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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 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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Privacy and Anonymity Colloquium • Activity program announced!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/19/2018 - 17:07

It's only two weeks to the beginning of the privacy and anonymity colloquium we will be celebrating at the Engineering Faculty of my University. Of course, it's not by mere chance we are holding this colloquium starts just after the Tor Meeting, which will happen for the first time in Latin America (and in our city!)

So, even though changes are still prone to happen, I am happy to announce the activity program for the colloquium!

I know some people will ask, so — We don't have the infrastructure to commit to having a video feed from it. We will, though, record the presentations on video, and I have the committment to the university to produce a book from it within a year time. So, at some point in the future, I will be able to give you a full copy of the topics we will discuss!

But, if you are in Mexico City, no excuses: You shall come to the colloquium!

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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