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This is an ansible role for tor relay operators. An introduction to relayor can be found here.

Email Support: relayor-support AT

The main focus of this role is to automate as many steps as possible for a tor relay operator including key management (OfflineMasterKey). Deploying a new tor server is as easy as adding a new host to the inventory, no further manual configuration is required.

This role only manages tor instances as per the current settings and variables. If you change the configuration after a complete playbook run, to reduce the number of tor instances, for example by reducing the value of tor_maxPublicIPs, this role will not remove the previously configured tor instances from your server. Tor instances on a server are identified by their IPv4 and ORPort combination. Changing the ORPort (using the tor_ports variable) after initial rollout, effectively means creating new tor instances (not changing them), this is the reason why changing the tor_ports variable should be avoided after the initial rollout.

Keeping the tor package updated (an important task of running a relay) is not in scope of this ansible role. We recommend you enable automatic updates to keep your relay well maintained if your OS supports that. The Tor Relay Guide contains instructions on how to enable automatic software updates for Debian/Ubuntu and FreeBSD.

This ansible role does not aim to support tor bridges.

Main benefits for a tor relay operator

  • automation - no more manual setup tasks
  • security: offline Ed25519 master keys are generated on the ansible host and are never exposed to the relay
  • easy Ed25519 signing key renewal (valid for 30 days by default - configurable)
  • security: compartmentalization: every tor instance is run with a distinct user
  • automatically makes use of IPv6 IPs (if available)
  • automatic tor instance generation (two by default - configurable)
  • enables tor's Sandbox feature by default on Debian-based systems
  • easily choose between alpha/non-alpha releases (Debian/Ubuntu/FreeBSD only)
  • easily restore a relay setup (the ansible host becomes a backup location for all keys out of the box)
  • easily choose between exit relay/non-exit relay mode using a single boolean
  • automatic deployment of a tor exit notice html page via tor's DirPort (on exits only)
  • automatic MyFamily management
  • prometheus scrape and nginx reverse proxy config autogeneration for tor's prometheus exporter (when enabled)
  • automatically generates prometheus blackbox-exporter scrape configuration to monitor reachability of ORPorts and DirPorts (when enabled)


This ansible role is available on galaxy

ansible-galaxy install nusenu.relayor


Control Machine Requirements

  • do not run this role with become: yes
  • tor >= 0.4.5
  • python-netaddr package must be installed
  • required commands: sort, uniq, wc, cut, sed, xargs
  • openssl >= 1.0.0
  • ansible >= 2.12.7
  • bash under /bin/bash

Managed Node Requirements

  • a non-root user with sudo permissions
  • python
  • static IPv4 address(es)
    • we can use multiple public IPs
    • if you have no public IP we will use a single private IP (and assume NAT)
  • systemd (all Linux-based systems)

Supported Operating Systems

  • Debian 11
  • OpenBSD 7.2
  • FreeBSD 12.3, 13.1
  • Ubuntu 22.04

Supported Tor Releases

  • tor >= 0.4.7.x

Example Playbook

A minimal playbook using ansible-relayor to setup non-exit relays could look like this:


- hosts: relays
    - nusenu.relayor

For more examples see the playbook-examples folder.

Changed torrc defaults

This role changes the defaults of the following torrc options to use safer options by default but you can still explicitly configure them via tor_config:

  • NoExec 0 -> 1
  • Sandbox 0 -> 1 (on Debian only)

Role Variables

All variables mentioned here are optional.

  • tor_ContactInfo string

  • tor_signingkeylifetime_days integer

    • all tor instances created by relayor run in OfflineMasterKey mode
    • this setting defines the lifetime of Ed25519 signing keys in days
    • indirectly defines how often you have to run your ansible playbook to ensure your relay keys do not expire
    • a tor instance in OfflineMasterKey mode automatically stops when his key/cert expires, so this is a crucial setting!
    • lower values (eg. 7) are better from a security point of view but require more frequent playbook runs
    • default: 30
  • tor_config dictionary

    • this dictionary contains torrc settings and their value, for available options see the 'SERVER OPTIONS' section in tor's manual.
    • each setting can only be set once (regardless what tor's manpage says)
    • this dictionary can be used to set any torrc option but NOT the following: OfflineMasterKey, RunAsDaemon, Log, SocksPort, OutboundBindAddress, User, DataDirectory, ORPort, OutboundBindAddress, OutboundBindAddressExit, DirPort, SyslogIdentityTag, PidFile, MetricsPort, MetricsPortPolicy, ControlSocket, CookieAuthentication, Nickname, ExitRelay, IPv6Exit, ExitPolicy, RelayBandwidthRate, RelayBandwidthBurst, SigningKeyLifetime
  • tor_ports

