tor

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Finally, a sensible increase in participation for Tor in Mexico!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 19:23

/Known fact: Latin America's share of participation in different aspects of the free software movement is very low.

There are many hypotheses for this, but all in all, it's mainly economics related: Only a tiny minority of us in this geographic region can spare the time, energy and money needed to donate part of our work and life to a project, no matter how much we agree with it. Of course, this cannot explain it wholly; there are many issues that further contribute with this low participation. Free software development is mostly carried out in English (much more so even than programming in general, although basically any programing language "reeks" of English).

In mid-2017, the Tor project acknowledged this and created the Global South Initiative. At first, I heard about it when the global-south@lists.torproject.org mailing list was started, and started interacting there right away. Roughly a month later, we started to plan for what is now our research/documentation project. We even managed to somehow attract the Tor community at large for the Tor Meeting last September/October in Mexico City (which was a *great* opportunity!)

One of the issues we have been pushing for, with marginal success rate until very recently, is to get more people involved running Tor relays or, if possible, exit nodes. Of course, when I asked officially for permission to set up an exit node at the university (I want to do things the right way), I was right away slammed and denied.

But... Patience, time, hardware donation by Derechos Digitales, and some determination have led us to the fact that... 18 months ago, we only had one or two active Tor relays. Now, the reality is finally changing!

Thanks to many individuals willing to donate their time and resources, we currently have eleven relays (eight of them which I can recognize by name and thank their respective owners — The linked page will probably give different results, as it varies over time).

As for the diversity this brings to the network, it's well summed up by the aggregated search:

Four autonomous systems; the only ISP that's usable for home users we have been able to identify is Axtel, with which we have five relays currently running; three at UNAM, the biggest university in the country; one in CINVESTAV, an important research facility; finally, one in Mega Cable, which surprises me, as Mega Cable does not provide a reachable IP for any of the subscribers we have probed! (Maybe it's run by corporate users or something like that?)

And, very notably: I have to recognize and thank our friends at Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D), as they have set up our –so far– only exit node (via the Axtel ISP). Wow!

Ten relays, mind you, is still a tiny contribution. Due to the bandwidth we are currently able to offer (and many many many other factors I cannot go into details, as I don't even know them all), Mexico as a country is currently providing approximately 0.05% (that is, one out of each 2000) Tor connections as a guard (entry) node, a slightly higher amount as a middle node, and a slightly lower amount as an exit node. But it is steadily increasing, and that's great!

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Want to set up a Tor node in Mexico? Hardware available

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 06/29/2018 - 17:58

Hi friends,

Thanks to the work I have been carrying out with the "Derechos Digitales" NGO, I have received ten Raspberry Pi 3B computers, to help the growth of Tor nodes in Latin America.

The nodes can be intermediate (relays) or exit nodes. Most of us will only be able to connect relays, but if you have the possibility to set up an exit node, that's better than good!

Both can be set up in any non-filtered Internet connection that gives a publicly reachable IP address. I have to note that, although we haven't done a full ISP survey in Mexico (and it would be a very important thing to do — If you are interested in helping with that, please contact me!), I can tell you that connections via Telmex (be it via their home service, Infinitum, or their corporate brand, Uninet) are not good because the ISP filters most of the Tor Directory Authorities.

What do you need to do? Basically, mail me (gwolf@gwolf.org) sending a copy to Ignacio (ignacio@derechosdigitales.org), the person working at this NGO who managed to send me said computers. Oh, of course - And you have to be (physically) in Mexico.

I have ten computers ready to give out to whoever wants some. I am willing and even interested in giving you the needed tech support to do this. Who says "me"?

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Starting a project on private and anonymous network usage

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:43

I am starting a work with the students of LIDSOL (Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo de Software Libre, Free Software Research and Development Laboratory) of the Engineering Faculty of UNAM:

We want to dig into the technical and social implications of mechanisms that provide for anonymous, private usage of the network. We will have our first formal work session this Wednesday, for which we have invited several interesting people to join the discussion and help provide a path for our oncoming work. Our invited and confirmed guests are, in alphabetical order:

  • Salvador Alcántar (Wikimedia México)
  • Sandino Araico (1101)
  • Gina Gallegos (ESIME Culhuacán)
  • Juliana Guerra (Derechos Digitales)
  • Jacobo Nájera (Enjambre Digital)
  • Raúl Ornelas (Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas)

  • As well as LIDSOL's own teachers and students.
    This first session is mostly exploratory, we should keep notes and decide which directions to pursue to begin with. Do note that by "research" we are starting from the undergraduate student level — Not that we want to start by changing the world. But we do want to empower the students who have joined our laboratory to change themselves and change the world. Of course, helping such goals via the knowledge and involvement of projects (not just the tools!) such as Tor.

