Because it is open-source, the TOR network is free to use for anyone who wants to make sure his or her privacy is respected. Great news, but did you know you could earn Bitcoin for helping to keep TOR online? Even better, did you know you could do it by using your smartphone or tablet?
Supporting the TOR network
To help you understand this, we will first give a brief explanation on how the TOR network functions. Political dissidents on Reddit illustrated this in a simple manner:
The way the Tor network works is by passing your connection through multiple nodes that only know the previous peer they connected to and not all others.
Think of it this way. If I want to send something from connection X to server Y then connection Y and X both know each others IP address. No one is private. So what Tor does is say route connection X through node A then from there to B and from there to C then arrive at Y.
Now what happens is since each node/peer/connection only knows the IP of the previous, nobody can determine where the traffic came from or went to. The whole chain isn’t known. The longer the chain, the more secure. The less load on it the faster.
Essentially the way it works is there is the clear net which is the normal Internet. Then there is the Tor network. Exit nodes are the nodes that bridge Tor to the clear net. Relays are nodes that exist only within the network itself and can not interface with what is outside of Tor. Essentially they are what is vital to keeping communication secure and preventing a link from being established between nodes.
Since an exit node interfaces with the clear net and the person who runs it is bridging completely anonymous traffic, then everything that passes through the exit node is traced to it. So if someone tweets American Airlines saying I got a bomb and that traffic passed through your exit node the IP is linked back to you. A Tor relay, on the other hand, doesn’t interact with the clear net. It only interacts with other relays or exit nodes. So as such by running a relay node you never expose what traffic passes through you to the clear net. An exit node is both an exit and entrance to the Tor network. Relay nodes only exist within the network.
Now that we have cleared up any questions about the TOR network, it is time to get to the part where you can earn bitcoins. The relay nodes that were discussed before are in fact people like you and me. Through the use of software, everyone is capable of letting their computer act as a relay node. By doing so, these nodes support the TOR network. The people running them are listed at Oniontip with their stats and Bitcoin address. The community can choose to donate Bitcoin to everyone listed at that website. This is a way of saying thank you to the people who actively help keeping TOR alive.
This is all doable from any home computer with a decent internet connection. Some redditors have found a way to get this working on Android devices as well. You start by downloading Orbot. This open-source app can be found in the Google play store and is maintained by the Guardian Project. After tweaking the configuration a little bit, this piece of software turns your Android device into a working relay node. Make sure to run the program when starting up your smartphone or tablet. Also keep in mind that it takes a few hours for your node to show up in Oniontip.
If you’re looking for more information on how to get this working for your particular device, take a look at the Reddit topic. Lots of tips and info is given there by various users. While some people have successfully set up their configuration, lots of others are still struggling with it. Let us know if you got it working and what particular bumps you ran into.
Images from Wikipedia and Shutterstock.