File sharing and anonymous peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, in particular, have always been a hot-button issue in propriety as well as open source software communities.
There is a myriad of reasons why internet users might seek to share files anonymously, with the first that comes to mind being the plight of whistleblowers or political activists trying to avoid persecution.
Tor and OnionShare
Fortunately, thanks to open source software, there are online tools available to the general public that can facilitate sharing files anonymously over the internet.
Among the most popular and useful anonymity tools is Tor. User guide is here https://darkwebnews.com/tor-guide/
The Tor network facilitates several complementary applications, such as OnionShare, that enable anonymous file sharing.
OnionShare is a free P2P file sharing service created by technologist Micah Lee that operates without middlemen.
Micah Lee was motivated to develop the software following the revelation that Edward Snowden, the (in)famous 2013 NSA whistleblower, had trouble sending files anonymously to journalist Glenn Greenwald.
OnionShare boasts of the most secure file sharing capability available and one only has to go to Github to download it.
Among the advantages of OnionShare is that users can share files of any size hosted on their computers and the remote recipient does not need to have the software.
However, the recipient does have to use the Tor network in order to access the files.
Using it is a fairly simple process.
It does not matter how you get the OnionShare software, you must have the Tor browser to employ it.
The Tor browser package is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
OnionShare is also available for the three operating systems.
Due to the anonymity advantages of using open source software, it is often advisable to opt for the Linux operating system.
It is important for users to spend some time learning the workings of the tools that the Tor network has to offer, as this is vital to using OnionShare correctly.
Having downloaded OnionShare, installation is as simple as installing any other software on your computer.
Once you have the Tor browser bundle (includes a special customized version of Firefox web browser), click on the “start-tor” icon in the Tor directory.
This will set up anonymous connection and automatically launch the secure browser.
It is important to note that users must never check their personal email, bank account or any aspects connected to their real identity while they are anonymized.
Lack of separation of the two identities can easily compromise the anonymous file sharing exercise and the user.
The secure browser will automatically take you to a web page that will confirm if Tor is properly working and will provide the internet address you appear to be coming from.
Users will only need to do this once.
Only at this point, it is advisable to open the OnionShare app you installed.
OnionShare operates by starting a web server locally and then using Tor to make the files that you seek to share available online through the Tor services.
This means that users do not have to store these files online in order to share them.
As a result, the parties that will be able to view the files will be those with the right permissions.
Once OnionShare is running, there are two ways to add files that you want to share: clicking the “Add Files” button, or dragging and dropping the files in the white area (Drag files here) on the user panel.
In order to share the selected files, you have to start OnionShare’s web server by clicking the “Start Sharing” button.
This will automatically generate a temporary password-protected website for the files.
You can now copy this URL and send it to the remote party.
Once the recipient has the URL, they can use the Tor browser to access the download option for the files.
When the recipient is done downloading the files, OnionShare will automatically close the server on your local computer.
It is very important that Tor users employ encryption in every step of the process, especially when sending the URL to the recipient.
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