Over the weekend, Kickstarter suspended Anonabox, a project aimed at creating a wireless router with an embedded version of the Tor software. Kickstarter hasn't revealed why the project is no longer allowed to accept funding. However, the news arrives after many questions arose regarding the originality of the device late last week.
The Anonabox was created by August Germar of Chico, California. The idea was simple: create a 2-port wireless router with the Tor software embedded. Thus, you connect one Ethernet port to the broadband modem's WAN out and the other Ethernet port to a router's WAN in. This would allow all wired and wireless device traffic to pass though the anonymizing software before jumping onto the Internet. That's also just one way consumers could use the Anonabox.
Unfortunately, Anonabox wasn't built from scratch as the Kickstarter project led the public to believe. The Anonabox instead used a stock motherboard and case from Chinese supplier Gainstrong, which can be purchased through Ali Express. This device supposedly can be ordered without the full USB port, which, when intact, allows users to share media and files stored on a flash drive.
According to Kickstarter, a project will be suspended if the creator tries to pass off someone else's creation as his/her own. The account will also suspend funding if there is misrepresentation of support and/or failure to disclose relevant facts about the project and/or its creator. The company indicates that once a Kickstarter project has been suspended, there's no way it can be undone.
"I don't know what to say other than I never expected any of this, I was expecting to make a batch of 100 and that's it," Germar told Ars Technica. He added that the Chinese hardware did not exist when he started working on Anonabox four years ago. He said they are "generic knockoffs," yet in one of the product images, you can tell where the original Chinese name was photoshopped out.
The Tor software is typically used by Web surfers who want to remain anonymous online. The big benefit to Anonabox was that the software was embedded in the router's hardware. Because of this, Germar said it would be faster than opening the Tor software on a PC. Plus, if you placed the device between the modem and the router, all devices would benefit from the router's software.
The Anonabox project began on October 12 and quickly enlisted thousands of backers in mere days. Once complaints about the design began to appear on the Internet, backers started canceling their pledges. In our last report, the numbers had dropped down to more than 9,000 backers pledging over $600,000, an insane amount given that Gremar only wanted $7,500 in the first place.