Browse Anonymously on Your Android Phone With Tor

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 22, 2009

Many people use the open source application Tor on the desktop for anonymous browsing sessions. Thanks to a grant from the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge and the team behind The Guardian Project, now Android mobile phone owners can use Tor to browse privately on their handheld devices, too.

"We have successfully ported the native C Tor app to Android and built an Android application bundle that installs, runs and provides the glue needed to make it useful to end users…. secure, anonymous access to the web via Tor on Android is now a reality," writes Guardian Project team member Nathan Freitas.

The Tor release uses toolchain wrapper scripts to run Tor without requiring root access. "At this point, we are pretty convinced that the performance and efficiency of the C binary is quite significantly better than the Java-based ports of Tor running within Dalvik… this translate to a better experience for the user, with no noticeable increase in battery drain or lag on the rest of the device while Tor is running in the background," says Freitas.

Orbot, the Android app which manages installation, bundles the Tor binary, and provides the user interface is licensed under the Tor license and contains a built-in HTTP proxy.

Developers would like to get Orbot ready for a 1.0 release as soon as possible and are looking for some volunteers to lend a hand. The team also needs help modifying the privacy-focused Android browser, Shadow to make it work with Orbot's HTTP proxy. If you want to pitch in and help, drop Freitas an email or leave a comment on his blog.