TorBox v.0.5.0 released — juggling with Onions

TorBox v.0.5.0 is a major upgrade because starting with this version, it not only can be used to help clients to access the Internet safely and circumvent censorship, it also allows to bring your content in a safe and uncensored way to the Internet. Again, nyxnor, with his OnionJuggler project, was a key driver behind the Onion Services implementation into TorBox. With this version, TorBox introduces Onion Service support to share a simple website or/and files through Onion Services. However, this is only the start; in subsequent versions, we plan to support Onion Service access management on TorBox itself, and also a secure chat module is already programmed by Zotil but not yet implemented due to a lack of time. The support of Onion Services has much potential for developing TorBox further, but because our time is limited, it is essential that you give us feedback, what you need and want to see in the next version. Please feel free to use the discussion forum to tell us your needs.

TorBox Image (about 985 MB): v.0.5.0 (02.01.2022) – SHA-256 values
TorBox Menu only: v.0.5.0 (02.01.2022) – SHA-256 values

Since we had to install additional software packages and update the configuration files, it is necessary to use the new image or to reinstall TorBox using one of our installation scripts.

The new Onion Service sub-menu of TorBox v.0.5.0, which can be found in the “defend the open internet” sub-menu.

Besides the support of Onion Services, TorBox brings additional updates, improvements and fixes:

  • Update: The system is based on Raspberry Pi OS “Bullseye” lite with Linux Kernel 5.10.63 and Tor version 0.4.6.9. This version fixes several bugs from earlier versions of Tor. One important fix is the removal of DNS timeout metric from the overload general signal. During our test, we had the feeling that Tor version 0.4.6.9 works more stable and reliable than the versions before. All installation scripts are updated to work with Raspberry Pi OS “Bullseye”, Debian 11 and Ubuntu Server 20.04.3 LTS / 21.10. Additionally, we also updated TorBox’s internal list of OBFS4 bridges.
  • New: The introduction of an Onion Services implementation allows the creation of Onion Services for public use or only for selected clients using client access restrictions. With the Onion Services sub-menu (found in the “defend the open Internet” sub-menu), it is easy to share a folder with a static webpage, files etc. on an .onion domain with our without client access control, even if the TorBox is located behind a firewall, a network translator or placed in a censoring country. With TorBox File Sharing (TFS), upload and/or download files can be allowed to the public or specific clients. 
  • New: Since 2021, the TorBox team observed more and more providers (especially in connection with open hotspots) blocking ports needed for tor to work properly (tor commonly uses ports 80, 443, 9001 and 9030 for network traffic and directory information). Therefore, TorBox uses by default countermeasures against a tightly configured firewall taking care that tor uses only ports 80 and 443 for its data stream. We didn’t observe any negative impact (nevertheless, probably this feature should be deactivated if a bridge relay is run on the TorBox).
  • New: torrc is now edited by nyxnor’s vitor, which checks the accuracy of tor configuration inside torrc before saving the new configuration file. This should avoid a broken tor configuration by using the advanced tor configuration editor. Vitor is part of the OnionJuggler project. Also, after changing tor’s configuration, TorBox is asking to restart tor.
  • New: The team has been working hard to improve the code’s quality and introduced some basic coding guidelines, which we will implement step by step in the coming up versions. Also, we started to check the code with ShellCheck. Thanks to nyxnor for the inspiration!
  • Improved: The “first-use” script introduced in TorBox’s last version had some major shortcomings, expecting the Internet is connected to the Ethernet interface. With TorBox v0.5.0, the “first-use” script was extensively rewritten. It supports now all the usual connection types. Additionally, if the countermeasures against a tightly configured firewall setting should stay activated, what we highly recommend.
  • Improved: As part of our new basic coding guidelines, we rewrote the “Update and Reset” sub-menu, now called “Update and Maintenance”. At the same time, we improved the update routines, which also updates the installed Python modules and Snowflake (if tor is updated). The ability to remove all OBFS4 Bridge Relay Data was moved into the OBFS4 Bridge Relay sub-menu.
  • Improved: The TorBox Wireless Manager (TWM) is now sorting the list of available wifi along with the signal strength. Hidden networks are only displayed after pushing the H key to declutter the main screen.  Also, the code under the hut was again optimized (for example, a timeout was added if the AP doesn’t respond after sending a wrong password, optimizations for small screens and more).
  • Improved: If TorBox’s WLAN is permanently disabled, the TWM tries to reconnect to a Wireless Network on wlan0, not only on wlan1. However, if wlan0 and wlan1 are available,  TWM will prioritize wlan1 (in this case, we think there is a reason why an USB wifi adapter is connected to the TorBox 😉). This also fixed an issue mentioned by connected201.
  • Improved: TorBox’s Automatic Counter Measures (TACA) checks after reconnecting with a wifi network if the interface got an IP address from the remote DHCP server. If this is not the case, it restarts the interface, triggering the request for a new IP. Also, TACA will detect if the system time is out of sync and re-synchronize it with ntpdate.
  • Improved: Captive Portals are a pain in the ass! If the login page cannot be reached for whatever reason, TorBox provides a direct way back into the TWM (network reset included) to try it again. We have the experience that Captive Portals are getting harder to pass. However, currently, we are experimenting with another alternative way to deal with Captive Portals. If successful, we will add it immediately to TorBox v.0.5.0, which will be available after updating the TorBox menu in the “Update and Maintenance” sub-menu.
  • Improved: Cable support is easier to accomplish now. We reviewed and simplified the code to achieve this goal. Consequently, we merged set_interface and set_captive into set_interface_2 and set_captive_2 and removed the older files. This also fixed an issue mentioned by connected201.
  • Improved: Usability of the Countermeasure against a disconnection when idle feature.
  • Improved: The tor log file is now shown with a filter to declutter the output, and “Bootstrapped 100% (done): Done” message is highlighted in white.
  • Improved: The Bridge Relay backup file is placed into ~/backup.
  • Fixed: In the expert mode of the tor install scripts and the “Update and Maintenance” sub-menu, a hiccup due to a broken sort algorithm prevented the showing up of tor x.x.10 versions.
  • Fixed: Even TorBox’s WLAN was permanently disabled, it was activated again when using wlan0 as an Internet source. This bug was reported by connected201.
  • Fixed: Snowflake is running again.
  • Security: We must mask both tor services to ensure no use of tor connections before configuring TorBox with the “first use” routine.
  • Security: Since the last TorBox version, all access to a tor related URL (for example, torproject.org) directly from the TorBox have been done through tor for security reasons. Thanks to an advice from nyxnor, we switched to a more secure curl SOCKS5 method (curl -x socks5h://127.0.0.1:9050).
  • Removed: Display of the Vanguards log because there is nothing interesting to see.

• • •

We need your feedback!!

We hope this version pleases you. However, we are dependent on feedback. It is not just about fixing bugs and improving usability, but also about supporting additional interfaces and hardware in future releases:

  • What do you like?
  • What should be improved (why and how)?
  • What would you like to see next? Which features do you request?

With the TorBox GitHub repository, it is straightforward for everyone to report issues or change the code and propose it in a pull request. Because we continue to travel around, it sometimes needs more time to address the issues and proposals. 

For future versions, it is essential that we know what you need and want to see from the Onion Services implementation. Please feel free to use the discussion forum to tell us your needs.

Update your TorBox

We have good and bad news…

Bad News
The next TorBox release (v.0.5.0) will not be published before the end of the year. We will not update the image file befor, because we need the time to properly implement Onion Service support and to intensively test the new version.