    • This var allows you to
      • select tor's ORPort and DirPort
      • reduce the number of Tor instances created per IP address
    • disable DirPorts by setting them to 0
    • tor's 'auto' feature is NOT supported
    • HINT: choose ORPorts wisely and never change them again ;)
    • NOTE: on SELinux-enabled systems you must choose from the following ports:
    • 80, 81, 443, 488, 6969, 8008, 8009, 8443, 9000, 9001, 9030, 9050, 9051, 9150
    • default:
      • instance 1: ORPort 9000, DirPort 9001
      • instance 2: ORPort 9100, DirPort 9101
  • tor_offline_masterkey_dir folderpath

    • default: ~/.tor/offlinemasterkeys
    • Defines the location where on the ansible control machine we store relay keys (Ed25519 and RSA)
    • Within that folder ansible will create a subfolder for every tor instance.
    • see the documentation if you want to migrate instances to a new server
    • note: do not manually mangle file and/or foldernames/content in these tor DataDirs
  • tor_nickname string

    • defines the nickname tor instances will use
    • all tor instances on a host will get the same nickname
    • to use the server's hostname as the nickname set it to {{ ansible_hostname }}
    • non-alphanum chars are automatically removed and nicknames longer than 19 characters are truncated to meet tor's nickname requirements
    • tor_nicknamefile overrules this setting
    • default: none
  • tor_nicknamefile filepath

    • this is a simple comma separated csv file stored on the ansible control machine specifying nicknames
    • first column: instance identifier (inventory_hostname-ip_orport)
    • second column: nickname
    • one instance per line
    • all instances MUST be present in the csv file
    • non-alphanum chars are automatically removed and nicknames longer than 19 characters are truncated to meet tor's nickname requirements
    • default: not set
  • tor_gen_ciiss_proof_files boolean

    • generate the rsa-fingerprint.txt and ed25519-master-pubkey.txt proof files on the control machine for publishing according to ContactInfo spec
    • default paths are: ~/.tor/rsa-fingerprint.txt and ~/.tor/ed25519-master-pubkey.txt
    • the files are overwritten if they exist
    • the location of the output folder can be configured using the variable tor_ciiss_proof_folder
    • the filename is hardcoded to the one required by the specification and can not be configured
    • default: False
  • tor_ciiss_proof_folder folderpath

    • defines the output folder for generated proof files
    • default: ~/.tor
  • tor_LogLevel string

    • sets tor's LogLevel
    • default: notice
  • tor_alpha boolean

    • Set to True if you want to use Tor alpha version releases.
    • Note: This setting does not ensure an installed tor is upgraded to the alpha release.
    • This setting is supported on Debian/Ubuntu/FreeBSD only (ignored on other platforms).
    • default: False
  • tor_nightly_builds boolean

    • Set to True if you want to use Tor nightly builds repo from
    • nightly builds follow the tor git main branch.
    • Only supported on Debian and Ubuntu (ignored on other platforms).
    • default: False
  • tor_ExitRelay boolean

    • You have to set this to True if you want to enable exiting for all or some tor instances on a server
    • If this var is not True this will be a non-exit relay
    • If you want to run a mixed server (exit and non-exit tor instances) use tor_ExitRelaySetting_file for per-instance configuration in additon to this var
    • default: False
  • tor_ExitRelaySetting_file filepath

    • this is a simple comma separated csv file stored on the ansible control machine defining the ExitRelay torrc setting for each tor instance (instead of server-wide)
    • first column: instance identifier (inventory_hostname-ip_orport)
    • second column: "exit" for exit tor instances, any other value (including empty) for non-exit tor instances
    • this var is ignored if tor_ExitRelay is False
  • tor_RelayBandwidthRate_file filepath

    • this is a simple comma separated csv file stored on the ansible control machine defining the RelayBandwidthRate torrc setting for each tor instance (instead of server-wide)
    • first column: instance identifier (inventory_hostname-ip_orport)
    • second column: value as accepted by RelayBandwidthRate (see tor manpage)
  • tor_RelayBandwidthBurst_file filepath

    • this is a simple comma separated csv file stored on the ansible control machine defining the RelayBandwidthBurst torrc setting for each tor instance (instead of server-wide)
    • first column: instance identifier (inventory_hostname-ip_orport)
    • second column: value as accepted by RelayBandwidthBurst (see tor manpage)
  • tor_ExitNoticePage boolean

