Surfing Anonymously within 7 Minutes

Willi Flenda
willi.flenda@web.de

21st January 2008
version en-1.04 from
http://flenda.gratis-server.de/

Abstract

Surfing the internet anonymously is essential and simple. Section 4 instructs computer laymen how to set up JAP to protect their internet connections in less than 7 minutes.

Contents

Copyright  2007-08 Willi Flenda

This guide is compiled to the best of my knowledge and distributed in the hope you find it useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

1 Why do I need this?

To protect your anonymity is essential, both for freedom and democracy in general, as for you individually: Information about you can be used to your detriment—even if you haven’t done anything illegal.

Don’t be deceived by the fallacy that you have “nothing to hide.” This guide is not about concealing criminal activity; it is about you determining who shall know what about you. Surfing the internet abundantly reveals personal information. Systematic analysis can provide profiles that might know more about you than you yourself do. If you consent by abandoning anonymity, you expose yourself to risk. At best you are charged individually higher prices when shopping online. At worst, upon theft of your divulged identity, you get innocently involved in crimes.

Moreover, by surfing anonymously, you are helping people who work for amnesty international, face oppressive regimes, or are otherwise in dire need of anonymity for causes that you (hopefully) support.

If in real life you envelope your letters, if you don’t confide your salary, your medical record or your erotic preferences to any stranger, if you would not let any unknown into your home, already if you wear a pair of trousers—you are “hiding” something from people that is none of their business. In virtual life you need anonymity for the same reason. Within 7 minutes you will be able to guard yours.

2 What does it cost?

Nothing. Unless you count the 7 minutes to set it up. Only free software is employed, which is also available free of charge.

Broadly speaking, anonymity “costs” connection speed. Since it is achieved by mixing the traffic of thousands of users in an irreversible way (see section 3 for details), the speed of your connection must decrease by design. Popular servers, however, provide connectivity fair enough for surfing without encumbrance. Also, this guide covers the installation of an on/off button, so you can maximise speed at the cost of anonymity at any time.1

3 How does it work?

The two leading programmes for internet anonymity are JAP und TOR. Both channel your traffic trough one or several servers, encrypting where possible. Your identity can only be revealed—other than by yourself—if all used servers are compromised.

TOR and JAP differ somewhat in design, giving rise to specific pros and cons. Both projects provide detailed technical descriptions on their homepages [TOR, JAP], as does wikipedia [TOR, JAP]. This guide sets up JAP.2

Using only one server basically amounts to setting it as your proxy. It fetches sought sites in your place and transmits them encrypted to you. For instance, choosing the server “Dresden-Dresden” (for details see section 5) makes every website you surf to believe you are the Technical University of Dresden (Germany). Only with access to that server can your connections be seen (connection data are never stored by JAP).

When you use a mix cascade (eg. the CCC cascade) your identity (IP address) can only be revealed if all three servers of the cascade are controlled. Cascades thus are much safer, especially when the servers are in different countries, with at least one not subject to data retention.

All JAP servers are certified.

4 Okay, 7 minutes. What do I do?

To convince you how little needs to be done, here is the complete list of tasks: You will

Although this does not include clicks for opening or closing programmes or the like, 7 minutes clearly are a generous timeframe.

Installation comprises three steps:

  1. Installing the Firefox browser (optional)
  2. Installing and configuring JAP
  3. Installing and configuring the Torbutton in Firefox

4.1 Installing Firefox

If you are already using Firefox you can waive this subsection. Otherwise you should invest this minute and switch to Firefox. JAP does work with other browsers, but Firefox is very safe, and the extension Torbutton (explained in section 4.3) only works with Firefox. Most importantly, Firefox is free software.

To install, surf to www.mozilla.com. There you will find a button to download the setup file. Download and execute it, then follow the instructions of the installation wizard. This should work easily and smoothly. If you still encounter problems, consult http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/.

  

TIP: If you are in the habit of using a USB stick, install Firefox Portable instead. It is available at http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable. Just move the folder of the browser onto your USB stick. You can then start “your” Firefox Portable from there on any Windows computer where you connect your stick. This fosters anonymity, since no traces are left on the host computer (additionally, your settings, extensions, and bookmarks are always with you).

4.2 Installing JAP

Surf to http://anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/. Click on Download in the menu on the left hand side. At the bottom of the page there is a link to JAP.jar. Download it by right-clicking and choosing Save target as.... You can put it in any directory (you have access to), whereever it should remain.

