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I've heard of Torservers and Noisetor. I've considered donating to them, but I want to avoid consolidating the Tor network in those two organizations, so I'd like to operate my own Tor node. (I also think it might be more interesting and educational to run my own node than just to donate every month).

How can I make sure that my node is as useful to the Tor network as possible? Are there steps that I should take to make its network contribution more useful? Are there things that I can do to make my node more secure? Are there things I can do to make it less likely that someone will try (or succeed) at taking down my Tor node? Are there things that I should definitely make sure not to do when running my node?

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    There seem to be several distinct questions here, some of which are covered in other questions. 1) What's the most useful kind of relay. 2) How can I secure my relay. 3) What should I avoid doing with my relay. – Megan Walker Oct 14 '13 at 17:45
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... most useful Tor node?

It mostly depends on you, assuming you can keep the machine up 24/7, all types of Tor relays are useful for the network.

  • If you have a good bandwidth, a good ISP and you can keep your box fairly secure, you should consider running an exit node. You may find Tor Exit Guidelines wiki page useful.

  • If you have a good bandwidth you may want to run a non-exit relay.

  • If you don't have a lot of bandwidth, you may run a bridge. Preferably an obfs3 one, as we don't have much of them currently. These bridges are very useful to censored users, while they don't eat a lot of bandwidth.
    You may find Tor cloud project interesting.

make my node more secure?

At very least you should be able to keep your machine secure in general. Having a simple/basic firewall can be very useful. It's better to have a more secure machine if you're running an exit node.

Are there things I can do to make it less likely that someone will try (or succeed) at taking down my Tor node?

If running a non-exit relay, you don't have to be worry about this. If running an exit node, you may find Tor Exit Guideline and Legal FAQ for Tor Relay Operators useful.

Are there things that I should definitely make sure not to do when running my node?

Yes, do not try to manipulate or censor the traffic you get. Specially if you're running an exit relay. This can get you a bad exit flag.

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To answer your questions in order:

"Are there steps that I should take to make its network contribution more useful?"

Yes: making sure you have adequate bandwidth is one, as well as keeping it up 24/7 and keeping it up-to-date. You may also want to set up a bridge of some kind, to help those in censored countries reach an uncensored internet.

"Are there things that I can do to make my node more secure?"

Again, keep it up-to-date. Make sure you have good antivirus software and a properly configured firewall.

"Are there things I can do to make it less likely that someone will try (or succeed) at taking down my Tor node?"

You should read your ISP's Terms of Service to make sure they allow Tor relays/exits; some do not, and will take action against you.

"Are there things that I should definitely make sure not to do when running my node?"

Some things you should do: If you're running an exit relay you may want to set up exit policies, as well as have a plan of action in case the authorities come knocking due to suspicious activity originating from your relay. These resources can help:

Tor Legal FAQ
Tor DMCA Response

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How can I make sure that my node is as useful to the Tor network as possible?

To me useful means that many users can profit from your node. So a high-bandwith 24/7 running node would be best. However sometimes there are limitations. Maybe you have to pay for extra bandwidth or you can spend only a fixed amount of traffic. In general it is better for the network to have high-bandwidth nodes running even if they don't run on every day. So instead of reducing your bandwidth it might be better to set AccountingMax and leave the other options as they are.

Sometimes also CPU is the limiting factor. So if you have lots of bandwidth available and many CPUs inside your node, it might be a good idea to set up different Tor processes. They utilize the CPUs than a single process.

Are there things that I can do to make my node more secure?

In general you should follow general advice to secure your computer. I see no Tor-specific advice here.

Are there things I can do to make it less likely that someone will try (or succeed) at taking down my Tor node?

You find an entry called Tips for Running an Exit Node with Minimal Harassment in the Tor blog. It contains a good descriptions of all the things you should be aware of.

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