Update: August Gramar, from Anonabox, has done an AMA on Reddit which is worth reading closely as it probes concerns about the veracity of the claims on the project Kickstarter page. Redditers’ main scepticism about Anonabox is focused on whether the hardware is a custom design (as Gramar claims) or actually an off-the-shelf mini router being sold on Aliexpress. There are also questions about whether the hardware is really open sourced, as claimed. And if the project makers are passing off others’ hardware as their own custom designs there are obvious concerns about whether the device would even function as stated. Redditers continually called out Gramar’s “evasiveness” in the AMA, and were generally left unsatisfied by his answers. One Redditer went on to point out there are guides to configure TOR on currently available mini routers, along with extant Torrifying devices like Onion Pi.
Original post follows below.
In the arms race against dragnet surveillance of Internet users, startups are mobilizing to build tools to help users combat overreaching governments and overly invasive advertising practices. Tools such as the Blackphone smartphone built by Silent Circle and Geeksphone, which promotes encrypted services for calls, messaging, browsing and cloud storage.
Well here’s another pro-privacy tool in the making: Anonabox claims to be an open-source, plug-and-play hardware router designed to encrypt and route all the users’ web traffic via the Tor anonymizing network, so their browsing and location remains private. No additional software is said to be required for the device to function.
Of course it’s not necessary to have a hardware box to use Tor — the network can be access by downloading the Tor software — but the idea here is to use a dedicated Tor router to simplify the process of anonymizing all your Internet traffic.
Anonabox’s makers argue that using its dedicated hardware also means it’s more straightforward to run specific applications over Tor, which did not support it or required complex configurations to run, such as Skype or Safari.
The project is currently blowing up on Kickstarter — with more than $200,000 $210,000 raised at the time of writing, a day after launch. They were only aiming to pull in $7,500 to help with batch manufacturing costs but evidently underestimated the appetite for the “anti-censorship box” they’ve built.
The Anonabox can apparently be plugged into your existing router via Ethernet and then connects to your computer wirelessly or via another Ethernet cable. Once connected it pushes all web traffic via the Tor network so it’s encrypted and anonymized, without the user having to download and configure any software. (Although it’s worth remembering that Tor itself has had some issues, including with its encryption and with anonymity being compromised.)
Anonabox follows in the footsteps of the iCloak Stik, another pro-privacy Kickstarter project we covered earlier this year. That USB device took an even more scorched-earth privacy approach of loading a clean install every time it’s used — sandboxing all web activity away from the standard OS and hard disk by using a security-hardened OS that boots into RAM and exists only for the duration of the session — as well as routing traffic via Tor (or the I2P anonymizing network).
We also saw a hardware hack back at Disrupt NY to create a Tor-powered Linux box, albeit that was using off-the-shelf components bought from Radio Shack. Anonabox’s makers started out with off-the-shelf components for their first-gen prototype four years ago but have since moved on to designing their own hardware. The current Kickstarted prototype is the fourth generation of the product.
Anonabox pricing started at $45 to early-bird Kickstarter backers. It’s now stepped up to $51 or more. Its makers are aiming to ship to backers in January.