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The Anonabox May Not Be Entirely Original

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. 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.

Follow Kevin Parrish @exfileme. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • ABagOfFritos
    Thank you for posting this. It's important to let your users know there may very well be good reason to avoid this product.
    Reply
  • applegetsmelaid
    Well, he did only set of a goal of 7500 bucks, I don't know why peeps have such high expectations - cause he certainly didn't.
    Reply
  • bootsattheboar
    Well, he did only set of a goal of 7500 bucks, I don't know why peeps have such high expectations - cause he certainly didn't.
    So because he was only looking to scam people for a quick $5000, that makes it okay? $7500 was likely his personal limit between a waste of his time and worth the bother flashing and shipping X number of boxes. In any business venture, you should go in with humble expectations. If the market rewards you big, so be it. If not, no problem: move on to the next thing. As for the device itself, I see nothing wrong with what he's doing so long as he's upfront about it. Doubling the wholesale price is pretty typical method of calculating retail markup, although one would hope he's ordering them in bulk from alibaba instead of singly at aliexpress. He's adding value by customizing the firmware stack running on the device, but ultimately this is something you can do yourself with any ddwrt compatible wireless router.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    Kickstarter scams are not unheard of. This one screamed scam from the start, :P
    Reply
  • rwinches
    So, It's impossible for them to have their design made in China?
    Reply
  • rwinches
    Yes I see the USB traces in the video so still it could be that the China firm suggested a mod of an existing product. Their stated goal is to get the price down. I think this is going to be OK if performance is good and it should be as the TOR function is in an external appliance instead of a local browser
    Reply
  • rwinches
    Until Nov., 11 people can back out.
    Will the built in firewall provide the protection needed to cover the OpenWRT issues.
    is HTTPS supported?
    Or is this project immature and needs further refinement?
    The main problem is claiming custom HW and clearly it is not.
    Reply
  • ewok85
    The issue is that many of the claims are proving to be false, which leaves doubt over how much of the rest of their claims are wrong or baseless.

    The hardware itself has been around for more than 6 months in its current design, the SoC is more than 2 years old. The Anonabox people had zero input into the hardware, they just picked something off the web.

    The software is also completely untouched by the developers - the OS is OpenWRT, which already has versions available for this hardware. Their Tor implementation is also unoriginal - they are using PORTAL by grugq, of course with zero acknowledgement that most of the heavy lifting was already done by someone else.

    What they have provided is the settings they use: http://anonabox.com/about/code.php

    People have already pointed out numerous issues with this - the password is clear as day (developer!). The default wireless is unencrypted and without a password. On top of that every box uses the same SSHD host key. These are extremely easy things to work around - the WT3020H as shipped by the manufactuer in China (NEXX) comes more secure than this, with each unit having a random wireless PSK which is printed on the bottom of the unit.
    Reply
  • rmirwin2
    Note, funding is suspended!
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Kickstarter kicked it out.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/10/16/this-debunked-kickstarter-project-may-be-the-biggest-crowdfounding-fail-to-date/
    Reply