[tor-talk] Project idea: TorBox

Morgan Andreasson morganandreason at gmail.com
Mon Jan 14 22:23:17 UTC 2013

Runa suggested on the IRC that I contact you in this manner, so here goes:

/start message

*The TorBox*

*What is it? *

In short, it’s a little black box you plug into your DSL modem or your
Fiber socket (or whatever form your broadband connection comes in). At the
other end of that black box, you connect your computer or even your
wifi/router. All connections to the internet that you make through this
black box will be routed through the Tor network *in a secure manner*. In
addition to making your own traffic anonymous, it will also act as either a
bridge or a relay in the Tor network, thereby helping others stay anonymous.


1 IP in

1 IP out

1 USB for adjusting settings/flashing the device

1 power (something like 15 V DC ? Or perhaps 110 V / 230 V ?)

*Raison d'être*:

The reason I think a device such as this is a good idea is that there are
many things that are inconvenient or even difficult and perhaps insecure
when using TorBrowser on your laptop or desktop computer.


The TorBox always acts as either bridge or relay. Always contributes. It
could also be sold at a slight profit - the surplus going into the
Torproject. Ideally, all current Tor ’clients’ should run as bridges or
relays and be up 24/7 - this TorBox would bring the project in that

Ease of use:

Minimum number of options presented to the user, over a very simple
interface. Basically ”plug and play” Foolprof Anonymity. Current similar
projects for running Tor embedded in routers or small ”plug” computers
demand very much of the user - this would be the opposite!

Power consumption:

Leaving my desktop computer on 24/7 draws quite a bit of power. The TorBox
can be left plugged in, at little cost.

Wear and tear:

Discs and fans fare better when not used 24/7.

*What should the TorBox be able to do?*

The main thing, of course, is that it should be able to anonymize my own
use of the internet.

Also, it should *always* run as either a relay or a bridge, never as a
client only. It should always contribute bandwidth to the common good.

 (when I first conceived of this device, I thought that it should ONLY be a
bridge or relay for others, so as to make it a purely altruistic purchase,
but then I realized that a combination of self-interest and altruism would
probably make it much more attractive to users)

When the box is delivered, it should come pre-installed with a minimal
operating system. You connect the ip-cable and the power cord and turn the
device on. Upon booting, it starts Tor and establishes a network
connection. Default setting is to run as a non-exit relay.

I’d like it to run some kind of speed-test to estimate the upline/downline
speed, and then set itself to use exactly HALF of that, so as to avoid
issues. The user can adjust this setting via the interface, if necessary.

-Can it be made to adapt itself, so that it won’t interfere with occasional
spikes caused by the user wanting to use the full speed of the line? (for
using BitTorrent, for instance) I know too little about computery stuff to
know if this is easy or hard to implement.

*The interface:*

The device should have TWO interfaces. One for simple web interface
(available through the IP-Out connector only) for settings to be adjusted
on the fly. This interface could give options like running as relay or
bridge, running as exit- or non-exit relay, using 10-90% of available
bandwidth, etc.

There should also be a very informative Help-section, where you can get
advice for how to use the device securely. How to configure browsers,
downloaders, etc.

Then there should be a USB interface, which you connect to via a GUI
program you run on your computer. Through this program, you can flash the
device with new firmware downloaded fromtorproject.org. Or reset the device
to factory presets.

The device should be able to automatically download and install security
updates from some secure server. Make it secure and trustworthy. These
automatic updates should be optional, though, and the user should be given
the option to only update manually.

*Connecting securely. *

There should be a TorBrowser-bundle available for download, which is
configured to be used with a TorBox: This bundle comes with a browser, a
download accelerator, an Instant Messaging client, an email client, and
possibly some other utilities with presets configured for anonymity and
security. When starting any of these ”apps”, they connect to the TorBox
immediately and without any user interaction necessary, and tell the user
that they have successfully established a secure connection.

All programs in the bundle should also have a ”little green button” letting
users know they are securely connected.

When trying to use the TorBox with a browser NOT configured securely, it
should simply present a warning message; ”You are trying to connect to the
Tor network using an insecure browser... etc”. It should simply refuse to
connect any program not communicating that it is securely set up.

Is this idea feasible?

What kind of hardware is necessary?  I/O-circuitry, PCB, 1GB onboard memory
or less, tiny little processor?

How should the Tor community go about realizing this idea, if it is worth

Open Hardware project? Sponsor?

Who would be willing to sponsor a project like this, economically? Would
this be something for companies to give to their empoyees when they go
abroad on business related assignments? Something an NGO like Swedish SIDA
or perhaps the EFF would be willing to contribute to? Amnesty? Reporters
Without Borders? The Pirate Party?

Can a TorBox be made so safe that it is immune to exploits? It would be a
disaster is some government agency could hack all such connected devices
and inject spyware in them!

/end message

Morgan Andreasson
morganandreason at gmail.com

More information about the tor-talk mailing list