TL; DR: Anonabox’s Tor and VPN routers ensure privacy and anonymity online, allowing users to bypass censorship and outsmart invasive data collection systems. The privacy-centric company is committed to supporting an open internet for all users and supports the Tor Project, an open-source solution for anonymous communication. With four models to choose from and ever-evolving product features, Anonabox aims to serve a wide range of users looking to safeguard their online experiences.
Friends don’t let friends miss out on their favorite sports events — and August Germar is proof of that. Approximately five years ago, his buddy paid for a subscription to an app that streams broadcasts of baseball games. But, when the time came to watch a much-anticipated game, the content was subject to a blackout in his area.
That’s when August came to the rescue, scrambling his friend’s IP address using the open-source anonymity software Tor. For the rest of the summer, his friend was able to watch all of the games his heart desired. The experience must have provided August a dose of good karma, as it led him toward his eventual calling as Founder of the privacy hardware company Anonabox.
“It started as a hobby in 2014 — I saw an opportunity to integrate the networking application Tor into the router itself,” he said. “I made some prototypes for my friends, and they enjoyed them, so I started crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.”
The Kickstarter campaign alone generated $600,000 in just five days, providing enough money to fund the first round of production on what is now known as The Original Anonabox router, a plug-and-play device that adds privacy to the web browsing experience by routing traffic over the Tor network. After about 18 months of collaboration with a startup incubator, the company continued to thrive and was acquired by Sochule, Inc., an innovative technology holding company.
Today, the California-based company ships a range of privacy-oriented hardware devices to users internationally, using both the Tor Network and VPN capabilities to protect privacy and mitigate censorship. Through its product selection and ever-evolving feature set, the company continues to support an open internet for all users.
Privacy-Centric Hardware Used to Mitigate Censorship
Anonabox is the first commercially available router that allows users to harness the power of the Tor network without the need to download and configure any software. The device both conceals your location and online activity while providing uncensored access to the web in places where content is filtered and blocked.
Due to customs and local laws, Anonabox cannot be shipped to some of the most egregious freedom of information violators, including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. But those aren’t the only countries that block content. According to the OpenNet Initiative — which identifies and documents internet filtering and surveillance — political, ideological, and religious control mechanisms are increasing worldwide.
In 2014, Reporters Without Borders flagged various agencies in free countries, including the United States National Security Agency, the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters, and India’s Centre for Development of Telematics, for imposing excessive levels of online censorship and surveillance.
August said Anonabox was designed to remove censorship and conceal browsing history, email exchanges, file sharing, and other web activity. “Our hardware is very privacy-centric, and we are passionate about promoting free and open access to the web,” he said. “If you want to browse the web without censorship or publish information on your own private website, you should be able to do that.”
Because of the private nature of the service, the company doesn’t have much information regarding the market demographics it appeals to or its most common application. That said, August likens Anonabox to the Swiss Army knife of online security, featuring the tools users need to accomplish several goals. “Our devices are designed to be pretty wide open, so that you can use them for a number of purposes, from a wifi repeater access point to a VPN concentrator,” he said.
How to Choose the Right Router for You
The company still sells The Original Anonabox, which August said is valued for its ease of use with plug-and-play functionality, an installation-free setup, and a hardcoded password. But, over the years, Anonabox has expanded its product line to cater to a broad range of use cases and individual needs.
“We started out with one product, and then, based on customer feedback and requests, we developed that into four different products,” August said. “We will continue to sell our first device as long as it’s still popular.”
Next came the Fawkes router, which includes an advanced interface that empowers end users to customize their network SSID and change their password. The Fawkes model also includes the ability to access public wifi anonymously; Tor bridge and relay functionality, and a wireless network range extension.
The Tunneler VPN Router is the first Anonabox product to deviate from the Tor model through partnerships with HideMyAss! And VyrprVPN. Unlike The Original and Fawkes, Tunneler is a dedicated Virtual Private Network (VPN) router designed to ensure privacy, security, and encryption. The device allows users to send and receive data through public or shared networks as if they were transported directly to the private network.
Finally, the feature-rich PRO model includes all of the features of the Fawkes and Tunneler routers, so users can connect using the Tor network or a VPN. The PRO also enables users to connect to or host websites under the .onion domain, an anonymous service that is only accessible via the Tor network.
“You can have a Tor web server with an Onion address, and if you want to put a website on a USB stick and plug it in, then you can essentially share files from the USB stick to a static website, and you can give people the address to it,” August said.
Supporting the Tor Project and an Open, Anonymous Internet
Websites hosted via .onion are part of the dark web, a small portion of the deep web that is inaccessible through web browsers other than Tor.
The dark web is often associated with criminal activity, such as the infamous Silk Road, an online marketplace for buying and selling illegal drugs. But it’s also used to promote online freedoms. For example, journalists at The New York Times have been known to access the dark web to receive sensitive documents from whistleblowers. And, in 2014, Facebook introduced a version of its social networking site accessible through Tor to enable users to bypass authoritarian censorship and surveillance efforts.
Anonabox has close ties to the Tor community and supports its mission to make the internet a more private and secure space. The Original, Fawkes, and PRO routers allow users to connect to both the deep web and the dark web through the Tor network in as little as 90 seconds without the need for downloads or software configuration, even when you’re on public wifi. The company also donates $1 from each Anonabox sale to the nonprofit Tor Project to support ongoing development.
As far as Anonabox’s internal development goes, August said a lot of the features implemented in the newest routers are the product of user feedback as well as continuous research and development. “We are always looking to evolve our product features and technology to serve users’ specific needs,” he said.