  

REMARK: It is recommended, but not necessary, to check the signature of JAP.jar to ensure it is authentic. This, however, is burdensome. If you want to verify the file, instructions are at http://anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/pgp/sigtest_en.html.3
3For technical people: Indeed, it defeats the purpose that the file, the key, and the fingerprint are on the same server.

IMPORTANT: Set up JAP to start up automatically when the system does. To do so with Windows4 go (with the explorer or via “my computer”) to the directory where you saved JAP.jar. Right-click on it and select Create shortcut. In the current folder a new file named Shortcut to JAP.jar appears. Right-click on it and choose Cut. Now click on the Start button of your task bar, click on (All) Programms and then double-click on Autostart. A new window appears. Therein, right-click and select Paste. Shortcut to JAP.jar should appear.5 The automatic start-up is set up, you can close the Autostart window.

Now execute JAP by double-clicking on JAP.jar.

ATTENTION: If double-clicking on JAP.jar fails to start up JAP, see Appendix A.1 for help and read on when you see JAP’s configuration wizard.

  

TIP: A .jar file is portable by construction. Just move it onto your USB stick and you can start it at any computer with Java by double-clicking. This way you always have an anonymous portable Firefox on you.

The configuration wizard comes up. It should be self-explanatory; however, since this guide encompasses setting up the extension Torbutton, it is neither meaningful nor necessary to complete the wizards instructions. Simply choose your language in the first dialogue (and click Next), click Next in the second dialogue, choose the green options in the next two dialoges (and hit Next), hit one more time Next, then choose the simplified view and finish by clicking two more times Next and finally Finish.

JAP now connects to its network. If it suggests a paid cascade, decline with No and select one free of charge, or a single mix (more about choosing mixes in section 5). Ensure that Anonymity is turned On.

Immediately proceed to install Torbutton as detailed in the following section: Your anonymity is not protected yet!

4.3 Installing Torbutton

Surf to https://addons.mozilla.org/de/firefox/addon/2275 and install the Firefox extension Torbutton. It has been developed for TOR, but with minimal adaption it is equally suited for JAP.

After restarting Firefox upon installation, the text Tor Disabled appears in red at the right corner of your status bar. Open the preferences menu by right-clicking on it and choosing Preferences.... At Proxy Settings check the option Use custom proxy settings and type “localhost” into all text fields on the left hand side, and the number “4001” into all textboxes on the right hand side. (You can choose to have an icon instead of the text by changing the Display Settings.) Confirm with OK.

With a simple click on this text/ the icon of Torbutton you toggle your anonymity status between Disabled and Enabled. Whenever it is Disabled you are surfing just as until now, without anonymity. When it is Enabled you are redirected via JAP, thus anonymous. If JAP is not running while Torbutton is Enabled, you get an error message and cannot surf. You need to start JAP (or abandon anonymity). If JAP is running, you can switch at any instant your current status by a simple click on the button (if necessary, reload the page).

Set the Torbutton to Enabled. Surf to any website of your choice. Congratulations! You have reached it anonymously.

5 Which Mix?

With JAP you can choose where to connect to. To start with, consider the CCC cascade and Dresden-Dresden.

The CCC cascade is a mix cascade with three servers. As explained in section 3 this increases security significantly. Connection speed, however, may deteriorate if not enough traffic is taking place. Recently bandwidth has been sufficient for surfing during rush hours; at tranquil times it has not. In this case, switch to Dresden-Dresden. Don’t forget to check back later whether the CCC cascade is already fast enough again.

Dresden-Dresden is a single server. The connectivity reached here is sufficient for comfortable surfing at any time. Only if you need huge files fast you could consider foregoing anonymity for that connection. As explained in section 4.3 this only takes one click. Inspect the Torbutton regularly to verify you are surfing anonymously.

After having convinced yourself of the necessity and convenience of surfing anonymously, if you wish for higher connection speed, you might give a thought to using a paid cascade occasionally. If you do, prefer one with servers in different countries. This way your data are also protected from single governments. Bear in mind that data retention vaporizes your anonymity unless at least one server does not retain connection records (because it lies in a country that does not force this).

6 That’s all? I am 100% safe?

No. You have made a first large step towards informational self-determination. Yet, don’t fall prey to the illusion of absolute security. First, an anonymous connection notwithstanding, some applications can give away your identity. Second (and more improbable), JAP itself (especially when using only a single server) could be compromised. The key point, however, is: With JAP you are always much safer than without.

6.1 What could leak my identity?

Other programmes.
Naturally, JAP makes those connections anonymous that are channeled through it. Only Firefox is set up do to so in this guide.6 If you don’t collect e-mails via webmail, it will not be anonymous. Also all other programmes that access the internet don’t do it anonymously, including filesharing and update checkers. Most accesses should be blocked by your firewall (set it up to do so); for some you will have to find solutions that are beyond the scope of this guide.
Scripts.
Java and JavaScript are executed locally on your computer and can be used easily to identify you. If you can do without, it is best to deactivate them. Presumably you cannot. This is one of the reasons to install Torbutton: According to its developers it mitigates all known anonymity issues of JavaScript. Java is really best disabled, despite some popular sites (like YouTube) requiring it. It is not only a risk for anonymity, it is a general security risk. [report]
Cookies
are short texts that websites store on your computer and retrieve upon re-arriving later. Identifying users is trivial and common. To complicate matters, they are sometimes very useful, eg. in fora or when shopping. Generally declining them thus is no option, devising site-specific rules burdensome. The recommended approach is to set their lifetime to until I close Firefox and define, where necessary, exceptions. Consider also using the function Clear private data.
Missing end-to-end encryption.
JAP can only encrypt within its network. Whenever you request an un-encrypted website, the last JAP server fetches it in plain text. This might leak personal data (eg. with insecure forum or webmail login). Whenever possible, use SSL-encrypted connections. They are indicated by an address beginning with “https” instead of “http” and by the yellow instead of white background of the address bar. Whenever impossible, be aware you are transmitting plain text that can be read by everybody as long as it is not in the JAP network. Also use scp instead of ftp.
User Error.
If you yourself reveal your data, eg. in online forms, no technology can help. Bear in mind that already your e-mail address is sold expensively, and handle your personal data responsibly.

6.2 What’s next?

Encrypt and sign your e-mails.

An internet search of “GnuPG” promptly delivers all necessary information and free software that you need.

7 About this guide

This guide was written to enable people without computer science background to protect themselves. It cannot contain in-depth technical details or an encompassing list of the reasons for privacy (to not risk making it too long to be read). Feel free to provide that yourself and let me know about it.

For any comments, suggestiones, discussions, or contributions, send me an email to willi.flenda@web.de. Don’t be shy about writing me! Keep it clear and consice and in plain text, though (and don’t expect an immediate answer; but I will reply, unless I get overwhelmed).

  

TIP: You can send anonymous emails from http://anonymouse.org/.

This text is free. Use it as you wish in accordance with the license (basically, it must stay free).

If you want a German version of this text, mail me. If you’ve prepared another translation, please send it.

Most importantly, send this to everybody who is not surfing anonymously yet. Give them a chance to protect themselves, as you can.

7.1 Version history

2008/01/21en-1.04

Incorporated data retention, inserted link, converted to UTF-8, produced HTML version.

2007/11/05en-1.03

Added anonymous mails and .jar help, improved structure.

2007/10/19en-1.02

Improved ToC and cover sheet.

2007/10/18en-1.01

Minor linguistic changes.

2007/10/17en-1.00

Version en-1.00 completed.

A Troubleshooting

A.1 Executing the .jar file does not start JAP

Proceed as follows.

  1. Check whether Java is installed.
    Fire up a command line (Start (All) Programs Accessories Command Prompt). Type java -version and press enter; if the response is “Command or file name not found,” Java is not installed.7 Click on your operating system at the download page and get a full installation file including Java. Follow the instructions on the website and the problem should be solved.
  2. Execute the .jar file as a Java programme.
    If during the last step the command prompt provided a Java version, only the execution of .jar files seems to fail. Run java -jar JAP.jar from the command line, while being in the directory where JAP.jar is. JAP is supposed to start up. To do this automatically after booting your computer, click on Start (All) Programs Accessories Editor to get an editor. Type exactly java -jar JAP.jar and save the file as jap.bat in the directory where JAP.jar is (Make sure to select all files (*.*) as file type in the dialogue for Save, so that the file name does not become jap.bat.txt.) Now create a shortcut to this jap.bat file, and put it in the Autostart folder (instead of the shortcut to JAP.jar directly; delete that), just as described in section 4.2.

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