A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus, or office building.
Devices on a LAN are private and protected, such that only devices connected to the same Ethernet or WiFi network can see or communicate with them.
Your Embassy hosts itself on the LAN and is reachable by visiting its
embassy.local URL in the browser while also connected to the LAN.
When you visit an SSL secured website (https://), in addition to the connection being secured using SSL/TSL encryption, the website will present your browser with an SSL certificate showing that it (or more accurately ownership of the website’s public key) has been authenticated by a recognized Certificate Authority (CA). In the case of your Embassy, this certificate is “self-signed,” and as such, the CA is you.
Your certificate is created when you initially setup your Embassy, or migrate to a new version, such as 0.3.0.
Multicast Domain Name System (MDNS) is a protocol that resolves a human-readable hostname to an IP address on a small network, such as the home or office network you might host your Embassy on.
This is known as a “zeroconf,” or zero-configuration service, meaning that you can instantly visit a human-recognizable domain name, such as
embassy.local from your network.
This domain is not broadcast outside of your local network, so it is as private and secure as your LAN.
Visiting websites on the Tor network is slow. We wanted to provide a better option to access the Embassy at home. That’s why we created an address for the Embassy that can be accessed on your Local Area Network.
By default, this
.local address is served like a regular website, over HTTP. Browsers make it noticeable when visiting a site over HTTP in the URL bar - it could be red, show an unlocked lock, or warn that the connection is not secure.
SSL certificates are what enable websites to move from HTTP to HTTPS, which increases security and makes browsers happy. Using the Secure Sockets Layer protocol, HTTPS enabled websites use certificates to establish authenticated and encrypted links between networked computers. It’s the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data that is being sent between two devices, preventing third parties from reading and modifying any personal information transferred. They also verify ownership of a website.
Valid SSL certificates are typically issued and obtained from Certificate Authorities. These trusted third parties generate and distribute certificates, signing them with their trusted private key, which allows the clients who use them to verify their authenticity. Websites obtain a certificate from a CA then load it onto their website’s hosting service or server, allowing the website to load over HTTPS and have all traffic to and from the website be encrypted and secure.
We decided to have the Embassy act as a Certificate Authority. It creates a self-signed certificate, which means that the private key used to sign the digital certificate is the Embassy’s own private key instead of a third party’s.
When you setup SSL for your Embassy and device, the certificate communicates to the client (a browser) that the server (the Embassy) demonstrated ownership of the domain (the
embassy-xxxxxxxx.local address) to the certificate authority (created on the Embassy) at the time of certificate issuance (during the setup process). The Embassy dashboard can then be accessed from a home network (LAN) using a secure HTTPS connection!
For more information on how to setup your devices to enable this feature visit Connecting Over LAN.
The Onion Router, or Tor, is a free and open source software that enables anonymous communication. By routing Internet traffic though a worldwide, volunteer overlay network of nodes, requests are bundled in layers of encryption like the layers of an onion. The request is relayed across nodes, decrypting a layer only to reveal the next relay destination, until the request meets its final destination, without revealing the source IP address.
If a malicious third party were to intercept a request, they would see a garbled mess of the remaining onion encryption, and would only know that it came from some onion node and was heading to some other onion node. The contents, source, and destination of the message are totally anonymous.
When you use Tor to communicate with services running on the Embassy, all the traffic is onion routed and encrypted, and there are no Tor exit nodes involved - it’s totally private with no configuration needed.
Furthermore, every service on the Embassy has a different Tor address, including the device itself. This is for privacy reasons - should one Tor address be exposed, the others will not be compromised. Tor addresses are actually ed25519 keys, which means they also provide all the benefits of cryptographically secure private/public keys.
Here’s an introductory video on Tor.
The Tor Browser is a version of Firefox specifically made for use with the Tor Network. Tor Browser has Tor built-in, so that you do not need to be running Tor natively in order to use the network. This makes it a great browser for use with your Embassy.
Tor Browser has some advanced security and privacy settings, which can be useful, but please keep in mind that if you raise them from the standard level, you may be unable to use some websites, such as your Embassy UI.