Tor asks Amazon cloud users to help boost bandwidth

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Onion Router (Tor) anonymization network is asking users for help to improve bandwidth.

Allowing people to route online communications anonymously, the Tor network has been used to help people living under repressive regimes communicate without fear - and also to hide hackers and pirates.

TOR's creators are now asking the public to sign up to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cloud service and set up their own bridge. If the group is successful in signing up enough bandwith through the scheme, it could make it easier for users to hide.

"By setting up a bridge, you donate bandwidth to the Tor network and help improve the safety and speed at which users can access the internet," they say.

"Bridges are Tor relays that aren't listed in the main directory. This means that to use a bridge, you'll need to locate one first. And because there is no complete public list of all the bridges, they are also harder to block. A bridge will act as the first hop in a circuit, and will only forward traffic on to other relays in the Tor network."

Doing as they ask shouldn't cost users anything. Although EC2 is a subscription service and normally costs $30 per month, Amazon is currently running a free promotion.

Setting up a Tor bridge on Amazon EC2 is simple, says Tor, and should only take a couple of minutes. Tor's Tor Cloud software is available for sox of EC2's service regions.

"The images have been configured with automatic package updates and port forwarding, so you do not have to worry about Tor not working or the server not getting security updates," says the team.

"You should not have to do anything once the instance is up and running. Tor will start up as a bridge, confirm that it is reachable from the outside, and then tell the bridge authority that it exists. After that, the address for your bridge will be given out to users."

If the plan works out, says Tor, it may produce versions of its software for other cloud computing services.