Anonabox promises a portable, streamlined way to use Tor to hide your online tracks

If it's as easy to use as its company claims, it could help more people take advantage of Tor's encryption and anonymizing features.

Staying anonymous online could get a lot simpler with Anonabox, a pocket-sized networking device due to launch early next year.

The $51 device plugs into any standard Internet router and pipes all traffic through the Tor network. The traffic then moves through multiple computers on Tor's network, erasing its tracks along the way, before finally hitting the open Internet. The result is an anonymous and encrypted connection straight out of the box.

While Tor already offers a Web browser for this purpose, extending Tor's capabilities to other programs requires a complicated setup process. Even opening an attachment from Tor can create risk, as the outside program could connect to the Internet without keeping the user anonymous. By plugging directly into the router, Anonabox promises to anonymize all Internet activity regardless of what program you're using.

Why this matters: Between overreaching government data collection in the United States, censorship in other countries and the rise of the darknet, there's a huge demand for products that hide their users' online activities. Anonabox is hitting all the right notes at just the right time, with a low-cost product that's supposedly easy to use and to conceal. That may explain why the Kickstarter campaign is nearing $300,000 as of this writing--far beyond Anonabox's $7,500 goal.

Something to hide

As Wired points out, Anonabox is not the first device of its kind. Devices like Torouter and Portal require technical know-how to replace a router's stock software, while OnionPi arrives as a kit that must be assembled by the user. Anonabox's closest competitor is SafePlug, a $49 device that plugs into any router, but it's larger and potentially less secure. By comparison, Anonabox is small enough to conceal in a pants pocket, and the creators promise to test and configure each unit by hand to make sure they're working properly.

For now, the Tor community isn't giving a full endorsement, though Tor's executive director Andrew Lewman told Wired that the device "looks promising." Micah Lee, lead technologist for The Intercept, suggested that users still fire up the Tor browser in conjunction with the box, as it avoids "fingerprinting" techniques that other browsers use to track individuals around the Web.

Given that this is a Kickstarter project, potential buyers need to reserve some skepticism as well. However, the creators note that the product is already fully functional and ready for large-scale production, with backup vendors in place. At a glance, it seems like a well-organized campaign, and a potentially valuable tool for protestors, privacy paranoids and Internet miscreants alike.

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