You are probably familiar with Tor, the distributed anonymizing network. In addition to simply using Tor to surf anonymously, you can also do more with it:: run a Tor relay service, set up a hidden service, use other applications with Tor and more. In this article we will present and discuss some of these advanced topics.
Run a Tor relay
- Why? Because it is an easy way to help the Tor anonymity online project. Running a Tor relay helps the network’s stability and speed.
- What is a Tor relay? A relay receives traffic from the Tor network and passes it along. There are three types: middle relays, exit nodes and bridges. Middle relays receive traffic and pass it without revealing their IP address. Exit nodes have their IP address visible to the entire network and they are the destination of traffic within the Tor network. Bridges are relays which are not publicly listed and their main usage is to bypass censorship by your ISP or network. The easiest and safer relay to run is a middle relay.
- How? All you need is Tor and bandwidth. You have to download and install Tor and then follow the official guide to set up a Tor middle relay. If you want you can also set up a bridge relay.
Set up a Tor hidden service
- Why? Because you want to run a web server, ftp server etc. without revealing the IP address. It’s anonymity for services.
- What is a hidden service? A hidden service is a service (web,ftp,ssh etc.) running on a server, that is accessible through Tor by using a pseudo-domain ending in “.onion”. A Tor client must be running to access the service.
- How? After setting up the service on your server, follow the guide to make it a Tor hidden service.
Use any application with Tor
- Why? Because you want to use an e-mail, ftp or other application with Tor.
- How? This is easy if the application supports the use of a SOCKS proxy. You can then configure the proxy to be 127.0.0.1 and the port that Tor is using. Just make sure to avoid DNS leaks (for example in Mozilla Thunderbird enable the network.proxy.socks_remote_dns setting). If the application doesn’t support a SOCKS proxy, then there are still some ways to use Tor. One of them is using JanusVM which is a VMware virtual machine that has Tor pre-configured for usage with all applications.
Use an anonymous Linux distribution
- Why? Because you want an operating system that has Tor pre-installed and configured as the basis of anonymity. Also, it is much better using a separate, specialized operating system for strong anonymity.
- How? Download one of the anonymous live Linux distros and make a bootable USB or CD. Then you can boot from the USB or CD and have a Tor-ready operating system. Just make sure to update any pre-installed tools and follow the instructions carefully.
Connect to Tor through an SSH shell
- Why? This may be useful for extra security and anonymity or in the case that your network doesn’t allow you to connect to Tor.
- What is an SSH shell? A secure shell is a protocol that allows you to communicate securely with another device. You can operate your own ssh service on a server or you can try one of these free shell accounts.
- How? You’ll need Tor, a shell account that allows SSH connections and PuTTY. First step is to install and run PuTTY. On the configuration dialog enter the host name or IP address of your shell account. Before clicking “Open”, go to SSH settings –> Tunnels and enter “Source Port: 1080″. Then select “dynamic” and click “Add”. You can now click on “Open” and login to your shell account. Do not close the PuTTY window, instead open your Tor settings and on the network tab choose “I use a proxy to access the Internet”. Enter the proxy settings (127.0.0.1, port 1080 and SOCKS5 proxy). Then run Tor and hopefully you’ll connect through your SSH shell.
This is a quick look into some advanced Tor topics. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment!