The in-the-works Janus Privacy Adapter is, hands down, the coolest piece of networking hardware I've seen (via hackaday) all year. The so-called Privacy Adapter has two RJ45 ethernet jacks and is intended to be placed in-line between your computer and Internet connection. After plugged in and given around 60 seconds to fire up, it anonymizes your web traffic through your choice of the Tor network or OpenVPN.
Tor 101Those of you all too familiar with this blog will remember the Tor network from my post that detailed how to setup Tor with the BitTorrent utility Azureus. In a nutshell:
Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.
The long-standing problems with Tor are two-fold. For one, it depends on volunteers to host exit nodes and historically speaking, the Tor network is generally very slow from relying on nodes run on mediocre Cable/DSL lines. Also, Tor is not 100% secure for some value of secure. Exit nodes can be monitored and data can be harvested about users.. but the Tor network is about anonymity not privacy. Motivated people monitoring exit nodes (much like using an SSH tunnel and then just monitoring the remote computer's traffic, if you can find it) may discover unencrypted user data but not know who that data belongs to. That reminds me of when AOL leaked search queries and people were able to determine patterns and find out personal information, but I digress.
The biggest pain is setting up the Tor network with every software application that connects to the Internet. If you're not careful and leave a few applications unconfigured, you can leak out DNS lookups and easily provide potential snoopers data about your web browsing habits. If you've tried to follow my Tor + Azureus post, you know that setting up Tor and its required software is a huge annoyance and you can't be entirely sure that your IP won't leak through with a faulty configuration.
The Janus SolutionJanusPA seeks to put an end to the Tor software configuration issue with their hardware creation. There's not software to configure, just plug it in and it routes your web traffic through the Tor network, or viable alternative OpenVPN.
Your real IP will never leak through this, regardless of the application you are using!
When released, the JanusPA won't be cheap. Just taking a look at the parts that comprise it, it seems like a final version would be in the 200+ dollar range. Some might like to stick to a cheaper SSH tunnel route as I often use when traveling and using untrusted networks, especially since I can't always count on finding an ethernet line instead of Wi-Fi.
Regardless of any drawbacks discussed here, this JanusPA would be warmly welcomed in my arsenal of gadgets. Now to see if this can't be paired to a small Wi-Fi access point.
Janus Privacy Adapter: Useful, cool concept or expensive gadget for the paranoid? Would you buy one?