Good News
We updated our installation script so that it works with the latest Raspberry Pi OS version, which is based on Debian 11 (Bullseye). We also updated some installation paths to the unofficial Tor Repository, a new Go version, to update additional network drivers. We also added some new options to the installation script:

Syntax : run_install.sh [-h|--help] [--select-tor] [--select-branch branch_name] [--step_by_step]
Options: -h, --help     : Shows this help screen ;-)
         --select-tor   : Let select a specific tor version (default: newest stable version)
         --select-fork fork_owner_name
			            : Let select a specific fork from a GitHub user (fork_owner_name)
         --select-branch branch_name
                        : Let select a specific TorBox branch (default: master)
         --step_by_step : Executes the installation step by step

With the --select-branch v.0.5.0 option, adventurous fellas have the option to install TorBox v.0.5.0 ALPHA (the menus are still labelled as v.0.4.2). For more information on v.0.5.0, see our discussion page on Github.

By the way, if you want to help with the project, please look for our Job Postings

TorBox v.0.4.2 released — hardening

Again, thanks to several approaches by nyxnor, the core changes in TorBox v.0.4.2 is about hardening it (see also our discussion here). Our goal is to offer users in authoritarian countries the safest possible way to install and use TorBox. That said, I want to remind you once more that it is strongly advised not to use TorBox if your well-being depends on your anonymity. In such a situation, it is advisable to use Tails.

The hardening of TorBox also slightly changes the first time start procedure. After finishing the installation with the installation script or with flashing the image file of the SD Card (at least 8 Gb are necessary), login to the TorBox by using a  SSH client (192.168.42.1 on a WiFi client and 192.168.43.1 on a cable client) or a web browser (https://192.168.42.1:9000 on a WiFi client and https://192.168.43.1:9000 on a cable client) is mandatory, because TorBox will ask the user during its first start if he wants to activate OBFS4 bridges for hiding the use of tor. The integrated OBFS4 bridges should help with that, although patience is necessary because that process could easily take 5 minutes to be successful. Also, activating OBFS4 bridges can be problematic behind a tightly configured (see more here). However, if you cannot connect to the Tor network yet, don’t panic – your selection is saved, and you can choose safely entry 5-10 in the main menu (we will improve the usability with the next version). This is only necessary during the first start after flashing the TorBox image on the SD cards. However, you can change your decision and configure the use of bridges later in the Countermeasure sub-menu.

After finishing the installation with the installation script or with flashing the image file during the first start-up, TorBox will ask the user, if he wants to activate OBFS4 bridges (remark: the dialogue box will slightly differ if installed with the installation script).

TorBox Image (about 910 MB): v.0.4.2 (02.08.2021) – SHA-256 values
TorBox Menu only: v.0.4.2 (02.08.2021) – SHA-256 values

Since we had to install additional software packages and update the configuration files, we recommend using the new image rather than updating an existing system. However, we have added a short guide at the end of this post for those who absolutely must update from the previous version (not older!).

• • •

Changelog: v.0.4.1 (13.06.2021) –> v.0.4.2 (02.08.2021)
  • IMPORTANT: Installing TorBox requires at least an 8 GB SD Card.
  • Update: The system is based on Raspberry Pi OS “Buster” Lite with a Linux Kernel 5.10.49 and Tor version 0.4.6.6. Tor version 0.4.6.6 fixes several security issues, including a denial-of-service attack against onion service clients and another denial-of-service attack against relays. The 0.4.6.x series includes numerous features and bugfixes, including a significant improvement to our circuit timeout algorithm that should improve observed client performance and a way for relays to report when they are overloaded. 
  • Update: Internal list of OBFS4 bridges is actualized, and the Meek-Azure, as well as the Snowflake configurations are updated in torrc based on the Tor Browser 10.5.2.
  • Update: The Adafruit’s PiTFT display installer.
  • New: The install scripts were extensively rewritten to be more reliable and secure in highly authoritarian countries. Tor will only be activated after a restart and a login by SSH or a web browser. This gives the user the possibility to start pluggable transports and bridges from the beginning to hide the use of tor in a better way and improve the user’s security. These improvements were proposed and highly influenced by nyxnor. Also, the installation script is more configurable, and these configurations will be stored into run/torbox.run after the installation.
  • New: Optional but highly recommended, automatic counteractions on log related events can be activated in the Countermeasure sub-menu. These counteractions should avoid the downtime of the connection to the tor network and give a better user experience, especially on connections with lower bandwidth. Most likely, this feature will be implemented as default in the next TorBox version. However, we are dependent on your feedback on this new feature. For more information, see under “Test and play with the ‘automatization’ feature“.
  • New: Wifi driver for RTL8812bu for Raspberry Pi OS added and for Debian/Ubuntu updated.
  • Fixed: Access on the Tor Control port from the clients produces a warning message in the tor log. Even if we don’t assess this as a security risk, to avoid the warning message, access on the Tor Control Port from the clients is disabled by default but can be activated in the Configuration sub-menu
  • Improved: By default, all access to a tor related URL (torproject.org) will be done through tor for security reasons of users in highly authoritarian countries. This includes tor and Torbox menu updates as well as bridge fetching and checking. If a connection through tor is not possible, the user is asked if it is safe to access the URL directly. If the user agrees, the local DNS resolution will be made through public name servers to avoid cheap censorship mechanisms (for more information, see here); if the user disagrees, the access on the tor related URL is blocked.
  • Improved: The file run/torbox.run is modified to a configuration file. The public name servers and the connectivity-check URL can be changed there and are used by every script (for more information, see here).
  • Improved: Configuring the TorBox bridge relay allows to set the bridge distribution method (requested by DEC-entralized, see details in the commit d5b0045eec2e79c60dfd33b0239a5d1e4291597f).
  • Improved: The configuration of the TorBox bridge relay can also be changed when the OBFS4 bridge relay is running. No deactivation before and activation after the changes are necessary anymore.
  • Improved: Pressing ENTER in the TorBox bridge relay configuration dialogue doesn’t set the default values but the latest used ones.
  • Improved: The installations scripts and the compatibility for Debian and Ubuntu systems as well as for 64 bit systems.
  • Improved: We have a new way to set the hostname, which should avoid error messages.
  • Removed: We don’t install tor from the Torproject repository anymore. As a fallback, a LTS version of tor is installed from the Raspberry Pi OS and the Debian repository (depending on your system), which is replaced from the latest stable version from the Tor’s Github Repository. This gives us a fallback – if someone uses the installation script and Tor’s Github Repository is blocked, the LTS version of tor is still installed, and the user can update to a newer version later through tor. So far, this is the best way to solve the „chicken or the egg“ problem.
  • Removed: The new_ident script is replaced by tor-prompt commands in the menu script (SIGNAL NEWNYM).
  • Experimental: Vanguards – Guard discovery and related traffic analysis protection – added (mentioned by nyxnor, see details in issue #72). Vanguards are optional and have to be activated in the Countermeasure sub-menu.

• • •

How to update from TorBox v.0.4.1 (13.06.2021)?

To update a TorBox v.0.4.1 (13.06.2021) installation, you can perform the following tasks. This deletes all your custom made configurations but does not alter your bridge relay keys. Nevertheless, we recommend, if possible, using the new image.

