Just days ago, we reported on a device that sits between a user's computer or mobile device and a network router. Called Anonabox, this wireless router supposedly allows users to surf the Internet anonymously thanks to built-in Tor software. The Kickstarter project has already reeled in 9,191 backers pledging $613,749; the goal is a mere $7,500.
Now there are reports that the Anonabox wasn't built from scratch as the Kickstarter project wants the public to believe. The Anonabox instead uses a stock motherboard and case from Chinese supplier Gainstrong, which can be purchased through Ali Express (opens in new tab). The team, led by August Germar, is now accused of reselling stock Chinese components for a higher price and using stock photos that were pulled from the Ali Express website and edited in Photoshop.
According to the Ali Express listing, the device is a wireless repeater with two Ethernet ports and a USB port; the USB port can be used to share media and documents stored on a flash drive. The listing says it's the smallest router in the world, and it does not mention anything about using the Tor software. One Ethernet port is for connecting a network's main router, and the other is for connecting a laptop, a computer or other wired devices.
"By our fourth round of prototypes we had created a model with 64mb memory and a 580mhz CPU. This not only runs the software well, it flies!" the Kickstarter page describes. "At last happy with the board, we designed a simple, minimalist case in plain white to house it. The end result is our current model."
Over on Reddit, there's an entire section dedicated to the Anonabox device. One thread reveals that the software installed on Anonabox doesn't support HTTPS, meaning that users will likely be less secure when using the Anonabox than if they were merely Web surfing behind a normal router. Another complaint is that the device uses OpenWRT, which has its own share of bugs.
"You sound surprised with the idea of a USB port," states one Reddit user when talking with August Germar about the missing USB port. "Explain the USB traces on your board. Are you standing by your claim to have designed the 4th gen board from scratch? Are you standing by your claim you did not adapt an existing board from China?"
There's another Reddit post that summarizes the controversy, pointing out that during an AMA, August Germar refused to admit that the team is using off-the-shelf hardware, and that he refused to admit that the case is not an original design by the team.
Does it really matter that the Anonabox team is using off-the-shelf parts? Is the Anonabox really a scam? We'll have to see how this all plays out. However, if the device is legit, then August Germar may need to reword some of the Kickstarter verbiage to reflect where the parts originated.
What's interesting is that the Kickstarter project began on October 12, 2014, and four days later there are more than 9,000 backers pledging over $600,000. As of this article, the number of backers actually dropped from 9,191 to 9,168.