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26 October 2009, 12:01

Native C port of Tor for Android - Update

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Zoom The Orbot GUI on Android.
Developer Nathan Freitas has announced that the native C Tor application has been successfully ported to Android, including an application that "installs, runs and provides the glue needed to make it useful to end users". The Onion Router, commonly referred to as Tor, is free software designed to provide internet anonymity to users while browsing online. It does this by bouncing the communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers from all around the world, preventing visited sites from learning a users physical location.

Freitas's new Android application is called Orbot and it bundles the Tor binary, handles installation on a device and provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for starting and stopping Tor. According to Freitas, "the performance and efficiency of the C binary is quite significantly better than the Java-based ports of Tor running within Dalvik … this translates 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". Within Orbot users can also view the log and the program includes a built-in HTTP Proxy. In the future Freitas wants to modify the open source Shadow browser from the University of Cambridge in order to make it work with the Orbot HTTP proxy.

This isn't the first Tor application for Android. In mid-September a group of developers at the Digital Technology Group (DTG) at the University of Cambridge released a Java based version, however, Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project told The H's German associates at heise Security that he had doubts about the reliability of TorProxy and believes the programs are "not ready for prime time use". Applebaum advised a direct port of the C based Tor client, which is exactly what Freitas has done.

More details about the software are available in the Orbot announcement blog post. The first Orbot code is available to download and is considered to be at an early development stage. According to Freitas, he is currently pushing for a public release via the Android App Market "very soon" and contributors are welcome. Orbot is licensed under the Tor License.

Update: Appelbaum told heise Security that he is working with Freitas on the native C Tor application port and has been "working on adding IPv6 support for entry into the Tor network". According to Appelbaum, Tor will have IPv6 for bridging soon, followed by exit nodes and later Tor directory services.


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