  1. Please, make sure that TorBox has Internet connectivity.
  2. Update the system: Go to the Update and Reset sub-menu, update the base system and the TorBox menu (entries 1 and 5).
  3. To ensure that all necessary packages are installed, execute the following commands (please, make sure that you copy the entire line!):
    sudo apt-get -y install hostapd isc-dhcp-server usbmuxd dnsmasq dnsutils tcpdump iftop vnstat debian-goodies apt-transport-https dirmngr python3-pip python3-pil imagemagick tesseract-ocr ntpdate screen git openvpn ppp shellinabox python3-stem raspberrypi-kernel-headers dkms nyx obfs4proxy apt-transport-tor build-essential automake libevent-dev libssl-dev asciidoc bc devscripts dh-apparmor libcap-dev liblzma-dev libsystemd-dev libzstd-dev quilt zlib1g-dev
  4. Update tor: Go to the Update and Reset sub-menu again and actualize the the TorBox menu (entry 4).
  5. Install Vanguards, if you want to use it:
    sudo bash install/install_vanguards.sh
  6. Replace the changed configuration files:
    # Backup in case
    sudo cp /etc/tor/torrc /etc/tor/torrc.bak
    # ATTENTION: This will overwrite your modifications as well as the configuration for the OBFS4 bridge relay
    # If you run a bridge relay use "backup/restore the Bridge Relay configuration"
    sudo cp etc/tor/torrc /etc/tor/
    cp etc/system/system.d/rc.local /etc/system/system.d/
    The commands above should work. Alternatively, you could also go to the Update and Reset sub-menu and reset the entire TorBox configuration from there (entry 8).
  7. Reboot TorBox.

• • •

Your feedback is welcome!!

We hope this version pleases you. However, we are dependent on feedback. It is not just about fixing bugs and improving usability, but also about supporting additional interfaces and hardware in future releases:

  • What do you like?
  • What should be improved (why and how)?
  • What would you like to see next? Which features do you request?

With the TorBox GitHub repository, it is straightforward for everyone to report issues or to change the code and to propose it in a pull request. Because we continue to travel around, it sometimes needs a little more time to address the issues and proposals. 

• • •

Known problems and bugs
  • BUG: The current image file is built with Linux Kernel 5.10.52. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that all the additional network drivers (Realtek 8188eu, 8188fu, 8192eu, 8812au, 8812bu, 8814au, 8821au, 8821cu, and 8822bu) are not yet available for this Linux Kernel Version. The latest supported Linux Kernel is version 5.10.49. Those already working with the current image file or who have updated the system and need one of these network drivers can fix the bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5) and executing the following command on TorBox’s command prompt:
    cd ~/torbox
    bash install/step_back_to_kernel_5.10.49

    Afterwards, rerun menu entry 2 in the Update and Reset sub-menu.
    The current image is updated. BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: The integration of TorBox’s automatic counteractions into rc.local resulted in some nasty bugs, which we didn’t see before: rc.local needs absolute paths, not relative ones; there was also an error in getting the name of the internet interface from the run-file, which broke the execution of the automat script. We also put the logs of TorBox’s automatic counteractions into a separate file (/var/log/tor/automat.log) so that it is easier to see if automatic counteractions were activated or not. You can fix the bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated. BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Due to a little bug in the script, TorBox tells during the activation of the Meek-Azure bridge that the bridge is offline, which is not the case. However, you can continue, and the bridge will work without any problem. You can fix the bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated. BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Pressing the enter key in the OBFS4 port definition (“port number of the OBFS4”) during the OBFS4 Bridge Relay configuration will not automatically take the latest used or the default number. This will result to a faulty torrc entry (ServerTransportListenAddr obfs4 0.0.0.0: instead of, for example, ServerTransportListenAddr obfs4 0.0.0.0:443). This will prevent tor from starting until the ServerTransportListenAddr line is fixed or deactivated. The workaround is easy: don’t press the enter key during the OBFS4 Bridge Relay configuration, but write the number into the dialogue. However, you can fix the bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated. BUG FIXED✔︎

TorBox v.0.4.0 released — welcome TorBox Wireless Manager!

In the last months, we travelled around, and with this release, we tried to implement some improvements based on our experience with the daily application of the TorBox. The most significant improvement is abolishing wicd and introducing our new TorBox Wireless Manager (TWM). Not only is the TWM much easier to use, but it also doesn’t need so much power. Another pleasant novelty is the support of Azur-Meek and Snowflake, which should also work in China. During our travels, we have noticed incorrect DNS resolution regarding torproject.org in some countries. Probably, this is a kind of cheap censorship mechanism. For this reason, during the installation and updates, local DNS resolutions are made through Google’s and Cloudflare’s Domain Name Servers instead of using the Internet Providers presetting delivered by DHCPImportant: these settings are only for TorBox local traffic; all data from the clients are routed through Tor (including DNS requests). Nevertheless, some user complained about using Google’s and Cloudflare’s DNS servers and requested to implement other DNS servers. In the FAQ, we explain our decision in detail and how someone, who cannot live with it, has the possibility to change these settings.

TorBox Image (about 1 GB): v.0.4.0 (10.04.2021) – SHA-256 values
TorBox Menu only: v.0.4.0 (10.04.2021) – SHA-256 values

We strongly recommend using the new image rather than updating an existing system. 

The new TorBox Wireless Manager, which replaces wicd.

