Tor for the Casa Lightning Node

The Casa Node now makes it possible to use Tor. Tor has some advantages over using the ‘normal internet’. For example, it promotes privacy, improves security, and the node is now also easily accessible from outside your own network.

The Onion Router

Tor, an acronym for The Onion Router (the name the project originally started with), was developed by the US government in the 1990s to protect online communications within the same government. After the code was made public and freely available, the open source project has continued to grow. A wide variety of applications now use Tor.

Today, ordinary citizens use Tor to prevent aggressive data tracking. Journalists need it to exchange sensitive and confidential information, or to escape repression from political influences. News media use it to guarantee whistleblowers anonymity.

So it is not always a question of wanting privacy, it is sometimes a necessity.

How does Tor work?

You may have heard of a VPN – a virtual private network – that ensures that your internet activities cannot be linked directly to your own network. Your internet traffic is encrypted, forwarded to your internet provider, who then forwards it to the VPN server. Because the data is initially encrypted, the internet provider cannot find out what information is being sent. The encrypted information can only be decrypted again on the VPN server, after which it is forwarded to the target location.

Tor does something similar, but a little more complex.

Instead of sending data through one server – as is the case with a VPN – Tor uses several. These servers are chosen at random and are called nodes, a kind of data conduits. All these nodes together form the Tor network. Every time your (already encrypted) data arrives at a new node, it is encrypted an extra time.

This allows for multiple layers of encryption; just like an onion. This keeps your data protected against individual nodes or against external actors. None of them can decrypt all the different layers. This also ensures that the nodes only know from which other node they received the data, and which should be the next recipient. As a result, the entire route from the beginning to the end cannot be mapped.

IP address

Tor does not use the usual IP addresses that you use on the usual internet. Tor uses special onion addresses, which offer several advantages:

  • Onion addresses are not indexed. This makes them virtually impossible to trace unless such an address is specifically shared with you.
  • Onion addresses can therefore be accessed from the Tor network, but the ‘normal’ IP addresses can still be visited as well.
  • Onion addresses are static. Where IP addresses can change, onion addresses always remain the same.
  • Unlike an IP address, onion addresses are pseudo-anonymous. This means that the onion addresses cannot easily be linked to an identity.

Tor for Casa

Security : At the moment the web interface of the Casa Node does not use HTTPS (which encrypts part of your network traffic). The data is now not encrypted, but is protected by the firewall of your own WiFi network. This is also the reason that until now the Casa Node was not accessible from an external point. If that were the case, people could be cheating on the data you send to and from your Casa Node.

But now it’s different; by means of Tor, all data is encrypted by definition. This also means that you can safely reach your node from another network, without fear of being watched.

Privacy : when you run a Bitcoin or Lightning node on the normal internet, you have to publicly distribute their IP address. Other nodes need that address to exchange data. Even though it is not always possible to find out the exact location of an IP address, this is often possible with a fair amount of accuracy. When a node appears to manage a large amount of bitcoins, it may be possible to abuse this by tracing the IP address.

Because Tor works with onion addresses, this danger is averted. There is no real world information associated with an onion address, such as location. In addition, Lightning nodes can be indexed when they have a normal IP address. Your IP address can therefore be linked to a Lightning node, making it known that you may have bitcoins.

Usability If you want to make your Casa Node accessible from another network with a normal IP address, you have to technically change things on your own network. For example , you have to forward certain internet ports . This can sometimes be done via the router, and sometimes this has to be done via your internet provider. This is often a hindrance for people who are not fully tech savvy, so this option is not an option for them.

Because an onion address can also be approached safely for the outside world, this problem is also off the table.

Casa has a detailed guide to setting up Tor for your Casa Node. Curious about what the Casa Node is at all? We previously wrote a review about it.

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