Jan 1, 2018

I2P: An alternative to Tor for online anonymity

I've been a big proponent of Tor since I first heard about it years ago when Cory Doctorow did a keynote speech at ToorCon in San Diego talking about the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) back in 2006 I think. I mean, if you wanted to browse the internet without big brother spying on you, it was always my recommended option.

If you are unfamiliar with Tor, here is an explanation from their website:

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.
Some people warn that there are flaws in the Tor network though where activity can still be monitored, and sometimes if you are not careful, traced back to you. How To Geek writes:
...when you use Tor, your Internet traffic is routed through Tor’s network and goes through several randomly selected relays before exiting the Tor network. Tor is designed so that it is theoretically impossible to know which computer actually requested the traffic. Your computer may have initiated the connection or it may just be acting as a relay, relaying that encrypted traffic to another Tor node. 
However, most Tor traffic must eventually emerge from the Tor network. For example, let’s say you are connecting to Google through Tor – your traffic is passed through several Tor relays, but it must eventually emerge from the Tor network and connect to Google’s servers. The last Tor node, where your traffic leaves the Tor network and enters the open Internet, can be monitored. This node where traffic exits the Tor network is known as an “exit node” or “exit relay.”
So what alternatives do you have? Well, you could spend some money and use a private VPN service, or you can check on I2P (Invisible Internet Project)!

From their About page:
I2P is an anonymous network, exposing a simple layer that applications can use to anonymously and securely send messages to each other. The network itself is strictly message based (a la IP), but there is a library available to allow reliable streaming communication on top of it (a la TCP). All communication is end to end encrypted (in total there are four layers of encryption used when sending a message), and even the end points ("destinations") are cryptographic identifiers (essentially a pair of public keys).
So what's the difference between Tor and I2P? Well Ed Holden from IVPN wrote up a pretty lengthy article explaining the differences, but in conclusion he said:
We see that both Tor and I2P provide cryptographically sound methods to anonymously access information and comunicate online. Tor provides one with better anonymous access to the open internet and I2P provides one with a more robust and reliable “network within the network,” a true darknet, if you will. Of course, when implementing either of these two tools, one must always be aware that one’s ISP can see that he or she is using Tor or I2P (though they cannot determine the content of the traffic itself). In order to hide this knowledge from one’s ISP, one should make use of a high-quality VPN service to act as an entry point to either one’s anonymous network of choice or to the internet at large.
In the end, it all comes down to preference and making sure you are securing your computers at the highest possible level. Make sure you are not accidentally leaking info, and it really doesn't matter which one you use to surf the internet anonymously.

Do you use I2P? Do you use Tor? Why do you prefer either one over the other? Let us know in the comments!

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