• • •

Changelog:v.0.3.2 (24.08.2020) –> v.0.4.0 (10.04.2021)
  • Update: The system is based on Raspberry Pi OS “Buster” Lite with a Linux Kernel 5.10.17 and Tor version 0.4.5.7. The Tor Project fixed in this latest version two critical denial-of-service bugs: TROVE-2021-001 and TROVE-2021-002, of which only the first one is relevant for clients.
  • New: wicd has been replaced by the TorBox Wireless Manager (TWM). We like to hear your feedback.
  • New: Support for Meek-Azure and Snowflake implemented, which should also work in China. Meek uses a technique called “domain fronting” to send a message to a Tor relay in a way that is hard to block. Meek-Azure makes it look like you are browsing to Microsoft’s Azure server  instead of using Tor. Snowflake is an improvement upon Flashproxy. It sends your traffic through WebRTC, a peer-to-peer protocol with built-in NAT punching. However, because Meek-Azure and Snowflake are slower, OBFS4 bridges should be used first. If not needed, the best is not to use bridges in the first place. Please, tell us about your experiences with the use of bridges to circumvent censorship.
  • New: Based on several user requests, the configuration sub-menu (entry 11) comprises now an option to block all HTTP plain text traffic through Tor. This should avoid unencrypted data traffic at the Exit Node, which could break your anonymity (see here). However, it is possible that not only http-requests but also other tools, such as VPN clients, will no longer work. Where possible, we recommend installing HTTPS Everywhere in the Browser. We like to hear your feedback on your experiences about that feature so that we can decide if we should block all HTTP plain text traffic by default, starting with one of the next releases.
  • New: Based on several user requests, TorBox can be configured to be accessed with SSH from the Internet.
  • New: Based on several user requests, support for additional network driver were added: Realtek 8188eu, 8188fu, 8192eu, 8812au, 8814au, 8821au, 8821cu, and 8822bu.
  • New: It is now possible to connect/disconnect the TorBox from a VPN using the countermeasure sub-menu without changing Tor’s primary interface to the Internet. With this feature, the user can influence the route of the local network data from the command line and, for example, circumvent censorship measures that don’t allow updating TorBox. Additionally, it gives the possibility to completely disconnect the TorBox from a VPN after finishing using main menu entry 9, which enables TorBox to use route Tor over VPN (for more information about Tor over VPN / VPN over Tor, see here).
  • New: In the main menu, in the top of the right corner, a message shows not only if Tor is working (meaning https://check.torproject.org returns a positive result), but also if the TorBox is connected to a VPN (meaning that local network data from the command prompt is routed through VPN).
  • New: Installation script for Debian 10 (Buster) and Debian 11 (Bullseye) – for more information, see here.
  • Fixed: The user “torbox” was not a member of the group “netdev”, which causes a display error in the entry 1 and 3 in the update and reset sub-menu.
  • Fixed: During the installation of TorBox with the installation script, Tor will be compiled because the the Tor Project doesn’t provide a binary version for the Raspberry Pi. We had this option before in the update and reset sub-menu but not in the installation script, which leads to missing tor packages.
  • Fixed: Fixed the download path for the TorBox menu in the installation as well as in the update and reset sub-menu. We also changed the GitHub download path for the Raspberry Pi Framebuffer Copy needed for AdAfruits Pi TFT installation. GitHub is suddenly changing URLs, which is a pain in the ass.
  • Fixed: Missing path to torbox.lib in some scripts, which use Bridges and prevented Tor from restarting automatically.
  • Fixed: Wrong  menu entry relating to the countermeasure against a disconnection when idle after a restart.
  • Improved: During the installation and updates, local DNS resolutions are made through Google’s and Cloudflare’s Domain Name Servers to avoid cheap censorship mechanism. Important: these settings are only for TorBox local traffic; all data from the clients are routed through Tor (including DNS requests). For more information and an explanation of how it is possible to change it, see here.
  • Improved: The support for Sixfab Shields/HATs for cellular connections can now be installed offline.
  • Improved: The script to install the Adafruit PI TFT is now locally stored and not fetched from the Adafruit Github Repository (Adafruit changed it, and it was broken). However, an Internet connection is still necessary for the installation.
  • Improved: The support for installing TorBox on a Ubuntu 20.04 / 20.10 or Debian Buster/Bullseye system. TorBox’s implementation on other systems and hardware is experimental because we do not have the resources to check all details on all different installations. You can help us with reporting errors back to us.
  • Improved: Cleaned up the code and outsourced more essential functions into the TorBox library or separate sub-scripts. This will help to maintain the code in future releases properly.
  • Improved: The appearance of all menus has been streamlined, and in the files, we fixed some minor errors.
The Countermeasure sub-menu of TorBox v.0.4.0.
The countermeasure sub-menu of TorBox v.0.4.0 with Snowflake and Meek-Azure.

• • •

Known problems and bugs
  • LIMITATION: If HTTP plain text traffic is blocked (configuration sub-menu entry 11), .onion addresses, which use “http://”doesn’t work anymore directly with Chrome and Chromium. Both browsers will behave like all other browsers by default, because based on IETF RFC 7686, applications that do not implement the Tor protocol generate an error upon the use of .onion and do not perform a DNS lookup. However, .onion addresses using “http://” can be used through SOCKS 5 even if the HTTP plain text traffic is blocked. Onion addresses using “http://” can also be used with the Tor Browser – with or without its own Tor instance – running on a client. 🙂 In other words, blocking HTTP plain text traffic does not work if SOCKS 5 proxy functionality or Tor Browser is used on a client. 🙁 WARNING MESSAGE ADDED✔︎
    .
  • PROBLEM: People running an OBFS4 bridge relay will probably encounter the following hourly error message: “Unable to find IPv6 address for ORPort xxxx.” It seems that with Tor version 0.4.5.* the Tor Project focuses on improving the IPv6 support (until now, a Tor relay needs a public IPv4 address). At the same time, they changed the address auto-discovery behaviour (see here, here and here), which probably leads to this hourly error message. Even, the Tor Project writes in the Changelog for 0.4.5.7 that they removed “a spammy log notice falsely claiming that the IPv4/v6 address was missing”, it doesn’t seem to work completely. However, this error message has no negative on the operation and the status on Metrics. PROBLEM SOLVED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Entry 5 in the update and reset sub-menu, which should update the TorBox menu fails to remove the old lib/__pycache__ directory. Even if saying yes to remove it, the update will be incompleted because it cannot replace the old lib directory. Unfortunatelly, all files in that directory except lib/__pycache__ are deleted, so that the TorBox menu will not properly work anymore. It can be fixed with the following procedure:
    – Leave the TorBox menu by pressing ESC
    – Type sudo chmod a+w -R lib
    – Start TorBox menu again by typing ./menu
    – Start the update and reset sub-menu and execute entry 5
    .
    After this procedure and the successful update, the bug is fixed. The current image is updated.  BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: This affects only Bridge Relay operators: due to a bug in the main menu script, every second time when the main menu was started, the OBFS4 and ORPort was blocked, which set the Bridge Relay offline. You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated.  BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Already in TorBox v.0.3.2, main menu’s start-up can be stuck on the message “Checking connectivity to the Internet – please wait…” for an annoying amount of time if TorBox has no Internet connection. In TorBox v.0.4.0, the introduced timeout had no effect because we did it in a wrong way. You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated. BUG FIXED✔︎.
    .
  • BUG: Using entry 10 in the configuration sub-menu to enable the SSH access to TorBox from the Internet was not permanent when chosen so, but was permanent when chosen temporary (for a description and a quick fix, see issue #46). You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Entry 7 in the update and reset sub-menu did not erase all passwords in the TorBox Wireless Manager. To take effect, a reboot is needed. You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). BUG FIXED✔︎

    BUG: Because of a wrong variable name, the Snowflake and the Meek-Azure bridges got in the way (for details see issue #48). Nyxnor fixed the bug with the pull request #49 and #51. You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). BUG FIXED✔︎
    .
  • BUG: Since TorBox v.0.3.2, we introduced a new SOCKS v5, which supports destination address stream isolation. Unfortunately, we used the port number, which is reserved for the Tor control port. So far, this didn’t have any adverse side effects. However, this is not the way it supposed to be. For that reason, we changed the SOCKS v5 port for destination address stream isolation to 9052. You can fix these bug by changing in /etc/tor/torrc the following lines: SocksPort 192.168.42.1:9051 IsolateDestAddr -> SocksPort 192.168.42.1:9052 IsolateDestAddr and SocksPort 192.168.43.1:9052 IsolateDestAddr -> SocksPort 192.168.42.1:9052 IsolateDestAdd (with or without #) or by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5) and than copying the default torrc to /etc (cp etc/tor/torrc /etc/tor/torrc). The proposed fix will most likely break tor because the menu script must also be adapted to the new port. For that reason, the fix will be included in TorBox v.0.4.1. BUG NOT FIXED IN v.0.4.0😬
    .
  • LOOK&FEEL: Because we offer several install scripts, which dependent on the operating system, install Tor in different ways, we decided to put the repository for Tor’s binaries and sources, knowing that, for example, on Raspberry Pi OS with apt-get update an error message is shown, which does not affect. However, inexperienced users might be discouraged by the error message. See also issue #36. You can fix these bug by updating the TorBox menu (update and reset sub-menu entry 5). The current image is updated. CLOSED✔︎

Update your TorBox

We have good and bad news…

Bad News
The next TorBox release (v.0.3.3 or v.0.4.0) will probably not be published before the end of March 2021. The reason is that, currently, we travel around and test TorBox in real-world use. The drawn lessons learned will be implemented in the next releases. At the same time, as bandwidth spoiled freaks, we realized that in some places in the world the Internet connections are suicidally slow. This makes a release during our trip pretty much impossible.

Good News
If you have TorBox 0.3.2, you don’t need to wait to update the base system or the Tor version on your TorBox. First, choose entry 1 in the Update and Reset submenu to update your base system (to Linux Kernel 5.4.83). However, this will not update Tor because, for whatever reason, the Tor Project repository doesn’t support armhf anymore. To update Tor, choose entry 3 in the Update and Reset submenu. This will update Tor to the version 0.4.4.6. This version has an improved guard selection algorithms, adds v3 onion balance support and includes fixes for TROVE-2020-005.

The status message seen under entry 3 in the Update and Reset submenu after the update to the newest Tor version.

Travelling around, we expired in some countries a wrong DNS resolution regarding torproject.org. Probably, this is a kind of cheap censorship mechanism. This is why we added to our update script a set of open name servers. In other words, if entry 3 in the Update and Reset submenu produce an error and refuse to update Tor, try first entry 4, leave the Update and Reset submenu (it has to be reloaded) and try entry 3 again. In the next TorBox version, these set of open name servers will be installed as default. Important: these open name servers are only used for the DNS requests directly from the command prompt of the TorBox (during installations, updates, administrative work etc.), but not by the clients. Clients DNS requests are resolved through Tor.

We are working hard to replace wicd with our own lightweight wireless manager for TorBox v.0.4.0. The main reason is that it seems that wicd is not developed further. Several attempts to contact the developers went unanswered. The current version of wicd doesn’t support Python version 3, which produces some headaches under Ubuntu. At the same time, however, it is also an opportunity to significantly simplify the handling of wireless networks in TorBox.

Test version of the new TorBox Wireless Manager, which is replacing wicd in the next major release of TorBox.

TorBox v.0.3.2 released — all about user wishes

We are very dependent on your feedback! In this release, we have made an effort to implement your requests and improve the usability of TorBox based on your feedback.

If you download the new TorBox image or install it with our TorBox installer, it is important to notice that for security reasons, we locked/removed the user “pi”. To log into TorBox, you have to use the username: torbox / password: CHANGE-IT. Please, do not forget to change the default passwords as soon as possible (the associated entries are placed in the configuration sub-menu). Since we had to install additional software packages and update the configuration files, we recommend using the new image rather than updating an existing system. However, we have added a short guide at the end of this post for those who absolutely must update from the previous version (not older!).

TorBox Image (about 1.2 GB): v.0.3.2 (24.08.2020) – SHA-256 values
27.08.2020: the image has been updated with Tor version 0.4.3.6

TorBox Menu only: v.0.3.2 (24.08.2020) – SHA-256 values

Main Menu TorBox v.0.3.2
Main Menu TorBox v.0.3.2

• • •

Changelog: v.0.3.1 (30.05.2020) –> v.0.3.2 (24.08.2020)
  • Update: The system is based on Raspberry Pi OS “Buster” Lite with a Linux Kernel 5.4.51 and Tor version 0.4.3.6.
  • New: Based on several user requests, TorBox supports now internet connectivity over a VPN. Nevertheless, we do NOT recommend using a VPN. If Tor entry guards cannot be reached for censorship reasons, we recommend using OBFS4 bridges. Nevertheless, we consider the additional risk of this “Tor over VPN” situation  to be proportionate.
  • New: Also, based on user requests, we added in the configuration sub-menu the possibility to deactivate the TorBox access point functionality. In other words: you can now disable TorBox’s WiFi, which only makes sense, and is only possible, with (a) cable-connected client(s). 
  • New: Based on another user request, we added a new SOCKS v5 port to support destination address stream isolation. It can be chosen, if the old port 9050 without stream isolation or the new port 9051 9052 with stream isolation should be used. We consider the implementation as “experimental” because we are worried about a possible negative impact on performance when using stream isolation. We like to hear your feedback on your experiences about that feature so that we can decide if we go to enable it for the entire data streams, not only for that particular socket.
  • New: Support for 3.5“ no-name TFT displays. Please let us know if you wish to have support for additional displays.
  • New: A new feature enables the functionality to add a new OBFS4 bridge automatically. Because we do not want to overload the Tor Bridge database unnecessarily with requests, this function only returns one bridge every 24 hours.
  • New: Slowly but steady, TorBox is becoming more system and hardware independent. For that reason, the login to administer the TorBox is new „torbox“ (with the default password „CHANGE-IT“). For security reasons, on the Raspberry Pi OS, the user „pi“ is locked (TorBox installer) or even removed (TorBox image).
  • Improved: Based on several user feedback, we changed again how TorBox reconfigures its network settings. Honestly, the rewriting and fixing of the  involved scripts was a real pain in the ass, and extremely time-consuming. Hopefully, the changes will smooth the user experience once more. Additionally, we also implemented a new failsafe mechanism, which should avoid lockout events. Before this update, that mechanism was implemented in the configuration script. Now, we moved it into the rc.local, so that TorBox can fix itself at startup.
  • Improved: Also, based on user requests, we improved the way how the completion of the various operations in the update and reset sub-menu is communicated to the user. We also improved the way TorBox’s configuration files are being updated / reset. Finally, we added a time synchronization feature in the update and reset sub-menu under the entry 10 “Just fixing and cleaning”. In case of a time synchronization problem, just open the sub-menu, mark entry 10 with the space key, and press “Enter” to fix it.
  • Improved: We also improved the DHCP server capabilities, which should minimize cases in which TorBox has to be restarted when switching from one connectivity setting to another.
  • Improved: To make TorBox more hardware and system independent, we modified how the user password get changed.
  • Improved: The indicators in the configuration sub-menu are now updated after each change. This prevents incorrect entries after changing the configuration.
  • Improved: The reboot and shutdown functions have been combined in one single menu entry to save space on the main menu. 
  • Improved: The installation scripts.
  • Fixed: There was an error in the Internet indicator. When wlan1 was chosen as a source, the indicator was set to eth1 and vice versa.
  • Fixed: There was another error in the INTERNET <-> WLAN0  <-> ETH0 <-> CLIENT configuration, which could prevent a trouble-free operation.
  • Fixed: We forgot to update the package lists before  we started to update to the newest version of Tor in the update and reset sub-menu. That was not very smart and, finally, broke the update functionality. We also forgot to inform the user to which version we would update Tor, which gave the whole operation a “Russian roulette” feeling.  We now also check if we could successfully download the Tor source files and display a message if something went wrong. Moreover, because of a typo, the folder “~/debian-packages” was not removed after the operation.
  • Fixed: By choosing iOS Tethering or an USB adapter using the eth1 interface (main menu entry 8), a wrong info-screen was displayed.
  • Fixed: We switched from “service rsyslog stop” to “systemctl stop rsyslog” to change logging from high to low in the configuration sub-menu. The former worked under Raspberry Pi OS, but not under Ubuntu.
  • Fixed: An error in the installation script for the Raspberry Pi OS  prevented to set the hostname to TorBox031. Because we use the installation script to build our image, this error was also on the image.
  • Experimental: A new installation script for installing TorBox on a hardware-independent Ubuntu-system (Ubuntu 20.04 LTS 32/64 Bit) is available. 
With TorBox version 0.3.2 no-name 3.5" TFT displays will be supported.
Starting with TorBox version 0.3.2, no-name 3.5″ TFT displays will be supported (the image is from the 0.3.2 pre-version).
How to update from TorBox v.0.3.1 (30.05.2020)?

To update a TorBox v.0.3.1 (30.05.2020) installation, you can perform the following tasks. This deletes all your custom made configuration, but not alter your bridge relay keys. Nevertheless, we recommend, if possible, to use the new image.

  1. Please, make sure that TorBox has Internet connectivity.
  2. Update the system: Go to the TorBox update and reset sub-menu (main menu entry 12) and update the base system and also the TorBox menu (entry 1 and 4). This will update TorBox’s packages and the Linux kernel to version 5.4.51.
  3. To ensure that all necessary packages are installed, execute the following commands (please, make sure that you copy the entire line!):
sudo apt-get -y update
sudo apt-get -y install hostapd isc-dhcp-server obfs4proxy usbmuxd wicd-curses dnsmasq dnsutils tcpdump iftop vnstat links2 debian-goodies apt-transport-https dirmngr python3-setuptools python3-pip python3-pil imagemagick tesseract-ocr ntpdate screen nyx git openvpn
sudo pip3 install pytesseract
sudo pip3 install mechanize

  1. Replace the changed configuration files:
sudo cp etc/tor/torrc /etc/tor/
sudo cp etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf /etc/dhcp/
sudo cp etc/rc.local /etc/

The three commands above should work. Alternatively, you could also go to the TorBox update and reset sub-menu (main menu entry 12) and reset the entire TorBox configuration from there (entry 6).

  1. Restart TorBox
New: Automatically add a new OBFS4 bridge (the image is from the 0.3.2 pre-version).
Your feedback is welcome!!

We hope this version pleases you. However, we are dependent on feedback. It is not just about fixing bugs and improving usability, but also about supporting additional interfaces and hardware in future releases:

  • What do you like?
  • What should be improved (and how)?
  • What would you like to see next? Which features do you request?
Known problems and bugs
  • BUG – Entry 1 and 3 in the update and reset sub-menu should display the version of the installed Kernel, Tor, and Wicd. At the place of the wicd version, the following message is displayed: ERROR: wicd-curses was denied access to the wicd daemon: please check that your user is in the "^[[1;34mnetdev^[[0m" group. This bug has no consequences on the update procedure, but can be easily fixed with the following command at the command prompt: sudo adduser torbox netdev. To take effect, you have to reboot the TorBox. The installation scripts are already fixed – the current image is updated. BUG FIXED ✔︎
  • BUG – Additionally to the bug above, entry 3 in the update and reset sub-menu does not display the correct version of the newly available Tor version. This bug has no consequences on the update procedure. We fixed the script, which can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. BUG FIXED ✔︎
  • BUG -Another little bug (actually, it was only a typo), prevented installing the newly available self-compiled Tor version (menu entry 3). We fixed the script, which can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. BUG FIXED ✔︎
  • BUG – The Adafruit’s PiTFT installer script (entry 12 in the configuration sub-menu) aborts because it tries to work with the /home/pi directory, which does not exist anymore. We fixed the script, which can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. BUG FIXED ✔︎
  • BUG – We discovered in the script, which is responsible for restoring the bridge relay configuration an error, which, in some situations, prevent the restoring of the values in the torrc file. We fixed the script, which can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. BUG FIXED ✔︎
  • PROBLEM – Even if there is a *.ovpn file in the ~/openvpn directory and openvpn seems to run, TorBox still reports that there is neither a connection to a VPN nor a *.ovpn file available. Various factors are responsible for this:
    .
    • Currently, TorBox supports only tun0 as a valid VPN interface. Some VPN provider uses tun1, tun2, tun3, et.c in their *.ovpn files, which can be easily fixed. We modified the script, which checks the *.ovpn file and changes tun* to tun0. The fact that we only support tun0 is already mentioned in the respective information displays, but the wording has been adjusted slightly. The responsible script can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. PROBLEM SOLVED ✔︎
    • Additionally, it seems that our time-out of 10 seconds for establishing a VPN connection was a little bit optimistic. Therefore we increased the time-out to 15 seconds. The responsible script can be updated with the entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu. The current image is updated. PROBLEM SOLVED ✔︎
  • OPEN ISSUE – Why is Tor version 0.4.2.7 installed and not the newer stable version 0.4.2.8 / 0.4.3.6? For the Raspberry Pi OS, only Tor version 0.4.2.7 is available. However, after an updated TorBox menu (entry 4 in the update and reset sub-menu), Tor version 0.4.3.6 can be installed with entry 3 in the update and reset sub-menu. As of August 27, the available image file includes Tor version 0.4.3.6. We also installed the tor-geoipdb package. ISSUE CLOSED✔︎

Using 5 GHz USB WiFi adapter

It is known that the power consumption of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B can be problematic. This is especially the case if you are using a “wireless-internet to wireless-clients” connection, which involves the wireless chip on the board and an additional USB WiFi adapter. As a rule, simpler, low-powered USB WiFi adapters lead to fewer problems, meaning that this kind of USB WiFi adapters usually supports only 2,4 GHz and not 5 GHz networks. Since TorBox version 0.2.5, the Internet can also be accessed via the onboard WiFi chip so that 5 GHz networks can be tapped. However, since the USB WiFi adapter might be missing on reboot, and a user might be locked out, TorBox will reset itself after a reboot so that the onboard WiFi chip will again act as an access point and can be accessed with a SSH client. Tthere are good reasons to use a USB WiFi adapter that can access 5 GHz networks even after a reboot.

In this article, we want to investigate whether using 5 GHz USB WiFi adapters makes sense in terms of power consumption and what problems might be associated with it. We want to focus especially on the nano-sized adapters because they usually have a lower power consumption. Nevertheless, as an alternative, we tested a modern adapter, which is relatively large and has two antennas. The tests are performed exclusively on a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B because firmware updates in late autumn 2019 reduced its overall power consumption. Therefore, we assume that the Raspberry Pi 4 is in a better position than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, which to our knowledge, has not experienced any such improvement. The following adapters were (by chance) available for the test (more adapters may be tested on request – let me know):

The Netgear AC1200

The Netgear AC1200is not supported “out of the box” by Raspberry Pi. It needs to have installed a driver for Realtek RTL8812BU. Fortunately, Fars Robotics provides such a driver for a variety of kernel versions.

To install the right driver, first, the version of the used Linux kernel has to be identified with the command uname -a. With the kernel version known (for example, 5.4.51-v71+ #1327), the correct driver package can be found here: http://downloads.fars-robotics.net/wifi-drivers/8822bu-drivers/. In our example, the driver package name is 8822bu-5.4.51-v71-1327.tar.gz. The next step is to download and install the driver before the first use of the Netgear AC1200:

# The * has to be replaced by the correct kernel version
cd ~
wget http://downloads.fars-robotics.net/wifi-drivers/8822bu-drivers/8822bu-*.tar.gz
tar xzf 8822bu-*.tar.gz
./install.sh 
The "hothead" Netgear AC1200
The “hothead” Netgear AC1200

After the driver’s installation and a reboot, the Netgear AC 12000 adapter is discovered by the Raspberry Pi and ready to use. In the TorBox main menu using entry 5, we get into the network manager (wicd) and see now all available 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. (Remark: since TorBox v.0.4.0, the more stable TorBox Network Manager has replaced wicd). When we connect with one of these networks, the adapter needs an unusually long time to authenticate itself with the chosen wireless network, but it worked reliably every time. In contrast, during the tests, we would have to reset wicd again and again because it crashed during configuration. Besides, the adapter in our tests lost the connection to the Internet after a few hours. In the time available, we could not determine whether this behaviour was caused by too much power consumption, too much heat accumulation at the USB interface or the adapter, or whether the driver software was causing problems (rather unlikely). However, we noticed that the USB interface of the Raspberry Pi and the adapter heat a lot during operation, so we think it is primarily a thermal problem. These observations were made when using 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks as well as mains and battery operation. Despite this inconvenience, the adapter worked both at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. However, you can forget about any speed advantages. In our case, the network performance on the 5 GHz network was not higher than a simple 2,4 GHz USB WiFi adapters.

The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600

The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 does not work “out of the box” either – it needs a driver for the Realtek RTL8812au. Although Fars Robotics provides such a driver, currently, it is only available for the Linux kernel version 4.19.19 or older. (Remark: in the meantime, Fars Robotics has updated its driver, and you can install it the same way as described above. However, since TorBox v.0.4.0, these network drivers are already installed) In other words: with that adapter, we have to find another way to get it working. Fortunately, the project Aircrack-NG provides us with a solution:

# This should work with the latest kernel used by the Raspberry Pi OS, but probably not with older ones if the kernel headers are missing
cd ~
sudo apt-get -y install git dkms raspberrypi-kernel-headers
git clone https://github.com/aircrack-ng/rtl8812au.git
cd rtl8812au
sudo ./dkms-install.sh
The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600
The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600

After successfully installing the driver and a reboot, the TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 adapter is discovered by the Raspberry Pi and ready to use. Like the Netgear AC1200, the TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 takes an unusually long time to authenticate itself with a chosen wireless network. However, in contrast to the Netgear AC1200, there were no wicd crashes. The TP-Link Archer T2U Nano AC600 showed stable operation during the tests – at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz; in mains and battery operation. The adapter did not lose the connection to the network even during hours of operation. However, the heat development on the USB interface and the adapter was roughly comparable to the Netgear AC1200. Again, no higher network performance could be found compared to simple 2,4 GHz USB WiFi adapters.

The TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300

The TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300 is — compared with the other two nano-sized adapters — gigantic. Using two antennas and supporting the multi-user MIMO technology, we had no great hope that the adapter would run stable in our tests. Needless to say that the TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300 did not run out of the box. However, it uses the same driver as the Netgear AC1200 (Realtek RTL8812BU), which can be installed in the same way as already described above. After installing the driver, our surprise was big. Even though the wireless network’s authentication process took again an unusually long time and wicd had to be reset frequently, the TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300 showed higher stability than the Netgear AC1200. The adapter showed stable operation during the tests – at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz; in mains and battery operation, and it did not lose the connection to the network even during hours of operation. Interestingly, connected with a 5GHz network, the TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300 shows a significantly higher network performance. Random influxes cannot be excluded, but when downloading the LibreOffice package, constant data rates could be detected, which were at least twice as high as with the other two adapters or with simple 2,4 GHz USB WiFi adapters. Possibly the two available antennas with the multi-user MIMO technology come into play here. Also interesting is that the adapter warms up itself and the USB interface only slightly. This is probably due to the significantly larger surface of the adapter and the ventilation holes.

A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with the "giant" TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300.
A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with the “giant” TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300.
Conclusion

We stick to the general statement that simple, low-powered USB WiFi adapters lead to fewer problems. This is not only true for power supply, if not used the official power supply for the Raspberry Pi, but especially when searching and installing the necessary network drivers. However, the test also showed that the firmware updates in late autumn 2019 obviously solved many of the electrical supply problems that made the use of more complex USB WiFi adapters virtually impossible. In this sense, the good test results of the TP-Link Archer T4U AC1300 surprised us positively. The purchase of this adapter could be worthwhile not only concerning the availability of the 5 GHz networks but especially also regarding higher throughput due to the multi-user MIMO technology. The TP-Link Archer T2U AC600 also ran very reliably and impressed with its stability. Although it opens up the world of 5 GHz networks, higher throughput rates are not to be expected with this adapter. In contrast, the Netgear AC1200 left somewhat mixed feelings. It also allows docking to 5 GHz networks without providing higher throughput rates. However, in daily use, this adapter makes a much less stable impression. Regularly after a few hours, it loses its connection to the network, which in our opinion, is not acceptable. Probably the biggest problem of all these more complex adapters is that they are not supported out of the box by the Raspberry Pi OS.

The Raspberry Pi 4 and the trouble with its USB-C connector

A look at the underside of the Raspberry
Pi 4 reveals the board revision. If there is
a transistor directly next to the “MICRO”
lettering of the MicroSD card slot (below),
then it is the new board revision 1.2
without the USB-C bug. With an old
Raspberry Pi 4 (above), the transistor is
still located at the edge of the board
(Source: Thomas Koch and Mirko Dölle,
“Voll aufgebort: USB-C-Anschluss des
Raspberry Pi 4 ausnutzen”, C’T Heft 10,
2020, p. 136ff).

With the Raspberry Pi 4, the USB Micro-B connector has been replaced by a USB-C connector for the power supply. This was also necessary because, so far, no other Raspberry Pi model has drawn that much power. USB-C supports an electrical supply of at least 20V / 3A / 60W up to a maximum of 20V / 5A / 100W. This would be enough for a Raspberry Pi 4 under full load and additional USB devices, even if the official Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply Unit (PSU) provides “only” 15.3W. In contrast, the sold USB Micro-B to USB-C adapter is not a long-lasting solution because the maximum power delivery of such an adapter is 12.5W. Especially in the beginning, when the Raspberry Pi 4 was new on the market, there were power supply problems if the official PSU of the Raspberry Pi Foundation was not used. 

Even if the overall power consumption of the Raspberry Pi 4 was significantly improved with the firmware updates in late autumn 2019, this has not been the only problem with the USB-C connector. Due to a faulty circuit, many existing USB-C power supplies and cables cannot power the Raspberry Pi 4. Only “dumb” cables without a SOP controller are working. 

Actually, the bug was fixed with board revision 1.2, which theoretically should be available in stores starting from the end of February. However, since this is not visible on the labeling, buying a Raspberry Pi 4 is like playing Russian Roulette. By looking at the packaging, the revision of the board inside is not recognizable. If the board finally ends up in your hands, you can tell by a transistor right next to the “MICRO” lettering of the MicroSD card slot that this is board revision 1.2 or not (see image on the right side). If the board is already in operation, there are several commands to check the board revision:

# Variant 1
cat /sys/firmware/devicetree/base/model

# Variant 2
cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep Model

EXPERIMENTAL: TorBox on Ubuntu Server 20.04 LTS (32/64 bit) and other hardware platforms

We recommend running TorBox on a Raspberry Pi 3 (Model B / Model B+) or a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B under Raspberry Pi OS “Buster” Lite. However, we created a new installation script that installs TorBox on Ubuntu Server 20.04 LTS (32/64 bit) and, therefore, might run on other hardware platforms (this script is currently in an experimental state).

Please give us feedback if you are using other hardware than the Raspberry Pi and have tried this installation script under Ubuntu.

