Browse & Email Safely & Anonymously With TorBOX

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Browse & Email Safely & Anonymously With TorBOX

I never imagined that I’d need to mask my identity when accessing the Internet until two years ago. Seriously, I assumed that using the Internet anonymously was solely for hackers, thieves, and other bad actors.

In truth, there are many genuine reasons why you wouldn’t want identifying information linked to communications you send to someone, or why you’d want to prevent individuals intercepting your traffic from knowing the IP address, or computer location, from which you’re accessing the Internet.

I engaged a man from China to do on-the-ground investigative journalism for me two years ago. It’s not easy for journalists in China, where the government punishes anybody who sends information on the Communist Party or its activities outside of the country. This journalist was prepared to take the risks, but we both realized we needed to put certain safeguards in place.

Back in 2011, I wrote about VaultletMail, one of the anonymous and encrypted email services we utilized. For very important emails, he would bundle them into a file and then encrypt that file using one of many methods.

But there was always the risk that the authorities might intercept it and discover my, or worse, his, name. When I picked up a second reporter in Malaysia, I recognized the need of communication security. So I began looking for an extra layer of security and came with TorBOX.

Protecting Your Identity

I have a guy who constructed one of these VM systems himself a few years back. I was envious of his ability to send emails from a whole different IP address than England. I never actually needed to do anything like that, but it was still nice.

Now I have a valid need to make my traffic seem to be from somewhere other than the United States, or at least somewhere other than the Northeast. TorBOX does not need such walk-on-water programming abilities. You just need to install the Gateway and the Workstation. Simply download both and then use VirtualBox’s “Import Appliance” function to load the two VMs.

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When you import, you’ll see all of the pre-configured system’s information. The developers recommend not reinitializing the MAC addresses. I’m not sure why, but don’t do that.

When you import both of them, they will appear in your list of Virtual Machines. Launch the TorBOX Gateway first, followed by the Workstation.

The beauty of this configuration is that it not only provides you with anonymity when surfing the Internet and sending emails, but it also shields you from the prying eyes of any spyware that may be placed on your PC to monitor your online communications.

The Gateway component of the arrangement, you see, runs inside its own segregated network, only linked to the VM Workstation. When you use this configuration to connect to the Internet, it uses the “Torified” connection rather than the “non-torified” connection.

If you’re confused or don’t understand how Tor works, read Jorge’s explanation or Danny’s description of Tor. Both papers are excellent.

The bottom line is that by running this VM, you receive not only the anonymity of Tor, but also the added security of surfing inside a self-contained VM system that your host computer cannot access. That implies any virus on your computer will be unable to play there as well.

When you first run the gateway, you’ll see nothing but words scrolling across the screen.

When it is finished, you may start the Workstation. This is a stripped-down Ubuntu-based system. Depending on your color scheme, you may not see anything in the application bar. Simply right-click in the bottom left corner to access the menu system. As you can see, there are a few pre-installed programs, such as a rudimentary music player, PDF reader, and text editor.

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If all you desire is secure, anonymous online surfing, you’ll find all you need right here. Simply clicking on “TorBrowser” will run the browser inside the VM.

The first thing I did was go to WhatIsMyIP.com using both my host computer and the TorBrowser. The top IP in the figure below was the one utilizing TorBrowser, while the bottom IP was the ordinary host IP.

Even better, the remote server did not suspect that my TorBOX traffic was being routed via a proxy. For all intents and purposes, I’m a normal user, which means I may utilize ordinary online email services and even online forums that may restrict proxy users.

TorBrowser also includes several useful extra security features. For example, by clicking on the HTTPS symbol in the top right corner, you may activate HTTPS on any sites that support it. By default, this is set to ON.

When you select the Tor symbol, you’ll be presented with a list of security options that you can use to tighten or relax the security of your Internet surfing to your satisfaction. You may activate features such as preventing plugin usage and isolating dynamic content.

You can manage and secure your browser history by going to the History tab. Examine the Forms, Cache, Cookies, and other tabs to see how you can secure those areas as well.

What’s great about this browser is that it provides such a high degree of security inside an existing protected VM configuration and on a “Torified” network that has you on the Internet using an assumed IP address. You couldn’t get much more privacy and security than this arrangement.

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After activating and protecting my VM configuration, I proceed to use Hushmail to communicate with my contacts all over the globe. Husmail adds another layer of protection to the already stacked blockage that our current system delivers.

Aside from online surfing, the Workstation node also provides access to the terminal console.

Don’t forget that you can always download and install a Linux email client to your new Torified VM if you prefer working with an email client rather than webmail for your secure email setup.

This solution isn’t flawless, but no security system is. Someone, somewhere, may be able to find out who you are and where you are. However, if you’re using TorBOX in an ultra-secure configuration, you can rest certain that you’ve done all possible to keep your important conversations and Internet traffic safe from prying eyes.

Have you used any Tor tools before? Are you considering giving TorBOX a shot? Share your own security configuration in the comments area below; we’d love to know how you safeguard your own highly sensitive Internet conversations.

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