A Quick, Simple Guide to Tor and the Internet of Things (So Far)
"The Internet of Things" is the remote control and networking of everyday devices ranging from a family's lawn sprinkler or babycam to a corporation's entire HVAC system.
Tor Project contributor Nathan Freitas, Executive Director of The Guardian Project, has developed a new way to use Tor's anonymous onion services to protect the "Internet of Things." The new system, while experimental, is also scalable.
The system uses Home Assistant, a free, open-source platform built on Python, that can run on Raspberry Pi and other devices. It easily can be set up to control and network people’s “Internet of Things” —home security systems, toasters, thermostats, smart lightbulbs, weather sensors and other household appliances. The new "Tor Onion Service Configuration" setup is available on their website.
"The Tor Project wants Tor privacy technology to be integrated into everyday life so that people don't have to log on to it—their privacy and security are built in. Nathan's work with Home Assistant is an early but important milestone," said Shari Steele, Tor's Executive Director.
The great danger with the "Internet of Things" (or IoT) is the opportunity for surveillance--for an individual hacker or a state actor to accumulate, store, and exploit very private information against individuals or companies.
These attacks are far from hypothetical: We've read about the ability for an attacker to see and speak to a baby through a babycam or hack and control a car. Attackers stole 40 million credit card numbers after they hacked into a national retailer's HVAC system and used it to reach their computer system and their customers.
Tor has developed a way to build a buffer of privacy between the baby and the Internet--so that the baby (or the HVAC system) is never exposed to the open Internet at all. Instead of a hackable, single point of failure, attackers must contend with the global network of thousands of Tor nodes.
"Too many 'Things' in our homes, at our hospitals, in our businesses and throughout our lives are exposed to the public Internet without the ability to protect their communication. Tor provides this, for free, with real-world hard ended, open-source software and strong, state of the art cryptography," said Nathan Freitas, Executive Director of the Guardian Project.
“Networked sensors and the Internet of Things are projected to grow substantially, and this has the potential to drastically change surveillance. The still images, video, and audio captured by these devices may enable real-time intercept and recording with after-the-fact access. Thus an inability to monitor an encrypted channel could be mitigated by the ability to monitor from afar a person through a different channel.”
--"DON'T PANIC," Berkman Klein Center's report on encryption
• Guardian Project video explaining the Tor/Home Assistant system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2yT-0rmgDA
• Guardian Project's easy-to-understand slides:
• Home Assistant page on setting up Tor: