Today we are excited to announce the Alby App for users to easily (but securely!) pair Lightning nodes running behind Tor with the Alby browser extension.
At Alby our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to access Bitcoin Lightning applications on the web. That’s why Alby is known for its versatile connector backend. Just, keep your trusted setup by connecting your existing Lightning wallet to the Alby browser extension.
Many of us run their Lightning nodes on dedicated hardware at home. Thanks to projects like RaspiBlitz, Umbrel, myNode, Citadel and others this has become very simple and cheap to do. Setup your node, plug it into your router at home and you’re good to go. Typically these nodes connect to the network through Tor.
Tor allows you to connect to the Lightning Network without revealing your IP address and therefore your location. As an added benefit it is often mentioned that Tor makes it easier to connect to your node from outside your home network.
Tor for “The Onion Router” anonymizes internet traffic by routing it through a network of nodes, hiding your location and usage profile. Information is routed through many hops and encrypted multiple times. Each node decrypts only the layer of information addressed to it, learning only the previous and the next hop of the whole route. The data package is peeled like an onion until it reaches the final destination.
However, until today linking these nodes to the browser involved technical know-how and has been an endeavor. What sounds like a great solution poses challenges for browsers. To be able to connect to your node behind Tor you typically have to have a Tor client running on your computer to proxy the traffic from your browser. This is complicated and not practical for users.
That’s why we built the Alby App. It is your companion when you want to pair your remote node running behind Tor with the browser. The setup cannot be simpler: Just download and install it when you are asked so by the Alby extension. The file size is small. Installation happens within seconds. It serves as a Tor proxy for your remote node and makes use of the browser’s native messaging protocol to securely interact with your browser.
Everything happens in the background. For example to connect your LND node running on your Umbrel, RaspiBlitz or similar system: all you need is the onion address of the LND REST API from your node and a macaroon to generate invoices, send payments and provide node information (e.g. your admin macaroon). Both are easily accessible from your node’s operating system and are only added to the browser extension. No additional configuration is required.
This release greatly improves the user experience without compromising on privacy provided by the Tor network and eases the access to Bitcoin Lightning applications through the Alby extension.