The advent of the open source: Tor and its ecosystem

This is the advent calendar for techies. In the fully digital, commercial world, almost everything belongs to a large Internet company. Their software is neither open nor free. Alternatively, there is this small island of an open source world: a program whose code is publicly visible and can be independently scanned for potential vulnerabilities and backdoors. Software that can be freely used, distributed and improved. Often the motive for action is simply the pleasure of doing something useful to society.

Short images of open source projects will be posted online from December 1 to December 24. These are about the respective program functions, pitfalls, history, background and financing. Some projects are backed by an individual, others by a loosely organized community, a tightly managed organization with full-time employees or a consortium. The work is entirely voluntary, funded through donations, collaborations with Internet companies, government funding, or an open source business model. Regardless of whether it is a single application or a complex ecosystem, whether it is a computer program, an application, or an operating system – the diversity of open source is enormous.

Short images of open source projects will be posted online from December 1 to December 24. These are about the respective program functions, pitfalls, history, background and financing.

Onions are a versatile kitchen vegetable. Tor anonymization technology, named after the onion, is quite diverse. A look at six programs outside the Tor Browser.

The most famous application of “The Onion Router” technology is the Tor Browser. It allows you to surf the World Wide Web anonymously and free of censorship; The browser also allows access to Darknet addresses with the .onion extension. There are also a number of other onion-based programs that can be used to exchange files, chat, or play all data on a computer and smartphone via Tor.

Some programs use a “simple” Tor channel as we know it from the Tor browser: data is sent from the device to the target via three jamming stations. Other programs use Tor’s “dual” mode for Darknet addresses: data travels through three nodes to a kind of dead mailbox. The Darknet address picks them up via three of their Tor terminals.

onions Generates .onion address on PC, suitable for Various purposes It can be used: as a download station, as a mailbox, as a chat room or as the basis for a static darknet website. The other person calls the .onion address generated by Onionshare using the Tor browser – to download a provided document, to upload a document, to chat, or to invoke the generated darknet page.

The respective Darknet addresses are available as long as Onionshare is up and running and connected to the Internet. The timer function can be used to limit availability. By default, access is protected with a 52-digit password, but it can be deactivated. a related term Currently in progress.

Ricochet River It is a simplified Darknet based computer program for text chats and file sharing. The 56-digit .onion address generated by the program matches the chat profile.

Also an Android app briar Works with darknet addresses. Communication takes place directly between .onion addresses on users’ smartphones. Brayer allows you to send text messages and photos. The standard communication channel is Tor. If two devices are nearby or in the same WLAN, they can instead communicate via Bluetooth or WiFi. A nice trick is one of the functions of social networks: you can use it to set up simplified blogs and forums and share them with your contacts.

As with Onionshare and Ricochet Refresh, communication is only possible when both sides are connected at the same time. However, the Breyer team is working on one mailbox function, which should be ready by the end of 2022: If you’re offline, messages will be paused on a second cell phone at home that’s permanently online.

tailsShort for “Amnesic Incognito Live,” it’s a live PC operating system: you can play it temporarily from a USB drive or DVD. By default, Tails routes all programs’ traffic through Tor. There is only one way to communicate with Tor – through a program called Unsafe Browser. Using Tails leaves no traces of data on your computer or USB drive. However, there is an option to create a “permanent” folder. Tails is based on Linux Debian and provides one specific Choosing open source software Including Tor Browser, Thunderbird mail client, LibreOffice desktop suite, KeePassXC password manager, Elecrum bitcoin wallet, and MAT metadata removal software.

Left-wing tech group Capulcu publishes an expanded German-language version of each edition PDF Help.

Another Tor-based operating system is Whonix. Unlike Tails, it runs “under” a stable operating system, as a virtual machine using software like VirtualBox. The physical computer is used in the “Whonix Workstation”. All traffic is directed to the Whonix Gateway, which feeds it into the Tor network. Whonix is ​​also based on Linux Debian and fetches files Various open source software With.

VPN app Orbot It routes the traffic of selected apps or all of them on an Android smartphone through Tor. This also applies to system applications. What sounds good in theory is not always easy in practice: commercial applications often have a hard time dealing with traffic that suddenly passes through Tor. You can use the list to select the nodes you want to use or exclude. With the help of Orbot, you can also run a small Tor node on your smartphone and use this side application of Tor technology to expand the onion network a bit.

The work in the article series is based in part on the “Neustart Kultur” grant from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, awarded by VG Wort.

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