The Tor Project has been making great strides in enhancing user privacy and security online. Their latest release promises to enhance mobile security, specifically that of devices running on Android-based platforms.
The Tor-enabled android smartphone, the first of its kind, is expected to surpass all of Google’s Android distributions by far as it will focus solely on addressing the numerous security and privacy concerns associated with the platform, which are normally overlooked.
The new Tor phone, as it has been aptly named, was inspired by the hardened Android distribution, Copperhead OS, which features significant security improvements which make the devices less prone to the commonly reported security issues.
The Tor phone is the brainchild of Tor developer Mike Perry, who feels like Android users deserve their freedom and security while on the platform.
In addition to being based on the Copperhead OS, the Tor phone will feature an app called orWall, which would primarily be used to route the internet traffic of all the installed apps on the device through the Tor network.
The app will accomplish this through the use of Orbot, an Android firewall used to block unwanted internet traffic.
Perry’s ultimate goal with his recent project is to provide mobile users with a smartphone that protects its users’ private information and respects their decisions to browse securely via the Tor network.
He pointed out the fact that the ever-developing Android landscape could create a scenario where the Android OS could face significant security threats.
For existing Tor users, maintaining their privacy no matter what platform they are using is of paramount importance and as such using a smartphone that did not meet the security standards offered by the Tor browser would be counterproductive.
VPNs for Android Do Not Offer Enough Security
Perry sought to elaborate on the issue of Android VPN APIs, which, contrary to the opinion of the majority, are not as secure as people think.
He explained that even with the use of Orbot on an ordinary Android device, the device was still vulnerable to security threats at boot.
This is why, according to Perry, orWall is such an important component of the Tor phone as it will help to route all traffic through Tor regardless of the state of the device.
Prototype Tor Phone Not Ready for All Android Devices
Tor developers are still ways off from releasing a stable version of the Tor-enabled Android smartphone.
The prototype is currently only compatible with Google Nexus and Pixel device hardware since the two are currently the only Android devices that support “verified boot” using “user-controlled keys”.
The release is expected to be reliant on Linux components for its installation and maintenance. Perry explained in a Tor blog that the release of the Tor phone is meant to be a thought-provoking gesture directed towards Google and it’s seemingly increased hostility towards the Open Source nature of the Android platform.
Currently, the prototype remains in incomplete pieces. The developers hope to increase device compatibility, Netfilter API, Orbot stability, and reducibility.