The Consequences of Running a Tor Exit Node From My Apartment

For a couple of years I’ve been donating all my spare bandwidth to the Tor network by running some intermediate relays, including one in my apartment. A little while back I decided that, as a social experiment, I’d flip the switch and turn my home internet connection into an exit node. I knew I’d have to abandon the experiment after a couple of weeks, because I was sure that the consequences would be some subset of the following:

Imagined Consequences:

  • Someone uses Tor to DDOS a government website, it looks like it was my wrongdoing and I have to explain myself to the feds.
  • The IP address at my home gets blacklisted as a notorious spammer and no one lets me connect to their servers ever again.
  • <ISP redacted> starts throttling my connection and blocking ports because I’m clearly abusing their terms of service.
  • No one cares about DDOS, spam, or excessive bandwidth use. However, <ISP redacted> throws a shit fit at the scores of of DMCA complaints they’ve received, so they threaten to cut off my service, beat me up, and get me deported.
  • It all goes on my permanent record.

There is a lot of advice for running an exit relay, but I only took two precautions. First, I put up the Tor exit notice, and second, I set an exit policy which ought to block bittorrent. So, the experiment lasted more than two weeks. Actually, it’s now been 6 months and I can report:

Real Consequences:

  • Yelp blocks Tor by IP address, so I can’t use Yelp from home.

That’s it.

Just that. No police, no throttling, no angry letters. Just, every once in a while I click a link to Yelp, they tell me I can’t get there from here, so I don’t. And in the meantime, my home internet connection keeps facilitating private, anonymous, and secure traffic. Like, 2 terabytes per month. (I’m kind of surprised no one from <ISP redacted> has contacted me over that one, and don’t really want to push it.)

Used to be the family computer. Now it's a tor exit node.
Used to be the family desktop. Now it’s a tor exit node.

The only other thing to consider is that there is now one more hybrid category of consequences:

Real/Imagined Consequences (Apt Paranoia):