The Onion Router: a Raspberry Pi based Tor Wi-Fi Access Point for Easy Anonymous Internet

Do you get the feeling that you are being watched online? Would you like to have the best possible online security all the time? Would you also like to add security to your Internet-connected devices that don’t offer encrypted connections, such as Chromecast for your television or OBI for your VoIP telephone? With a TOR-based router (See Note#1 below), you also can access Hulu, Netflix, HBO, or your favorite team’s game while traveling overseas. You can add industrial-strength encryption to your in-home networking creating secure, encrypted connections for EVERY device on your network. In fact, you have two options: (1.) build it yourself or (2.) buy it already pre-built.

Build Your Own

Tony Gaitatzis has published an article showing how you can build your own VPN/TOR Router and wi-fi access point from a Raspberry Pi, two USB Wi-Fi dongles, an SD card, and a power plug. However, you need to be experienced at building your own computer devices, installing Linux onto an SD memory card, and other homebuilding skills. Gaitatzis describes the difficulty as “Intermediate” and says the parts will cost $60-80. Assuming you are an experienced builder, you will spend 1 to 4 hours building the Tor wi-fi Access Point.

You can read Tony Gaitatzis’ article at http://goo.gl/ZLVkmn.

Buy It Already Built

For those of us who lack the needed skills, there is an easier solution, although a bit more expensive: buy a similar device already built. Simply unpack it from the shipping box, plug it in, and start using it.

Chicago Electronic Distributors sells a similar, although not identical, unit already built and available for use for $119. It is also based on the tiny Raspberry Pi printed circuit board. The device’s web site claims, “In fact, all you need to do is plug your Raspberry Pi into an Ethernet port on your existing router, and you will now have a new WiFi network that is anonymous.”

You can learn more at Chicago Electronic Distributors’ web site at http://goo.gl/zKehqJ.

Similarities

Both units are portable (assuming you put the homebuilt unit into a suitable case) and can be carried to school, the office, a coffee shop, or to a hotel room on your next business trip. However, either unit does need to be connected to the Internet via a hard-wired ethernet connection. If your hotel or other location only offers wi-fi, you can still use it by also carrying a wi-fi “bridge” (also called a “wi-fi to ethernet converter”) with you that converts wi-fi signals to a wired ethernet connection. You can learn more about wi-fi bridges at http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/55846/wi-fi-bridge. Such bridges are available from many retailers, including from Amazon at http://goo.gl/Fdn2z4.

Obviously, obtaining and carrying an additional device adds to the expense, to the complexity, and to the space required in your travel kit.

According to internal NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA calls Tor “the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity”.

NOTE #1: What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis. Learn more about Tor at torproject.org.

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