I am a web developer who has an assignment to make a web shop for something that is in a bit of a legal grey area for my country but not in the country where the client resides. I was wondering what kind of precautions I should make when researching the topic.

Is a VPN enough or should I also setup a proxy? Do I need to use Tor browser or is that a bit much?

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    I'd start by asking a lawyer whether "developing a web shop for something that is in a grey area" is itself in a grey area (could be construed as "aiding and abetting" perhaps). – LSerni Dec 7 '18 at 14:03
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    If you just want to do some anonymous research on the topic, TOR is probably enough. But if you actually want to do what you've been asked (possibly illegal) then you might have bigger problems (how do you get paid and how can you justify that?), so you might not want to accept this assignment. – reed Dec 7 '18 at 14:04
  • Is the topic illegal to search in your country? I'm not sure why you would need to cover your tracks while researching. – schroeder Dec 7 '18 at 14:25
  • Factor in travel and lodging for the project and go complete the project in the country in which it is legal? – DarkMatter Dec 7 '18 at 14:35

Tor browser is designed exactly for this purpose.

Unlike a VPN, which alone is really only useful for providing confidentiality and integrity between you and your ISP (e.g. when using hotel WiFi), Tor is designed explicitly with anonymity in mind. It is easy to use and free, and provides an extremely good level of anonymity, which is perfect for research of illegal or questionable material. Using it is most certainly not overkill. It is a good idea.

VPNs have a nasty history of recording browsing history even when they say they don't, and revealing the logs to law enforcement when they request it. Tor, which connects to a website over three random relays, is designed such that no individual relay is able to simultaneously know both who you are and what website you are visiting. This is what provides such a good level of anonymity.

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  • Can Tor be used to tunnel all internet traffic? For example, lets say, pushing new code or uploading files (port 21) and things like that? – Kevin Voorn Dec 10 '18 at 10:54
  • @KevinVoorn It can be used to tunnel all TCP traffic, but generally it's not a good idea to do so since it confuses the Tor program so it can't isolate streams for anonymity properly. It's a technique called "transparent proxying" and it's usually recommended against. If you want to use Tor only, you should block all non-Tor traffic, and individually configure each application to use the SOCKS proxy exposed by Tor. – forest Dec 10 '18 at 10:58

I would simply set up a VPN in the country in question, or a similar country where researching would not be a problem. Then all work is done from that location. You do not need end-to-end coverage, just coverage from your immediate country.

I would also suggest doing all development using this remote method.

But that's all from the technical perspective. It sounds like you need to consult a lawyer on doing any of this work at all.

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Good idea is to buy VPS or dedicated server from some "free speech" provider.

Then you can set up your own VPN on it, which you are sure that doesn't gather any logs. From this VPN you can connect with tor.

If you can afford it, a dedicated is better than VPS, because you have better control over it.

You can also set up some scripts that generate fake traffic to your server, so your ISP can't correlate the time when you connect to your VPN with the time that several things on internet were made.

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  • This seems overkill given how much it would cost compared to equally good free solutions. – forest Dec 10 '18 at 9:54
  • It may be a bit overkill, but it is better to be sure that he doesn't leaves any evidence. – user192960 Dec 12 '18 at 14:04
  • Sure, but you don't explain how to buy a VPS anonymously. – forest Dec 13 '18 at 0:50
  • I haven't said to buy it anonymously. – user192960 Dec 13 '18 at 8:16

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