The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Technological Progress

It is not surprising that technology is playing an essential role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. However, this pandemic is the first of its kind to use modern technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) for almost real-time responses. This can be seen, for example, with Nextstrain, where the geographic spread and mutation of the virus can be tracked by examining its genetic code. Sequencing is an important, fundamental technology here that makes a detailed understanding of the virus and insights into combating the pandemic possible. It has been possible to identify the nucleotide sequence of a DNA or RNA molecule since 1995. However, there has since been breathtaking progress that has revolutionized the biological sciences.

The ways of spreading the coronavirus are convoluted. It has spread across the entire planet from its start in China. The colors represent different geographic regions. (Source: Nextstrain).

The progress of the past 25 years can be seen in the speed with which the coronavirus could be sequenced entirely. While the SARS (SARS-CoV) virus took about three months to sequence, the novel coronavirus was sequenced within a month, with the results published January 10, 2020, by Professor Zhang Yong-Zhen of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. While globalization made it possible for the virus to spread worldwide quickly, global networking is helping to investigate the virus with its unique scope and nature. Specialized laboratories that have acquired the necessary molecules for a few thousand dollars can use the published genome sequence to assemble a copy of the virus, inject it into a cell, and activate it. Of course, there is also a certain risk associated with this ability, as was demonstrated 20 years ago when a deadly virus was produced from an emailed genome sequence. In order to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands and being used for the wrong purpose, orders placed in the United States for specific pieces of DNA are recorded in a database and are only delivered to authorized laboratories. Besides, the technological hurdles for the laboratories remain quite high (for now). The big advantage of this technology is that specialized laboratories around the world can research a virus without the need for a live sample from a contaminated area. Ralph S. Baric, a US coronavirus expert, sees this technology as the future of how the medical research community will respond to new viral threats. In 2008, his laboratory at the University of North Carolina had synthesized a coronavirus for study purposes that have been not existing in nature.

We are at the point where the best of the best can start to synthesize this new virus contemporaneously with the outbreak. But that is just a few labs. Fortunately, we are still far from the point when lots of people can synthesize anything.

Nicholas G. Evans, cited in Antonio Regalado, “Biologists Rush to Re-Create the China Coronavirus from Its DNA Code“, MIT Technology Review, 15.02.2020.

Technologies based on AI not only accelerate the sequencing and analysis of genomes but are also used to support diagnostics and research. Although the analysis of a nasopharyngeal swab is the most common method of a COVID-19 diagnosis, if there is a lack of test kits or if the patient population is very high, AI techniques can use CT scans of the lungs on a triage basis to identify those patients that are most likely to be infected. However, it is rather questionable whether this technique alone can also be used to diagnose an infection. Besides, the diagnosis of a nasopharyngeal swab is more reliable and cheaper if there are enough test kits. By contrast, the use of AI makes more sense when searching for and developing effective treatment and vaccination options. For example, Insilico Medicine used AI techniques to identify thousands of molecules for potential drugs in just four days and published the results on its website. Nevertheless, AI cannot solve every problem: before new treatment methods, or vaccination options can be used, they have to pass time-consuming clinical tests, which cannot be accelerated with modern technologies. It is, therefore, still unlikely that vaccination will be available on the market before the third quarter of 2021. An overview of all the currently researched treatment methods and vaccination options can be found here.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there was not only a shortage of test kits in some countries, but with the high number of patients in intensive care units, there were also not enough valves and face masks needed to support the breathing of patients. There was also an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment for medical personnel. In part, such supply issues could be alleviated by using 3-D printers. For example, the Italian start-up Isinnova reverse-engineered a valve that is important for patient ventilation with the permission of its manufacturer Intersurgical3-D printed it, and made it available to hospitals in northern Italy. Isinnova has also manufactured a valve that can be used together with the Decathlon Easybreath snorkel mask as an oxygen mask in hospitals. The company Materialise, in turn, is offering a wide range of different products from its 3-D printers: face mask holders, face shield holdersrespiratory masksdoor openers, and shopping cart holders. In a comprehensive article that he is continuously updatingMichael Petch is tracking the wealth of 3-D printed products being created in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Encrypting ransomware lurks in the background of this 
alleged corona tracking app.

Networking plays a central role in all of these technological approaches. However, this networking can have negative consequences when the widespread fear and high demand for information are exploited. In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe in particular, false information that spread via WhatsApp and Telegram encouraged panic buying. Since the retailers were unable to replenish their shelves quickly enough for logistical and personnel reasons, the gaps suggested a non-existent supply problem, which only exacerbated the hoarding.

In the area of cybercrime, attacks using phishing emails are increasingly being used. These emails usually pretend to contain important information or offer behind a link or a document that presents itself as time-sensitive, but then download malicious and spy software or steal data, as was the case with the two alleged emails from the German bank Sparkasse and the WHO. However, even the mere dissemination of false information can cause physical damage, as demonstrated, for example, by the probable 2,850 methanol poisonings and the resulting 480 deaths in Iran. In this case, it was claimed that drinking industrial alcohol would kill the virus. As another example, in the UK, 5G cell towers were set alight because conspiracy theories claimed that the coronavirus pandemic and 5G were relatedRansomware is a particular type of malware that encrypts the contents of data carriers and only decrypts them once a “ransom” has been paid. For example, ransomware for smartphones lurked in an alleged corona tracking app. Computers in hospitals and medical laboratories are also being targeted by ransomware. In mid-March, for example, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in Illinois paid a $350,000 ransom to get its decrypted data.

How a contact tracing app works.

The threats to society that arise from the expansion and increasing use of surveillance options are at a more strategic level. Already end of April, 23 countries had introduced digital contact tracing, and 43 apps existed worldwide that enabled contact tracing. However, not all of these apps are effective or secure. The apps, all of which only use GPS, fail to provide enough precision to prevent false reports. Ten countries have gone even further and have been using facial recognition cameras (in Russia, for example); others have been added heat sensors (for example, China and Singapore), surveillance drones (for example, AustraliaChina, and India), and networked video surveillance systems (for example, Singapore). Censorship measures have been tightened in at least twelve countries (for example, in ChinaCambodia, and Singapore), and internet access has been restricted in at least four countries.

The Swiss École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne is testing its decentralized contact tracing app, with members of the Swiss armed forces helping as test subjects.

If data is to be recorded, collected, and evaluated using a contact tracing app, for example, to combat the coronavirus pandemic, certain basic conditions must be observed from an ethical perspective. Proportionality must be the first priority, i.e., data collection must be proportionate to the seriousness of the threat to public health or the restriction of public life. The consequences that the restrictive measures designed to contain the pandemic will have on other freedoms and the health consequences in the absence of such restrictive measures fundamentally affirm an ethically justifiable use of contact tracing apps. However, such apps, as well as the data collected and evaluated by them, must be restricted in such a way that they are used only for this one goal, i.e., to warn someone that has come into contact with a person diagnosed as infected. The app and data must not be misused for other purposes, lawful or otherwise, such as criminal investigations, anti-terrorism efforts, etc. In addition, there needs to be scientific proof that the solution delivers the intended added value, which is why contact tracing apps based exclusively on GPS are ethically questionable due to their inaccuracy. Besides, the data collected should be anonymized effectively and stored as decentrally as possible. Information on the recording, collection, and evaluation of data must be provided transparently; this also includes keeping the source code for such apps open. The purpose of the transfer of data to third parties must be clear to the data subjects, and they must be able to rescind permission to such data collection in the future. The use of such apps, as well as the provision of the data, must be voluntary and only for a limited time. When an effective vaccine becomes available, the data collection must be stopped, the app and existing data have to be deleted.