"Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."
All this is interesting from a technological point of view, and as a practical tool to help defend your online privacy and anonymity from criminals, terrorists and police states.
However, despite "several hundred thousand" users of worldwide, the size and distrubution of the "Tor cloud" of volunteer donated Tor server bandwidth is worryingly small.
Today there are just over 300 servers in the "cloud", but major portions of the the worldwide internet are unsupported e.g. there appear to be more Tor servers in Communist China than in Japan and South Korea (with their huge numbers of internet users and available high speed bandwidth) combined.
Even more embarrassingly, the United Kingdom currently sports fewer than 30 Tor servers i.e. fewer than the city of Berlin in Germany does ! Obviously the "location" is based on the whois information pertaining to theregistered offices of the ISP, but there are plenty of other Tor servers in the rest of Germany.
Give something back to the internet community, and do something to protect your own privacy and freedom, as well as that of others, and run a Tor server.
You do not need to be a *nix guru in order to configure a Tor server: the new Vidalia (a type of onion) GUI front end configuration tool and network map display, makes things as easy as setting up , say, Internet Connection Sharing, on a Windows XP box.
A Tor server can be bandwidth throttled, or made to hibernate, say during the day, or limited to the volume of traffic it is allowed to handle. A Tor server needs 20 Kilobytes per second bandwidth as a minimum, which is easily achievable on a "standard" UK asymmetric 256 Kilobits per second uplink / 512 Kilobits per second downlink ADSL line (8 bits to the byte).
If you are not running a webserver on the box which you are running your Tor server from, which most ADSL home gateway machines will not be doing, then by setting the "OR-Port" to 443 (normally used for SSL/TLS encrypted connections for e-commerce and internet banking etc.), you will help Tor client users who are trapped behind a firewall, either in repressive countries like Communist China or Saudi Arabia, or behind corporate or educational establishment firewalls and nannyware.
You can restrict the Exit Policy of your Tor server.
If you are unhappy about your (traceable) IP address being used as an Exit Point from the "Tor cloud", then you can just allow node to node traffic within the cloud, which still helps to mix up any attempts at Communications Data Traffic Analysis.
Download the latest Tor, Vidalia (Tor GUI front end) and Privoxy (web proxy) binary program installation bundle for Windows, for Macintosh or for several flavours of Linux or BSD.
Alternatively, you can download the source code and compile it for yourselves.
At the very least, playing with Tor should stimulate some thoughts on Communications Traffic Data Privacy and Security issues, which could be relevant to the Home Office's Public Consultation:
"Consultation on the Revised Statutory Code for Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data - Chapter II of Part I of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000"
We have created a sub-blog to collect comments on this Consultation, by 30th August 2006.