Cellphone snooping. Network surveillance. Face recognition technology. As the gadgets we search, watch, and read become more able to watch us back, Makers are finding clever ways to guard their digital privacy and maintain anonymity online. Here are a few of our favorites.
DIY Raspberry Pi VPN/Tor Router
Surf the internet securely with your very own portable Wi-Fi VPN router. Simply configure a Raspberry Pi mini computer with Linux and some extra software to connect to a Virtual Private Network server of your choice. The VPN connections create a single encrypted tunnel between your computer and a website so that spies can’t figure out what sites you’re visiting, and the sites can’t tell which computer you’re surfing from.
You can also set up this router to support Tor, The Onion Router (see next project). VPN is harder to configure, but it’s faster, and can be more secure than Tor if you trust your VPN server.
Assembly is easy — all you need is the Pi, two USB Wi-Fi dongles, an SD card, and a power plug. Get step-by-step instructions at Pi VPN/TOR Router.
Build an Onion Pi Router
Browse the web anonymously anywhere you go with the Onion Pi Tor proxy. This project uses a Raspberry Pi, USB Wi-Fi adapter, and Ethernet cable to create a small, low-power, portable privacy router.
Tor is easy to install but relatively slow because it encrypts and routes your internet traffic over several random nodes on the network before connecting your computer to a website. To use it, you don’t need a VPN server, just a Tor-enabled web browser. Tor also gives you access to a hidden layer of the internet called the Dark Web, unavailable over VPN.
When you power up the Onion Pi, it will create a new secure wireless access point. Connect to it and it will automatically route any web browsing from your computer through the anonymizing Tor network. Your tracks are swept clean. To build your own, visit Bake An Onion Pi.
GET OFF THE GRID
Make a LibraryBox File Sharer
Want to share files but bypass the internet? PirateBox is a mobile, anonymous file-sharing device, allowing anyone to upload and download from mobile phones, laptops, and plug computers. When PirateBox developers leveraged the project onto inexpensive 3G-to-Wi-Fi routers, Jason Griffey forked it to create LibraryBox.
LibraryBox is a wireless digital download hub, unconnected to the web — simply put your content on a USB stick, plug in the stick, and power up the box. It’ll even stream video and audio, and it runs all day on a rechargeable battery pack. Build yours at LibraryBox
Internet Kill Switch
While you’re away from the keyboard, your software can automatically update itself or back up data to a remote server. It can also get into lots of trouble — backdoors, bot-nets, spyware. Here’s a simple, foolproof answer: a hardware kill switch. Put it on the wired connection between your computer and router and use it to isolate that computer from the internet whenever you want. Or between your router and ISP to disconnect the entire house. Make it at Internet Kill Switch.
Kill Your Phone
Sure, you can power down your cellphone — but spies can track a phone’s location even when it’s turned off. Guard your privacy by sewing a pouch of copper- or silver-coated fabric that acts as a Faraday cage to block radio waves to and from your device.
There’s a good selection of EMF shielding fabrics at LessEMF. Look for fabrics with 70dB+ shielding performance over a broad range of frequencies — cell networks operate at 380MHz–2.7GHz, Wi-Fi at 2.4GHz–5GHz. The pouches don’t require special thread, but it’s important to fold the fabric on all sides so no radio waves can escape. Learn more at KillYourPhone.
DIY Counter-Surveillance “Stealth Wear”
Dress for low-visibility success! Mechanical engineer and artist Adam Harvey designed an “anti-drone hoodie” using metallized fabric to counter thermal imaging used by drones to spot people on the ground. He also developed CV Dazzle face and hair make-up you can wear to stymie face recognition software.
Inspired in part by Harvey’s projects, Japanese professors Isao Echizen and Seiichi Gohshi hacked goggles with an array of infrared LEDs (invisible to the eye) to foil face recognition cameras.