Nos oignons wouldn't exist without the providers accepting to host our Tor relays. We are more than pleased to announce that the associative Internet Access Provider from Bordeaux Aquilenet is now helping us to add 50 Mbps of capacity to Tor network!
We have always prefered small hosting providers, despite the often large incurred cost. On our donation webpage, we're giving a rough estimation of how much a single relay costs us per month: it's around 200 euros.
This might surprise some people used to much cheaper offers by mainstream hosters. We're making the conscious choice to look for alternatives, like the tetaneutral.net or Globenet associations, or medium-sized commercial hosting providers like Gandi and Ielo-Liazo.
For an association like Nos oignons, dedicated to strengthen the Tor network, cost is just one criteria amongst others.
The diversity of the network
The Tor network is currently suffering from a diversity issue: a large majority of the relays is hosted by OVH, Online and Hetzner, three mastodons of mainstream web hosting; offering very competitive price.
Because of the way paths are constructed inside the Tor network by the clients, a comprehensive view of the network could be obtained by compromising these three entities, allowing to conduct various straightforward deanonymization attacks.
By chosing to use other hosters, Nos oignons significatively improves the quality of the Tor network: the more relays are hosted by different entities, the more difficult it is to conduct global monitoring of the network, and therefore the more secure it is.
Internet isn't only made of friendly entities, various dragnet attacks are permanently taking place: scans to search vulnerabilities to exploit, spams and phishing campains, credentials bruteforcing…
The go-to procedure to mitigate those is to send an email at the
address of the attacker's hoster, so that appropriate actions, like a
contract termination, could be taken.
The Tor network is sometime used for malicious purposes, that's why our relays, who represent a bit more than 1,5% of the total exit trafic of the Tor network, generate a significant amount of abuses (most of them are generated by automatic systems). In some cases, these may be legal requisitions, calling for a swift answer.
In order to be more responsive and to alleviate our hosters, we are asking them for a delegation in the WHOIS database for the IP addresses of our relays, so that abuses are sent to us directly: we do have, within Nos oignons a dedicated team to handle them properly.
Unfortunately, it is often impossible to obtain a delegation from the aforementioned large hosting companies: the only people dealing with abuses are their own employees, and it is often much easier to shut down the offending servers than to investigate. Sometimes Tor is simply completely banned from their network, to reduce the load on their abuse management and legal teams.
A relationship based on trust
The concept of trust also matters a lot: we do trust our hosters to not tamper with, nor modify the connections coming out of our relays, because we know them well, and we regularly interact with each other.
This is not the case with other mainstream hosters, that we don't know as well, and in whom we surely do not have the same trust, especially those days.
We're also chosing hosters that are abiding by the net neutrality rules.
A human-based relationship
Internet, is not only made of machines exchanging data together, it's also human being, talking, communicating, building, repairing, producing…
We do prefer to have a more human and solidary relationship with our hosters, instead of being yet an other client number that pays the bills: our hosters are helping (materially and humanely) because they are convinced that what we're achieving is important.
Because they're small, they don't have the same means as the tech giants, so they are therefore more expensive but also more inclined to make us discounted prices when possible.
Trust, relationships and shared interest in the Tor network created years after years bring for example tetaneutral.net to offer to significately raise the bandwidth of our relay marylou(1, 2) after an evolution renegociation of their peering agreement. This allowed Nos oignons to increase the capacity of the Tor network by 250 Mbps without any impact on its budget!
An other member of the Fédération des Fournisseurs d'Accès Internet
wanted to contribute to the Tor network by offering us a virtual machine and
50 Mbps of bandwidth, for free. This new exit node is called
elenagb, after Elena Gianini Belotti, writer and sociologist,
who highlighted in her book "Dalla parte delle bambine" the extent of sexist
discrimination that exists from early childhood.