Worried Who’s Watching Your Web Browsing? Adafruit’s Onion Pi Tor Proxy Project Creates A Private, Portable Wi-Fi Access Point

Adafruit Industries has put together a weekend project for people worried the NSA is monitoring how many reruns of Seinfeld they watch on their tablet. The Onion Pi Tor Proxy is a weekend project that uses the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, along with a USB WiFi adapter and Ethernet cable to create “a small, low-power and portable privacy Pi” for using with portable or other computing devices (e.g. your work laptop) that can’t otherwise run the anonymising Tor network.

In the Onion Pi configuration, the Pi creates a secure access point which automatically routes any web browsing through Tor’s distributed network of relays. The Tor network is designed to disrupt web surveillance by preventing web snoopers from learning which sites you visit, and also the sites you visit from learning your physical location. It does this by ensuring every Internet packet goes through three layers of relays before going on to its intended destination. Hence Tor’s many layered onion motif.

Adafruit says the Onion Pi is good for those who…

…want to browse anonymously on a netbook, tablet, phone, or other mobile or console device that cannot run Tor and does not have an Ethernet connection. If you do not want to or cannot install Tor on your work laptop or loan computer. If you have a guest or friend who wants to use Tor but doesn’t have the ability or time to run Tor on their computer, this gift will make the first step much easier.

Getting the Onion Pi access point up and running means plugging the Ethernet cable into any Internet access point and powering up the Pi via its micro USB cable plugged into your laptop/the wall adapter. The Pi will then create the Onion Pi access point. Connect to that for a less NSA-friendly browsing session.

That said, Adafruit’s Onion Pi page does contain caveats regarding exactly how anonymous this set-up is — noting: “We can’t guarantee that it is 100% anonymous and secure! Be smart & paranoid about your TOR usage.”

Other Adafruit tips for keeping your web browsing on the down-low include:

  • deleting and blocking your browser cache, history & cookies — and/or using a browser that offers anonymous sessions
  • avoiding logging into existing accounts with personally identifying information
  • using SSL to end-to-end encrypt communications —  NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has also said encryption works