Saturday, August 16, 2014

Install TOR Proxy on a $8 - $10 PogoPlug.

I was able to set up a TOR proxy on a cheap PogoPlug V4 in a few minutes. I was motivated to do this after reading a bunch of news about some hackers building a firmware for cheap, portable TP-Link pocket routers. Those pocket routers go for $35 and up and I figure I could do it with a cheaper alternative, the PogoPlug V4. Yep, nothing beats a cheap $10 ARM based computing device and I have a few of these lying around. The v4s are often on sale anywhere from $8 to $10 bucks. Here is a link to Adorama.

What is TOR? It is an acronym for THE ONION ROUTER. It is an open network designed to disguise and make normal network analysis hard to pin-point your activities on-line. In short, help you browse anonymously. It does so by randomly moving and encrypting your internet traffic across various, different random TOR nodes. This makes it hard to pin-point you. This is the tool that Eric Snowden used to evade the NSA.

If you have ArchLinux ARM installed on your PogoPlug, the steps are really easy.

All you need to do is install tor and make some simple configuration changes.

First, install:
pacman -S tor

Then create a directory for the tor files:
mkdir /var/tor

Then, all you need to do is add this to your config which is usually at /etc/tor/torrc.

RunAsDaemon 1
SocksPort 9050
Nickname PogoPlugRelay
ORPort 9143
BandwidthRate 20 KB # Throttle traffic to 20KB/s
BandwidthBurst 50 KB # But allow bursts up to 50KB/s
ExitPolicy reject *:*
DataDirectory /var/tor

I bolded some of the things you need to be aware of. You will need the IP address of your PogoPlug. In my case it was And you can adjust the Bandwidth rates to your liking.

Thats it. All you need to do is then run TOR.

For your clients, you need to point to the TOR router and adjust your SOCKS proxy. Here is an example in OS X. I ran iftop in the background and you can definitely see the network randomization. Pretty cool.

I tested this on a Yosemite build of Mac OS X and everything works. Now, for TOR, I simply made another Network configuration I can easily toggle when I want some privacy.

This is a SOCKS proxy set-up. I'll probably look into the transparent proxy configuration and write back if I want to go that route. A quick Toggle in OSX Network Location is actually quick and more preferable for me.

This was my first exposure to TOR so things were a bit weird. I'm used to using private OpenVPN and I normally expect Google to localize my search engine to whatever language I am remotely connected to but TOR was a different beast altogether. Every few seconds, every few web access, my IP address would randomize to a different IP. That was cool but some things were off. For example, having multiple tabs caused some weird issues that Google thought I was doing something malevolent.

Does TOR ensure complete privacy? No, as there are many gotchas and things you need to account for. However, in the right hands, it works pretty good. I wouldn't use TOR to download large files or media. It is definitely slower than using a VPN service but I like how this is a single, portable product that any of my computers can use with little configuration to their network (or browser settings).

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