So, from my understanding, Tor redirects your requests over many other tor users. Eventually, it will be actually sent over the exit node, which can basically be any computer, also mine.

I hope my understanding of Tor is correct, otherwise please correct and teach me!

I have 120 Mbit/s and 5 Mbit/s upload here, so I'm a very good candidate for an exit node, I think.

Question: Since Tor is predestinated for being used for highly illegal purposes (drugs, child pornography, counterfeit, etc.) my fear is that eventually I'm the one that acts as an exit node, held resposible for activity from someone else.

So, in this sense, how can Tor be even considered more safe and not less safe? Like I said, I really have basic knowledge about Tor, so I'm looking for some explanations, especially on safety in a legal sense.

  • Possibly of interest Five Years as an Exit Node. Personally, I would not do it because I try to mitigate risk and attention on myself - event if a large portion of that is perceived by me. – nerdwaller Dec 14 '15 at 16:29
  • Am I automatically running a tor exit node when I use TorBrowser? – bytecode77 Dec 14 '15 at 16:30
  • how can Tor be even considered more safe and not less safe You are confusing the people serving as exit nodes with the people using it for anonymous browsing. – Jan Doggen Dec 15 '15 at 7:54
  • So I'm not automatically an exit node myself? – bytecode77 Dec 15 '15 at 14:14

If you are only a Tor client (e.g. you're using Tor Browser to browse the web), you are not an exit node, or any node at all, and you are fine. Nobody will be able to tell where your traffic is going, except of course the exit node. Granted, some exit nodes might do some shady things, so HTTPS over Tor is your best option for maximum security and privacy.

If you're actively running a Tor node (i.e. you're listed as a possible route by the Tor directory authorities), that's different from just being a user. You can't be a node by accident; you have to set some stuff up. If you're not an exit node, then everything that goes through your server is encrypted, and no web service is going to know you were even involved.

If you're an exit node, then web services know traffic is going through you. Then you could get into a little trouble. The most notable thing that will happen is that you will be deluged in DMCA notices. Fortunately, that's not your fault, and Tor prepared a response letter for you. Your ISP might not be alright with you running an exit node (or any kind of proxy), and some might just disconnect you. There is a list of good and bad ISPs in this regard. Because of that, and because of warrant/seizure laws, running an exit node from your home computer(s) is almost certainly a bad idea. You'll also run into legal problems if you snoop on the outgoing traffic, but hopefully you're a good guy and aren't doing that anyway. Further reading: Legal FAQ for relay operators.

In summary, Bad ThingsTM will probably only happen if you're explicitly set up as an exit node, and even so, you'll probably be alright if you take the appropriate precautions as outlined in Tor documentation. If you don't run an exit node, you're good.

  • Very good explanation! What if the exit node is led by government authorities? Can they see what exactly you're doing? – bytecode77 Dec 26 '15 at 20:37
  • @bytecode77 What do you mean by "led"? Operated? If so, they can see the cleartext as it travels to its final destination, but they can't tell what user sent it - they'd have to control every node along the way. – Ben N Dec 26 '15 at 20:43
  • Great! Now I have a much clearer picture about what is TOR. – bytecode77 Dec 26 '15 at 20:43

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