state in the world.
So, how do we escape our little virtual prisons? In this Instructable, I'll tell you about something called Tor (The Onion Router.) I'll tell you how it works, and then offer some simple instructions on how to get your web browser hooked up. No more getting snooped!
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The Tor project was accepted into the Google Summer of Code program for 2008!
The Tor project is looking for a few good happy mutants. Are you a hacker interested in contributing to a successful open source project? Do you qualify for the GSOC? Are you interested in helping solve some of the practical issues a large and successful anonymity network faces?
It appears that many of the BB happy mutants enjoy Tor - Perhaps this is a good chance for a few good students to be paid to hack on the project!
Tor, of course, is The Onion Router, an anonymizing system for beating censoring firewalls like those in China, Syria and the Denver International Airport.
(Thanks, Jacob!) Read the rest
The Unwired Show has a great (and hilarious) little video explaining how to use TOR, The Onion Router, an anonymizing program that makes it much harder for bad guys to censor or snoop on your Internet connection.
(Thanks, Wil!) Read the rest
Charlie Stross's latest novel Halting State starts out as a hilarious post-cyberpunk police procedural, turns into a gripping post-cyberpunk technothriller, and escalates into a Big Ideas book about the future of economics, virtual worlds, the nation state and policing, while managing to crack a string of geeky in-jokes, play off a heaping helping of gripping action scenes, and telling a pretty good love story.
Here's the gimmick: Halting State opens when a virtual bank in a distributed, multiplayer world is robbed by a horde of orcs who march in and clean it out of all its prestige items and other loot, a direct frontal assault on the game-economy's integrity. The losses run to millions, which triggers an insurance audit -- led by Elaine, who's not only a forensic accountant, but also a sword-swinging LARPer who likes her espionage alternate reality games. She contracts with Jack, an extraordinary gamespace hacker who's just been made redundant from his Edinburgh gaming company, to serve as her native guide, and finds herself working alongside of Sue, a lesbian mom detective-sergeant with the Edinburgh Polis who has been called to the scene with a report of a "robbery" and is now duty-bound to pursue the matter in compliance with the tenets set out in the ISO 9000 binder for police-stations.
I've been following Halting State since Charlie and I sat in a coffee shop in the Strand in London about five years ago and talked about a novel about a "multimillion dollar heist in gamespace." It's a sticky idea, and one that a lot of us are going to end up playing with over the years -- but it's also clearly one that Charlie has had an indecent amount of fun playing with. Read the rest
EFF is recruiting student programmers to do paid work on the onion router (TOR) this summer -- this is a technology for anonymizing Internet connections. It's intended for use by people living in surveillance societies like China, Syria, and the average American high-school.
Working on Tor is rewarding because:
* You can work your own hours in your own locations. As long as you get the job done, we don't care about the process.
* We only write free (open source) software. The tools you make won't be locked down or rot on a shelf.
* You will work with a world-class team of anonymity experts and developers on what is already the largest and most active strong anonymity network ever.
* The work you do could contribute to academic publications -- Tor development raises many open questions and interesting problems in the field of [WWW] Privacy Enhancing Technologies.
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The computer security wonks and human rights advocates at Hacktivismo today released Torpark, a portable tool to keep web users' identities private. Think of it as anonymity on a stick. A privacy-pop! Snip from launch announcement:
[The] anonymous, fully portable Web browser [is] based on Mozilla Firefox. Torpark comes pre-configured, requires no installation, can run off a USB memory stick, and leaves no tracks behind in the browser or computer. Torpark is a highly modified variant of Portable Firefox, that uses the TOR (The Onion Router) network to anonymize the connection between the user and the website that is being visited.
"We live in a time where acquisition technologies are cherry picking and collating every aspect of our online lives," said Hacktivismo founder Oxblood Ruffin. "Torpark continues Hacktivismo’s commitment to expanding privacy rights on the Internet. And the best thing is, it’s free. No one should have to pay for basic human rights, especially the right of privacy."
Torpark is being released under the GNU General Public License and is dedicated to the Panchen Lama*.
Link to press release, and here's Here's v 184.108.40.206. (thanks, Oxblood Ruffin and Steve Topletz!)
Reader comment: Amos says,
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It might be worth reminding people that your identity and information when using tools like this is only as secure as the computer you are running it from. While suspect the Torpark folks did a very good job of ensuring that it won't *leave* any information on the system it's plugged into, there is nothing they can do to keep a keyboard logger (trojan or otherwise) from logging everything you type or, as we've seen recently, logging everything you see and everything your mouse clicks too.
Steve sez, "TorPark is a combination of Firefox and the anonymizingTor Onion Router project. Sticking it on a USB stick allows you to bring not just a great browser wherever you go, but privacy as well!"
How can this be used?
Lots of ways! It can be used to circumvent censorship firewalls, like at work or in China. It can be used to bypass paying for internet access at a wifi cafe. It can be used at school computers so you can get full access to the internet. And best of all, if there is no key loggers secretly installed on the machine, nobody is going to know where you went, what you saw, who you spoke to, or what you said. It is all encrypted in a tunnel between your computer, and at least three others somewhere in the world. Only after your data has passed through the encrypted and constantly changing tunnel (a tor circuit) will it reach the internet as unencrypted. The data from surfing the internet goes through the same tunnel as well, passing back to you encrypted, where your computer uses Tor to decrypt it to the Torpark browser. When you need a secret and secure tunnel to surf the internet, Torpark is your mobile solution.
Update: Jake sez,
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it doesn't appear
that the torpark people are giving a download link for any of their
source code. Nor are they explaining how their project was built.
I know I can get the source code for the programs elsewhere.
I have the coolest job: my employer, EFF, is now officially doing development on Tor, an anonymizing network tool that lets people use the Internet without being snooped upon:
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Your traffic is safer when you use Tor, because communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers, called onion routers. Instead of taking a direct route from source to destination, data packets on the Tor network take a random pathway through several servers that cover your tracks so no observer at any single point can tell where the data came from or where it's going. This makes it hard for recipients, observers, and even the onion routers themselves to figure out who and where you are. Tor's technology aims to provide Internet users with protection against "traffic analysis," a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.
Traffic analysis is used every day by companies, governments, and individuals that want to keep track of where people and organizations go and what they do on the Internet. Instead of looking at the content of your communications, traffic analysis tracks where your data goes and when, as well as how big it is. For example, online advertising company Doubleclick uses traffic analysis to record what web pages you've visited, and can build a profile of your interests from that. A pharmaceutical company could use traffic analysis to monitor when the research wing of a competitor visits its website, and track what pages or products that interest the competitor.