    • specifies whether we display the default tor exit notice html page on the DirPort
    • only relevant if we are an exit relay
    • default: True
  • tor_exit_notice_file filepath

    • path to a HTML file on the control machine that you would like to display (via the DirPort) instead of the default tor-exit-notice.html provided by the Tor Project
    • only relevant if we are an exit relay and if tor_ExitNoticePage is True
  • tor_AbuseEmailAddress email-address

    • if set this email address is used on the tor exit notice html page published on the DirPort
    • you are encouraged to set it if you run an exit
    • only relevant if we are an exit relay
    • Note: if you use your own custom tor-exit-notice template this var is ignored if you do not include it in your template.
    • default: not set
  • tor_ExitPolicy array

  • tor_ExitPolicy_file filepath

    • this is a simple semicolon separated csv file stored on the ansible control machine defining the ExitPolicy torrc setting for each tor instance (instead of server-wide)
    • first column: instance identifier (inventory_hostname-ip_orport)
    • second column: value as accepted by ExitPolicy (see tor manpage)
    • example content: "myrelay-;reject *:25,reject *:123"
    • only relevant if tor_ExitRelay is True
    • this can be combined with the tor_ExitPolicy setting and will override it (this is more specific)
    • only tor instances that you want to have a specific exit policy for are required to be listed in the file (others can be omitted)
    • default: not set
  • tor_maxPublicIPs integer

    • Limits the amount of public IPs we will use to generate instances on a single host.
    • Indirectly limits the amount of instances we generate per host.
    • default: 1
  • tor_IPv6 boolean

    • autodetects if you have IPv6 IPs and enables an IPv6 ORPort accordingly
    • you can opt-out by setting it to False
    • default: True
  • tor_IPv6Exit boolean

    • enables IPv6 exit traffic
    • only relevant if tor_ExitRelay and tor_IPv6 are True and we have an IPv6 address
    • default: True (unlike tor's default)
  • tor_dedicatedExitIP boolean

    • on exit relays only: use a distinct source IP address for traffic leaving the tor network (exit traffic)
    • this means tor will establish outbound exit connections on a separate IP(v4/v6) address (different from the IP announced in the consensus)
    • automatically configures the OutboundBindAddressExit tor feature (does not require you to manually specify the IP address to use)
    • we will use the public IPv4/IPv6 address(es) available directly after the IP addresses we use for tor ORPorts for OutboundBindAddressExit
    • to make use of this feature you need more public IPv4 or IPv6 addresses than tor_maxPublicIPs
    • if this condition is not met we will abort
    • manually specifying the IP address used by OutboundBindAddressExit is not supported
    • default: False
  • tor_enableMetricsPort boolean

    • if True enable tor's MetricsPort on the localhost IP address and allow the same IP to access it (MetricsPortPolicy)
    • this is a relayor beta feature and will change in the future to use the safer unix socket option once that becomes available
    • enabling this setting automatically disables OverloadStatistics if it is not enabled explicitly (so tor will not publish/upload the data to directory authorities because we use MetricsPort locally)
    • default: False
  • tor_MetricsPort_offset integer

    • defines the TCP MetricsPort used on the first tor instance running on a host
    • additional tor instances will use an incremented port number 33301, 33302, ...
    • so if you run N instances on a host, the next N-1 ports after this port have to be unused on so tor can use them for MetricsPort
    • default: 33300
  • tor_prometheus_host hostname

    • this variable is only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort is True
    • it defines on which host ansible should generate the prometheus scrape configuration snipped to scrape tor's MetricsPort
    • this host must be available in ansible's inventory file
    • default:
  • tor_prometheus_scrape_file filepath

    • this variable is only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort is True
    • it defines the absolute filename where ansible will place the generated prometheus scrape config
    • the contents of this file need to be pasted into your prometheus scrape configuration to scrape the tor MetricsPorts
    • default: ~/.tor/tor-prometheus-scrape-configs
  • tor_gen_blackbox_scrape_config boolean

    • when set to True we add the necessary prometheus scrape config for blackbox exporter TCP propes in the file defined by tor_prometheus_scrape_file
    • we monitor all relay ORPorts and when set DirPorts on IPv4 and when detected IPv6
    • default: False
  • tor_blackbox_exporter_host hostname:port

    • only relevant when tor_gen_blackbox_scrape_config is True
    • defines where prometheus finds the blackbox exporter
    • the host is written into the resulting prometheus scrape config
    • default: localhost:9115
  • tor_blackbox_exporter_scheme string