On Dmitry Bogatov and empowering privacy-protecting tools

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/14/2017 - 23:53

There is a thorny topic we have been discussing in nonpublic channels (say, the debian-private mailing list... It is impossible to call it a private list if it has close to a thousand subscribers, but it sometimes deals with sensitive material) for the last week. We have finally confirmation that we can bring this topic out to the open, and I expect several Debian people to talk about this. Besides, this information is now repeated all over the public Internet, so I'm not revealing anything sensitive. Oh, and there is a statement regarding Dmitry Bogatov published by the Tor project — But I'll get to Tor soon.

One week ago, the 25-year old mathematician and Debian Maintainer Dmitry Bogatov was arrested, accused of organizing riots and calling for terrorist activities. Every evidence so far points to the fact that Dmitry is not guilty of what he is charged of — He was filmed at different places at the times where the calls for terrorism happened.

It seems that Dmitry was arrested because he runs a Tor exit node. I don't know the current situation in Russia, nor his political leanings — But I do know what a Tor exit node looks like. I even had one at home for a short while.

What is Tor? It is a network overlay, meant for people to hide where they come from or who they are. Why? There are many reasons — Uninformed people will talk about the evil wrongdoers (starting the list of course with the drug sellers or child porn distributors). People who have taken their time to understand what this is about will rather talk about people for whom free speech is not a given; journalists, political activists, whistleblowers. And also, about regular people — Many among us have taken the habit of doing some of our Web surfing using Tor (probably via the very fine and interesting TAILS distribution — The Amnesiac Incognito Live System), just to increase the entropy, and just because we can, because we want to preserve the freedom to be anonymous before it's taken away from us.

There are many types of nodes in Tor; most of them are just regular users or bridges that forward traffic, helping Tor's anonymization. Exit nodes, where packets leave the Tor network and enter the regular Internet, are much scarcer — Partly because they can be quite problematic to people hosting them. But, yes, Tor needs more exit nodes, not just for bandwidth sake, but because the more exit nodes there are, the harder it is for a hostile third party to monitor a sizable number of them for activity (and break the anonymization).

I am coincidentially starting a project with a group of students of my Faculty (we want to breathe life again into LIDSOL - Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo de Software Libre). As we are just starting, they are documenting some technical and social aspects of the need for privacy and how Tor works; I expect them to publish their findings in El Nigromante soon (which means... what? ☺ ), but definitively, part of what we want to do is to set up a Tor exit node at the university — Well documented and with enough academic justification to avoid our network operation area ordering us to shut it down. Lets see what happens :)

Anyway, all in all — Dmitry is in for a heavy time. He has been detained pre-trial at least until June, and he faces quite serious charges. He has done a lot of good, specialized work for the whole world to benefit. So, given I cannot do more, I'm just speaking my mind here in this space.

[Update] Dmitry's case has been covered in LWN. There is also a statement concerning the arrest of Dmitry Bogatov by the Debian project. This case is also covered at The Register.

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My little Tor node: Alive again!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/16/2014 - 19:54

So, after writing my last blog post in frustration, several people knowing their way around Tor better than me wrote that I should just configure my machine not to be an exit relay, but a middle relay or a bridge.

So, I set it up to be a bridge about five days ago. And, as they pointed out, I have not experienced any problems.

Interesting: The traffic pattern is very different. Compare:

Traffic pattern as an exit relay:

Traffic pattern as a bridge:

Anyway — I'm happy to have Lobazal back online!

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Tor: I'm shutting down my relay only after four days

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 06/10/2014 - 12:07

Some days ago, I bit the bullet and accepted the Tor Challenge.

Sadly, after only four days of having a Tor relay node happily sitting at home (and, of course, giving a nice function to this little friend). The inconveniences were too many.

I understand anonimity can be used for many nefarious things, but I was surprised and saddened to see the amount of blocking services. Most notorious to me were the Freenode IRC network, friendly home to many free software projects, and the different Wikimedia projects, which ban editting from IP addresses idenitfied as Tor relays.

I'm saddened to say that, while I could perfectly survive (and even be a bit proud about supporting a project I believe in) by jumping through some hoops (i.e. by setting up a SOCKS over ssh tunnel to my office to do my Wikipedia edits while at home), after only four days, I decided to shut down my relay.

And the main reason... Was something I'm not going to fight against. And it's not even from a nice, friendly free software project.

One thing I am not willing to part with is the one tool that keeps my wife well in contact with her friends and family back in Argentina. Yes, I know I could set up one or many different flavors of SIP or Jabber-based VoIP for her — But it's also her parents, brother, sisters, and friends who use Skype. So, Skype's banning of Tor relay nodes made me decide to shut down my relay.

Sigh... And for somebody obsessed with graphing stuff, this is the graph of the short lifespan of the "Lobazal" Tor node:

[update] I will do another blog post. Good news: My Tor node is alive again! Just no longer as an exit relay, as properly pointed out by many, but as a Tor bridge.

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