Although Peer-to-peer offers companies a solution to share data and there are other legitimate uses for this technology, the truth is that it is often associated to online piracy. With P2P, it is easier to share copyrighted content since there is no need to upload files to a third-party server, meaning that data is less vulnerable to monitoring from copyright enforcers and government organizations. For those who use P2P for this purpose, keeping their data and identity concealed is very important. However, there is another use for P2P that truly requires the utmost level of privacy.
Journalists and whistle-blowers also rely on P2P as method to transfer sensitive information in a secure and anonymous way. Files can be transferred from one computer to the other without a high risk of being intercepted. The potential that P2P offers in this scenario, was recognized by Micah Lee, a technologist and crypto expert at Glen Greenwald’s investigative news site The Intercept. Greenwald is known by many due to his role publishing the information exposed by Edward Snowden.
While Greenwald was in contact with Snowden, one of his biggest challenges was to find a secure way for transferring files. At one point, his partner faced several hours of detention at Heathrow airport, while the UK police interrogated him in regards to a USB drive he was carrying, which contained thousands of documents obtained from Snowden.
This prompted Lee to build OnionShare, a lightweight P2P file sharing solution that sends all data through the Tor network to provide security and privacy. Here is more about what OnionShare offers.
What is OnionShare?
OnionShare is an open source, P2P file sharing program that offers the possibility of sharing files of any size, securely and anonymously. Unlike widely used filesharing solutions like Dropbox or Mega, OnionShare doesn’t require you to upload data to a server, which reduces the risk of surveillance and interception. All the information is routed through the Tor anonymity network and it goes from your computer to your recipient’s device securely.
With OnionShare, a web server is setup and it can be accessed as a Tor hidden service, via a generated URL that is not available to third parties. The URL can be shared with the intended recipient using an encrypted, private communication application such as OTR (Off-the-Record) messaging. Once the other person has the URL, they will be able to access and download the files from there.
You don’t need to use a third-party file sharing service because the data is hosted on your computer can can be accessed as a Tor hidden service. The web server can be canceled as soon as the other person has downloaded the file to make sure that nobody else can retrieve it. However, if you need to send files to more recipients, you can leave the web server running for as long as needed
Micah Lee, creator of OnionShare states that since the program is designed to bypass third parties, getting the file from one person to another over Tor in complete anonymity, it can be considered as a fully darknet filesharing solution. The recipient doesn’t even need to be running OnionShare to access the information. In order to get the file, they have to open the URL in Tor browser. Thanks to the way in which it works, OnionShare ensures that the sender’s identity is protected at all times. It can be downloaded from https://onionshare.org
How does it work?
The program is compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux and it is available in multiple languages. OnionShare supports a variety of international Unicode filenames and its simple interface makes the process simple. You can drag and drop files without complications. It is also possible to share multiple files and folders in one go and if you need to share the files with multiple users, they will be able to download the data at the same time. The URL generated is copied to your clipboard automatically and you can follow the progress of the file transfer. When the transfer is completed, OnionShare is automatically closed to prevent security issues.
OnionShare has the potential to become the most secure and effective way to transmit sensitive information without compromising your identity. However, it should be noted that there is no fully infallible solution and you need to take additional precautions if privacy is your priority. Additionally, OnionShare may not be the most convenient option for people who don’t have experience with Tor and it is not the fastest method to transfer data. If anonymity is your main concern, OnionShare is a good option.