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Why I am running a Tor relay?

TOR logo

I make no secret of the fact that I use Tor sometimes, and that I run a Tor Relay. I don’t use Tor as often as I perhaps should and thats because a lot of my browsing is on websites where I have an account that’s already associated with ‘real-world’ me, adding the fact that on most website if you use Tor with personal accounts will be blocked due to “unexpected” logins. Given the recent headlines, I figured now would be a good time to explain what Tor is, and why I encourage to run a Tor relay.

What is Tor?

Tor is software developed by the Tor Project that aims to ensure that your ISP and middle-men cannot correlate who you are with what you’re doing on the internet. The idea is that you download the Tor Browser Bundle – a one-click package of everything you need. Then when you browse the internet using the provided browser (a modified Firefox) you are routed through 3 volunteer relays in a way that guarantees forward secrecy, before the last node actually sends your request to the website in question. The way the encryption is set up means that when using Tor the ISPs, and anyone listening before your data reaches the first Tor node knows only that you’re running Tor, but not what you’re doing. The 3rd ‘exit’ node, and anyone listening to the connection between them and the destination website can only see your data, but not the original source. As far as the website is concerned your IP is that of the exit node. When you combine this with HTTPS connections secured with SSL even the exit node can only see the site you’re visiting, without seeing any of the data being passed back and forth. The EFF has a nice diagram summarizing this.

Thanks to this it provides a way to secretly access websites that you may not be able to. In Turkey for example, it can bypass their web firewall so users can read news about what is really happening. Tor’s usage skyrocketed during the height of the recent Egyptian revolution. Tor’s Projects are entirely Open Source (including the core Tor code) – you can download the code, submit patches (please do that!), and check there are no back doors.

What’s a Relay?

A Tor Relay is a computer with the Tor Software installed that has volunteered to be one of the middle-men in other peoples Tor connections. They provide the bandwidth that can make the Tor experience faster and more stable. An ‘Exit Node’ is a special kind of Tor Relay that has additionally volunteered to be the last Tor node before a connection jumps out onto the clear net. By running a normal relay I can help ensure that whistleblowers and dissidents can access the information they need to do their job.

How was the experience?

It was good. I run my Tor relay on a paid Rackspace plan that was free for me. I need to say that run a relay on Rackspace is not the cheapest option. The cost in a month for the server running the Tor relay was $450 USD. The specification of the server was not higher, the reason for the higher price to pay was that Rackspace add costs to you for high traffic consumption in your server. So, if you are going to run a Tor relay, search another host provider for a cheaper price.

This is the relay from Globe:

Tor Globe

A capture of the relay full stats:

Tor stats

Note: My TOR relay will be running until March 7 due to the space where is hosted will be closed. Was nice to run the TOR Relay and maybe in another oppotunity will run others if is possible.


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