Kickstarter suspends Anonabox Tor router project

The effort had raised nearly $600K in just days

Kickstarter has suspended the crowdfunding campaign of a Tor-enabling wireless router that gained widespread media attention as a privacy device for the masses but left others questioning its legitimacy.

The Anonabox router was approaching $600,000 in donations on Kickstarter after only a few days. But, shortly after going live, content aggregation sites such as Reddit, began to light up with critical comments.

The Anonabox was pitched as a simple mobile, wireless device that offered plug-and-play Tor-grade encryption for any computer device.

In an email to donors, Kickstarter stated that a review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke the crowdfunding site's rules. "We may suspend projects when they demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Offering purchased items and claiming to have made them yourself;
  • Presenting someone else’s work as your own;
  • Misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator."

Many pointed to the Anonabox's circuit board as being a cheap Chinese knockoff that could be purchased for as little as $20. The Anonabox was being sold for up to $51. Commenters also expressed concern over backdoors that could be inserted to allow anyone to track users once the device was enabled through a home wireless router.

"They lied about the prototypes, saying that they invented the device while the device is bought from Aliexpress [an online retail service based on China]," Reddit commenter 'htilonom' wrote in a post.

Computerworld emailed Anonabox's co-founder August Germar several days ago regarding security issues related to the device. He did not respond to the questions.

Germar did participate in a Q&A thread on Reddit, but commenters complained that he skirted the most critical questions about how custom the device really is or how secure it would be.

Tor (The Onion Router) is a free software project that conceals a user's IP address by bouncing online activity and all data through a random, worldwide network made up of more than 5,000 relays.

In one Reddit post, a self-proclaimed security expert called the Tor device a scam and said its makers were deceiving the public.

Anonabox's software, which was promoted as custom, is actually OpenWRT.

Online forums complained that that information had been withheld from donors.

In an email to donors Wednesday, Anonabox's Germar‏ stated that "a few people think we should mention OpenWrt more, and that we use it as the OS for the Anonabox.

"We made sure it was in the images and website, but just to be extra clear on this yes, we are using the Open Source embedded device OS called OpenWrt. It's based on Linux which is also Open Source, and which we also love," Germar went on to say.

Commenters on the Kickstarter project site have even linked to $20 versions of the Anonabox-style wireless routers sold in Russia and China and added links to Anonabox's own Tor routing code to embed on the devices.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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