Running Tor Node Inside Docker

Over last few weeks I have been playing around with creating docker container to host a Tor node on one of my VPS servers.

As a result of those efforts I created a Github repository: https://github.com/wlk/docker-tor-relay with the Docker image, it’s also hosted on DockerHub here: https://hub.docker.com/r/wlkx/docker-tor-relay/ (and configured as automated build)

Both DockerHub and Github README provide enough information on how to use it, so I won’t go into details here, but I’ll focus on 2 Docker features that I used in this toy project.

There are many Tor images out there, but in my case I have made 2 changes.

Mounting volumes to persist state between container restarts

This is a well known Docker feature, you can share local volumes (directories or files) with the container and configure read or write access.
This way when you restart the container or start new image with the same container, as long as you setup the same mount options your files will not be lost.

In this project I’m using volumes to persist Tor configuration and state across restarts, you can read more about this feature here: https://docs.docker.com/engine/tutorials/dockervolumes/#/mount-a-host-directory-as-a-data-volume

Running Docker container in a separate network

To achieve better security and isolation of the containers running on my host (remember that Tor container can be a one of many containers running on the same host) I have setup separate network to host Tor containers.

This feature is documented here: https://docs.docker.com/engine/userguide/networking/ if you’d like to know more, but I’m going to show how I configured it in my project:

  • Create separate network:
docker network create --driver bridge tor_network


<p>This creates a separate network named <code>tor_network</code>, you can see that it was created correctly:</p>


$ docker network ls
NETWORK ID          NAME                DRIVER              SCOPE
9a142fb1d58a        bridge              bridge              local               
3d0b9d3ee2f6        host                host                local               
1e28dc8c71af        none                null                local               
f90795b99524        tor_network         bridge              local

The bridge is the default one, so all containers started without network parameter specified will run in the same, default network

  • Run container in isolated network:
docker run -d \
--network=tor_network \
--restart always \
-p 9001:9001 \
wlkx/docker-tor-relay

Parameter --network=tor_network specifies that the container will be run in tor_network

  • Verifying that it works

To check if this is working as expected I have inspected 2 containers on separate networks and I saw their IPs as:

Docker container: 172.19.0.2
Other container: 172.17.0.2

As you can see, these containers are running in separate networks without any connection between them, executing ping from one to the other fails with timeout, same for any network connectivity.

Summary

Using more advanced Docker features I was able to achieve better isolation between containers and in result better security.
The docker-tor-relay is a very straightforward and save way if you’d like to help Tor network by running your own relay node.