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Set up your own Tor relay

Tor is short for The Onion Router, like the layers of an onion, it encrypts your data in multiple layers and sends it through a circuit of multiple nodes. Each node (or relay) only decrypts the outer layer to get the information where to send the packet next. The last hop, the Exit Node, decrypts the last layer and sends your information to it's destination address without revealing the IP Address of the original sender (you). That way Tor can help you to improve your anonymity while using the internet.

Why should I run my own relay?

Tor is a free service. It relies on volunteers to donate their bandwith to keep it running. By providing your own relay you can support the community. The more people who run relays, the faster the network will be.

Okay, how can I help?

You're asking the right person ;)

I have built a web based configurator that allows you to easily configure a Tor node without the need of deep knowledge of the Tor network (well, actually it isn't that hard, but the configurator makes it easier nonetheless).

1. Check what Linux Distribution you have

You can do that by running lsb_release -a. Run lsb_release -a to show information about your Distro If this does not work you can try cat /etc/issue.

2. Go to https://tor-relay.co and configure your relay

Configure your relay

If you are new to Tor I highly recommend that you set up a middle relay by leaving the node type radio button as it is. Each Tor circuit consists of three randomly selected relays.

  1. A Guard Relay
  2. A Middle Relay
  3. An Exit Relay

A guard is just a normal relay that has been "promoted" to become a guard because it is very stable. The IP of the guard and the middle relay are not visible to the server you connect to over Tor. But the exit node is.

When you do anything over Tor, the receiving end only sees the IP of the selected exit node on your circuit. And if someone does something illegal over Tor it seems like that illegal activity came from the exit node. Depending on the country you live in it may not be safe to run an exit node without a lawyer and you have to prepare for a visit of your local authorities!

3. Hit submit

You will be greeted by a screen that shows you how to run the setup script.

The configurator installation screen

Based on your configuration https://tor-relay.co generates a shell script that installs all necessary components for you.

4. Run the install command and let it do its magic

The output of the install script

That's it. You have just set up your own Tor relay :D On it's first run Tor will do a self test. You can watch the log file with tail -f /var/log/tor/log. If any errors appear try to restart Tor via service tor restart.

If you chose to install arm you can start it with sudo -u debian-tor arm to monitor your relay.

Monitor your relay with arm

Felix Stein | 2016-06-27