Nobody likes giving up their privacy. But as much as we complain about it, relatively few of us are willing to put time, money, or effort into consistently protecting our privacy online. And it’s not like it’s that hard, relatively speaking: the Tor Project offers excellent, free software that lets you browse the Internet in complete anonymity, if you use it properly. With Tor, data you send over the Internet are encrypted and stripped of any identifying information (namely, your IP address) before reaching their destination. It’s one of the most reliable methods that you can use to protect your identity online. However, it does take some amount of experience to use, along with a conscious decision to choose security over convenience. If that sounds like too much work (and it sure sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?), the Anonabox could be exactly what you need.
The Anonabox, now on Kickstarter, is a tiny little networking tool that will sit there and invisibly do all of the Tor-related stuff that you’d want it to do, without you ever having to think about it.
The appeal of Anonabox (relative to other, similar products) is threefold. First, it’s about as easy to use as you could possibly hope for: plug one end into a free port on your modem or router, add power (USB), and that’s it. The Anonabox will set up its own wireless access point (in tandem with any existing network) that you can connect to when you want to, and all the data that are sent through it will be anonymized through Tor. No wireless? No problem, it’s got an ethernet port, too.
Second, it’s completely open source, which means that people way smarter than you can make sure that there aren’t any security holes in the software.
And third, it’s cheap: the people behind this thing have spent years refining it for their own use, which has driven the price down to something equivalent to a cheap router. Add all of these things together, and your total investment (time, money, space, effort, frustration, embarrassment, emotional anguish, etc.) drops to the point where even those with a vague interest in the option for online privacy would have a hard time justifying not getting an Anonabox.
So, since Anonabox is entirely based on Tor, why not just use the Tor browser, which is free? The simple answer is that Anonabox anonymizes everything that your computer is sending out over the Internet, not just the websites that you visit through your browser. Email, instant messaging, filesharing, all of it. In that respect, using a piece of hardware that runs everything through Tor like this certainly makes things safer, but it can’t keep you perfectly safe.
Most of the time, when a Tor user is compromised, it’s because that user (or the user’s computer) did something that shouldn’t have been done: security and privacy are as much about you using good browsing practices and exercising caution as they are about anonymizing hardware and software. For example, if you browse the Internet through Anonabox with the same Web browser that you’ve been using, it’s possible to identify you through the unique characteristics of the cookies that your browser has probably picked up. Instead, you should be using a different browser, or ideally the Tor browser itself, which is specifically designed to prevent things like that from happening. The point is this: no combination of hardware or software is capable enough to protect your privacy if you use it wrong.
Anonabox was looking for $7,500 for an initial production run on Kickstarter, and they’ve surpassed that by just a bit, clocking in at well over $150,000 in funding with 28 days to go. You’ve missed the early bird version of the Anonabox ($45), so instead you’ll have to pay $51, with delivery expected early next year.
[ Anonabox ] and [ Kickstarter ] via [ Wired ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.