A year in review (2023)

From our humble beginnings in 2015, to now (almost 2024), we’ve undergone many significant changes in the almost 9 years of our existence. We’ve established ourselves as a legitimate organization that is on a mission to fight Internet censorship, and provide various services to individuals & organizations seeking privacy and security. In 2023, a lot of work has been done to accomplish that mission. That’s why we’re starting our own “year in review” to go over all of the major developments that continue to challenge and inspire us.

A year in review (2023)

Operation Envoy: Defeating Censors

In July of 2023, we started Operation Envoy, an effort to scale up our Tor bridge and snowflake proxy operations that help deliver messages (packets) to and from the Tor network. This helps users experiencing Internet censorship, or those who wish to mask their use of Tor. We focused heavily on deploying snowflake proxies around the world. At the start of the operation we were serving 93TB of symmetrical snowflake proxy traffic looking at the past 30 days.

30 days of past traffic at the start of the operation (July 2023)

As of December of 2023, in the last 30 days we’ve served over 121TB of symmetrical traffic to snowflake proxy users. We started with 34 CPU cores and 58GB of RAM from servers deployed around the world. We’re ending the year with the same core count, but with a bit less RAM at 53GB. However, we’ve served more traffic due to server provider changes and software upgrades.

30 days of past traffic at the end of 2023 (December 2023)

Our Operation Envoy metrics are publicly accessible, and can show you the direct impact that we’re making. Have a look.

In 2024, we will continue expanding our CPU core and RAM counts, but we can’t do it without your help! If you like what we do and want to support our mission, consider making a donation.

FreeSocks, proxies that circumvent censorship

To continue our efforts and follow our mission in providing censorship-resistant Internet access, in late December we launched FreeSocks. A service that provides free, open & uncensored Outline (Shadowsocks) proxies to individuals in countries experiencing a high level of Internet censorship.

A screenshot of the FreeSocks website

We’ve spread news about the service on social media, and we’ve seen a gradual and steady increase in users since the launch.

In 2024, we will scale the service to meet our user’s needs and write a blog post about how we built the core of FreeSocks on Cloudflare Workers in a privacy respecting way. Again, we can’t run services like these without your help.

Tor exit relays

In addition to our front-line censorship circumvention services, we have run numerous high-bandwidth Tor exit relays for many years.

We’ve recently become #16 in the top exit families, and have a 1.03% exit probability according to OrNetStats. That means, you may be one of the 1% of Tor network users who exit traffic through our relays.

A screenshot from OrNetStats

Over the past 30 days, we’ve greatly improved our Tor exit relay setup, which consists of 2 hypervisors. Each having an Intel Xeon E-2276G, 64GB of RAM and a 1Gb/s NIC. We’ve spent a lot of time revising this setup to maximize bandwidth and resource usage.

Our Tor exit relay bandwidth bitrate over the past 30 days

This optimized setup has allowed us to push 2Gb/s of symmetrical traffic at any given time. In a single 24 hour period, we pushed nearly 20TB of traffic through our relays.

Our bandwidth usage over a single 24 hour period

If we continue at this rate for 365 days, that would be close to 7.3PB (Petabytes) of traffic for an entire year. With your help, we can do even more than this, and continue pushing tons traffic for Tor network users.

Unredacted Guides

In November of 2023, we launched Unredacted Guides. We aim to aid users in setting up, configuring and launching privacy/security focused software. It’s one thing to run these services ourselves, but helping others do the same only increases awareness and impact.

As of writing this post, we have 2 guides.

In 2024, we will continue to refine existing guides and write new ones in accordance with our mission.

Chat services

Our oldest projects are our chat services. XMPP.is was launched in 2015 and our Matrix server was launched in 2021. For many years, thousands of individuals have used our chat servers to exchange messages back and forth between friends and family. These remain a crucial part of our mission, as it allows people to communicate securely and privately.

In November, we made efforts to secure XMPP.is based on the teachings from the jabber.ru MITM attack, and shared our work in a blog post.

We will continue to maintain, monitor and secure our chat services for the years to come.

Infrastructure changes

Over the past year, we’ve made significant improvements to our server orchestration and the security of our services and website.

We use many self-written Ansible roles and playbooks to deploy and maintain our servers. We’ve made a lot of refinements in this area which has made deploying and maintaining new services easier than ever.

On the security side, we’ve utilized Cloudflare Access heavily on critical parts of our websites and locked down server access behind Tailscale. In 2024, a focus of ours will be to further secure our infrastructure from potential attacks.

Funding

While we’ve always paid for our services mostly out of pocket, 2023 was unfortunately one of the lowest in terms of funding, and it was far under our operational costs (domains, servers & SaaS providers). With that said, we greatly appreciate those that made contributions. Any amount helps us in carrying out our mission.

2023 Donation Totals (USD):

Cryptocurrency (calculated at time of writing): $127
Stripe (credit cards): $68
PayPal: $23
Total: $218

To continue our mission, we need your support! We allow one-time or recurring donations via multiple payment methods, including PayPal, credit cards, cryptocurrency, Open Collective, Patreon & Liberapay.

In 2024, we will launch a fundraiser in an attempt to cover our operational costs. This will be announced in the form of a blog post.

What’s next?

Regardless of funding for our services in 2024, we will make an attempt to expand them, and create new ones. We’ll continue working on awesome projects, and providing them to the masses.

In 2024, we will explore the possibility of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and assess it’s feasibility. We’ve always been non-profit focused, but legitimizing ourselves as a US tax deductible non-profit has its perks and it may be the next step in the growth and expansion of our organization.

Happy holidays!