This week, a little-known upstart company Anonabox posted a Kickstarter for a new product that would make the process of signing onto the Tor anonymization protocol on your home network easier and more streamlined than ever before.
Hoping to raise $7,500 in 30 days, the company’s expectations were shattered when over $600,000 poured into their coffers in just under four days time, exceeding their wildest dreams and shocking the project’s developer, August Gremar.
“When we first started building it, I had no idea that anyone would be interested in it,” he said. “Initially we thought there would be enthusiasm from developers, journalists and librarians. But it turns out there are a lot more regular users. I think it’s not so much about privacy as about freedom of speech and freedom of information. This allows people to access information when people might try to censor them.”
Of course, the Tor network was always built with a limited number of users in mind, and in its current state would never be able to handle such a massive influx of traffic from a mainstream audience.
Thousands of more nodes would need to be established before this product became viable on a widespread scale, and even more exit nodes would have to be set up, maintained, and ghosted by a new swath of volunteers who are ready and willing to take the inevitable hit of hundreds of DMCA notices that would show up on their front step every day.
Tor has survived in the state it has for as long as it has because at least until the Snowden revelations last year, only a select number of Internet users were interested in the services it had to offer, those primarily being muddled in the world of darknet markets, for-hire hitmen, and less-than-acceptable forms of pornography.
The NSA has repeatedly shown their disdain for the networking protocol in presentations like “Tor Stinks“, a leaked slideshow which detailed the challenges and struggles the agency has faced while trying to track anyone who links their web traffic through the relay system before hitting the open web.
If successful, this router could provide the everyday consumer with the tools and technology necessary to keep their activity completely hidden from the likes of the National Security Agency and all their associated surveillance arms, but only if their claims are as tried and true as they say they are upfront…
As several users on the social news aggregation website Reddit have already pointed out, the board being installed in a pretty white casing by Anonabox is nothing more than a stock Chinese router board with open-source software installed on top.
If the NSA had a way to compromise the hardware, they could easily subvert any software encryption tactics and create a backdoor that would give them all the access they need to files and folders being transferred across a supposedly “protected” network.
With 26 days still left on their Kickstarter and the rate of funding climbing at a breakneck pace, it’s clear that no matter the outcome of this project, the average consumer is desperate for a simple, plug-and-play solution that will allow them to easily and cheaply protect themselves and their loved ones while browsing aimlessly on the web.