Consequences of running Tor node on your server or home computer

A lot of people, websites and communities encourage you to run your Tor node – middle node or bridge, not exit node, but none of them tell you about real consequences of keeping a Tor node active for a long time. So, here I’m going to share with you my experience of running middle node on VPS/dedicated server and home router. This post is divided into parts, one shortly describes problems when running Tor on your home IP, and the second section is about running it on your server. It describes my experience, so not all of it applies to you.

This post is meant as a warning for you, because a lot of portals and people will tell you to help Tor by hosting a node, as it doesn’t cost anything… but they don’t tell you what are the costs not in terms of money.

To note: this post is not about exit-node as some may claim, and I highly doubt the node was “misconfigured” to give such effects, my torrc is public, tell me if there is something wrong with it.

Tor node with your home IP

If you use Imgur to upload pictures, you won’t be able to do it anymore. Imgur blocks Tor nodes; not only exit nodes from uploading images. They block also middle nodes and bridges from their services. If you think it affects only Imgur, you’re wrong; you also won’t be able to upload images on other websites that use Imgur for image hosting like StackOverflow – or any other StackExchange portal.

Active IRC user? Freenode won’t let you connect. They also block all Tor nodes from connecting to their servers.

Why Imgur and Freenode block ALL nodes, not only exit-nodes? I have no idea. Probably it was easier to implement and less error-prone, as some Tor nodes can quickly change from middle node to exit node. I believe they wanted to be safe now, than sorry later.

Some forums will bock your IP. I don’t remember the names, sorry about it, but there are Linux-forums with discussion and solutions that will block you. The one I had most problems with just shows a blank page. Completely white page, no error, no 40X HTTP status code… just pure white page.

Tor node on your (virtual or dedicated) server

You are doomed.

OK, not completely.

Incorrectly configured Tor node will suck a lot of your CPU and network resources, your ping and page load time will increase.

IP and linked domain will be automatically posted on 100s of websites that analyse Tor network and automatically publish results. You will be surprised how many of them are out there. You will get a lot of backlinks, from sources you probably don’t want, like 0 PageRank, a lot of repeated content, without nofollow parameter. 1000s of bots daily will visit your IP and domain from those sources. This will affect your SEO negatively.

Do you have own email server? You will find your IP on lists of unsafe IP addresses that are blocked by some servers. Your emails won’t be delivered, you might not get a response other than “connection timeout”. This happened to a Polish pro-privacy organisation Panoptykon which also hosts copy of their website as .onion. The organisation tried to contact with Ministory of Economy. The same happened to me, trying to contact a different Polish government body.

Don’t even think about hosting .onion without properly securing your web server from crawlers! That points is based on experience of the blog you are reading right now. My blog was available in Tor as .onion domain. After some time, someone or something linked .onion blog with .onion.to appendix to domain. This completely screw me over. I had visitors reading posts from b.agilob.net, agiloblulimjeqlq.onion and agiloblulimjeqlq.onion.to I didn’t had to wait long before searching engines punished my domain(s?) for publishing identical content from more than one source. I didn’t expect it to happen, I wasn’t prepared. If you plan to do it, block visits with X-Forwarded-Host HTTP onion.to to your server.

Plenty of companies, probably most of them, have network filters. They block websites you shouldn’t visit at work, for many reasons, one of them is security, another one… they might not want you to visit facebook or youtube with proxies or anonymising services.. so yes, my IP address was added to such list 2 months ago, since then I’m unable to visit my blog, read my private email at work, my nextCloud is also blocked – same IP.