My Tor Hidden Service IRC Server

One of my core beliefs is that privacy is necessary in order for freedom to flourish.  I believe that all speech should be free and there should be no fear in discussing any topic.  Unfortunately, we no longer have privacy, most conversations are recorded and used to either advertise to us or implicate us should we do something that goes against the state.

In an effort to do my part to provide a safe place where people can speak anonymously, where people can communicate without being spied on, and where no one needs to fear for their safety based on something they said, I built an IRC server running as a TOR hidden service.

For those that don’t know, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is an older chat protocol that is text based and relies on a central server that users connect to using IRC client programs.  In order to use this you will need to download an IRC client and the TOR browser bundle (or TOR service depending on your OS), but I’ve taken care of the server.

The server is where I have made this secure and anonymous.  As it is a TOR hidden service, when you connect to it you’re connecting through multiple encrypted routes, hiding your location and the data you send over the connection.  TOR hidden services are as secure as you the end user want them to be.  While nothing is 100% secure on it’s own, we can try our best to get there.

I’m going to walk you through how to connect to this IRC server, but before I go further here are a few basic Op Sec rules you should follow if you’re going to use it and want to maintain security and anonymity.

  1. Don’t use your real name as your user name. Don’t use any user name you’ve used before as chances are a determined attacker would be able to connect that user name to your real name.
  2. Don’t say anything that can link your user name to the real life you.
  3. Assume that everyone you are talking to is out to get you. If you want to talk about armed revolution or buying drugs or other illegal stuff assume that the person you’re talking to is an FBI agent.  Consider that before providing information that could de-anonymize you.
  4. For closer to 100% security connect from public internet locations (libraries, coffee shops etc.). While secure and anonymous there is always a risk that a zero day exploit is being utilized by a  bad actor.  By not connecting at home you add another layer to your protection.
  5. Use a virtual machine to connect. Or a Live USB like Tails (link).  Leave no permanent trace of your connection on your machine.  Consider masking your MAC address as well.  Look into how to spoof your MAC address and add that to your security toolbox.
  6. Connect over a VPN before connecting to TOR.  This hides your use of TOR from your ISP.  Sometimes the fact you just use TOR is a flag for suspicion, because they can’t see what you are doing they assume that what you’re doing is wrong.  (I hate that adage “I have nothing to hide” because it’s total bullshit.  If you have nothing to hide then why not publish every single conversation you’ve ever had?  I guarantee that 99.9% of people wouldn’t want that to happen.  A little rant there, sorry I got sidetracked, it happens sometimes.  Can you tell privacy is something I care about?)

Following all these steps might be extreme.  Consider what you are doing and talking about when deciding what to follow in terms of Op Sec.  If you’re just chatting with some friends then following none of these is probably fine.  If on the other hand you’re planning a revolution in and oppressive country maybe consider following all these steps (and more).

How to Connect

With that little intro out of the way here are the basics on how to actually connect and use this service from a Windows machine (which I assume most of you are using).  The steps are similar for MAC and Linux, but I can’t provide detailed instructions for all operating systems.

  1. Download and install the “Tor Browser Bundle” and “Hexchat”. These are the two programs you will need to both anonymize yourself and connect to the IRC server.
  2. Start up the TOR Browser (after installing and updating).  You will need to have this running every time in order to connect to the hidden service.  Start it first just to make life easier.
  3. Start up Hexchat (or any IRC client you prefer but I can’t make instructions for all of them sorry 🙁 ).
  4. Enter the following in HexchatThe nick name can be whatever you want as can the User name.  Remember Op Sec when making these.  Name the new network and click add (you’ll see the name I used under as “TorIrc”.)
  5. Now click Edit
  6. Add the server info overwriting the default info that is there.  Here is my server info: 3dx7fjh7vfpi7aby.onion/6667 . Be sure to press Enter after adding the info or it won’t stay.
  7. Now we have to make some small change to the setting in order to have HexChat utilize TOR.  Connect to the server and ignore the error messages that will be showing up saying the server is offline.  Make sure you have TOR running and click “Settings” and “Preferences” . Then under “Network Setup” Where it says Proxy Server enter:
    • localhost
    • 9150
    • SOCKS5
    • All ConnectionsClick “OK”.
  8. Now that your connected time to join a channel. Type /join #channelname  (replace “channelname” with the name of the channel you want to join). If a channel doesn’t already exist with that name it will be created. I didn’t set up any permanent channel or nickname servers.  This was done in an effort to increase anonymity (and because I was struggling with it and spent far too much time on this), but comes at the expense of trust.  Be aware of this when creating and joining channels.  Someone you spoke with yesterday might not be the same person today.  If you’re concerned about who you’re talking with always whisper them and confirm their identity.  How you do this depends on your Op Sec but code words are generally a good method.  If you’re just looking for a “shoot the shit” channel join #general .
  9. Get chatting. If you’re not familiar with IRC it might be worth looking up some basic commands and uses.  Mess around and feel free chatting in anonymity.

I will run this server as long as it is being used.  It was simple enough to set up and I hope that this small contribution to free and unlimited speech helps someone somewhere.  We are facing a time where our discussions are more monitored than ever.  It is up to us, as the people of this world, to do what we can to preserve the freedom we have.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to avoid sliding backwards to oblivion.

If you have any questions or problems with setting this up please let me know in the comments and I will try to help.  I’m not the best at creating guides so if it needs improvement I’m always happy for some feedback.

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