Internet privacy has been in the news recently after leaked documents revealed PRISM, NSA’s ongoing domestic surveillance program. Although most people do not have the time to think about attempting to counter surveillance, tools exist for those that are interested in anonymizing online traffic. Such tools won’t prevent Google from having a database of your emails or searches, but for example, can obscure your IP address for login sessions.
Specifically, the Tor Project supports a collection of alternative services that run over the Tor network and are built for aiding anonymity.
What is Tor?
From their website:
“Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.
“Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.”
It is not used by the general Internet population because this process of sending traffic through a network of tunnels slows down the speed and at times significantly. Additionally, some user experience on websites is lost through the obstruction of your IP address. Most importantly, however, are the habit changes necessary to properly use Tor anonymously. Their download page warns:
You need to change some of your habits, as some things won’t work exactly as you are used to. Please read the full list of warnings for details.
For these reasons, it is common for people that like to use Tor, to run it for specific tasks like being tracked by particular websites or gaining access to websites that their ISP have blocked. Attempting to use Tor for all Internet traffic can be cumbersome and at times insufferable especially when you need to be efficient on the Internet. However in the end, where anonymity is particularly important Tor hidden services can be of assistance.
Configuring Tor to route traffic to the Open Garden network
If you do not already use Tor, I suggest reading through their website and that list of warnings. If after deciding you want to give it a try, install the Tor Browser Bundle and come back here to read how to point the client to route traffic over Open Garden.
If you already use Tor, simply change the proxy settings in Vidalia (desktop client) to point at 127.0.0.1 port 1080 on a SOCKS 5. Here’s the screenshot from the Mac client:
After changing those settings, Tor should point to Open Garden! Easy as that! Tor won’t work if these settings are in place and Open Garden isn’t running, but Open Garden is designed to stay running in the background anyways.
What about mobile?
Tor has an Android bundle named Orbot,
but is unfortunately affected by an Android bug that doesn’t properly check for Internet connectivity. We are currently in discussion with the Guardian Project folks (who have been quite responsive) about fixing this issue but do not currently have an ETA. Keep in touch via our Facebook Page, Twitter account or online community to stay updated!
**Update: An upgrade to Orbot was pushed today (August 19th, 2013) which enables pointing Tor traffic on your Android to Open Garden! To enable, you must change a couple settings in the Orbot app. First of all, change the “Outbound Network Proxy” settings like you would on the desktop client. The type will be “Socks5″, the host is 127.0.0.1 and the port is 1080 (no username or password). Then scroll all the way to the bottom of the settings under “Debug” and uncheck “Network Auto-Sleep”. This will bypass the Android ConnectivityManager which says there’s no Internet when WiFi or mobile data is unavailable and keep Orbot running so Open Garden can be used for connectivity.