    • defines the protocol prometheus uses to connect to the blackbox exporter (http or https)
    • default: http
  • tor_blackbox_exporter_username string

    • allows you to define the username if your blackbox exporter requires HTTP basic authentication
    • if you do not set a username the scrape config will not include HTTP basic auth credentials
    • default: undefined (no HTTP basic auth)
  • tor_blackbox_exporter_password string

    • only relevant when tor_gen_blackbox_scrape_config is True
    • allows you to the the username if your blackbox exporter requires HTTP basic auth
    • the default generates a 20 character random string using the Ansible password lookup
    • default: "{{ lookup('password', '~/.tor/prometheus/blackbox_exporter_password') }}"
  • tor_metricsport_nginx_config_file filepath

    • this variable is only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort is True
    • it defines the filepath where the nginx reverse proxy configuration for MetricsPort will be stored on the relay
    • this file has to be included in your webserver configuration on the relay to make MetricsPort accessible for remote prometheus scraping
    • default: undefined (no file is generated)
  • tor_gen_metricsport_htpasswd boolean

    • this variable is only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort is True
    • when this var is set to True, we create the htpasswd file that can be used by a webserver on the relay to protect tor's MetricsPort with HTTP basic auth
    • the file will be owned by root and readable by the webserver's group (www-data/www - depending on the OS)
    • we do NOT install the webserver, use another role for that.
    • the password is automatically generated and 20 characters long (each server gets a distinct password)
    • the path to the file on the relay is defined in tor_metricsport_htpasswd_file
    • the plaintext password is written to a file on the ansible control machine (see tor_prometheus_scrape_password_folder)
    • default: False
  • tor_metricsport_htpasswd_file filepath

    • only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort and tor_gen_metricsport_htpasswd are set to True
    • it defines the filepath to the htpasswd file (containing username and password hash) on the relay
    • default: /etc/nginx/tor_metricsport_htpasswd
  • tor_prometheus_scrape_password_folder folderpath

    • only relevant if tor_enableMetricsPort is True
    • ansible will automatically generate one unique and random 20 character password per host (not per tor instance) to protect the MetricsPort via nginx (http auth)
    • this variable defines the folder where ansible will store the passwords in plaintext (password lookup)
    • the filenames within that folder match the hostname (inventory_hostname) and can not be configured
    • the variable must contain a trailing /
    • default: ~/.tor/prometheus/scrape-passwords/
  • tor_prometheus_scrape_port integer

    • defines what destination port is used to reach the scrape target (MetricsPort) via nginx
    • default: 443
  • tor_enableControlSocket boolean

    • if True create a ControlSocket file for every tor instance (i.e. to be used for nyx)
    • access control relies on filesystem permissions
    • to give a user access to a specific tor instance's controlsocket file you
    • have to add the user to the primary group of the tor instance
    • the path to the socket file(s) is /var/run/tor-instances/instance-id/control
    • this setting affects all instances on a given server
    • per instance configuration is not supported
    • default: False
  • tor_freebsd_somaxconn integer

    • configure kern.ipc.somaxconn on FreeBSD
    • by default we increase this value to at least 1024
    • if the value is higher than that we do not touch it
  • tor_freebsd_nmbclusters integer

    • configure kern.ipc.nmbclusters on FreeBSD
    • by default we increase this value to at least 30000
    • if the value is higher than that we do not touch it
  • tor_package_state string

    • specify what package state the tor package should have
    • possible values: present, latest (not supported on BSDs)
    • Note: The repository metadata is not updated, so setting this to latest does not give you any guarantees if it actually is the latest version.
    • default: present
  • tor_binary string

    • name of the tor binary on the control machine used to generate the offline keys
    • if the tor binary is not named "tor" on your control machine, you have to change the default (for example on Whonix workstations)
    • default: tor

Available Role Tags

Using ansible tags is optional but allows you to speed up playbook runs if you are managing many servers.

There are OS specific tags:

  • debian (includes ubuntu)
  • freebsd
  • openbsd

Task oriented tags:

  • renewkey - takes care of renewing online Ed25519 keys only (assumes that tor instances are fully configured and running already)
  • install - installs tor but does not start or enable it
  • createdir - creates (empty) directories on the ansible host only, useful for migration
  • promconfig - regenerates prometheus related configs (scrape config, blackbox exporter, nginx)
  • reconfigure - regenerates config files (tor and promconfig) and reloads tor (requires previously configured tor instances)

So if you have a big family and you are about to add an OpenBSD host you typically make two steps

  1. install the new server by running only against the new server (-l) and only the os specific tag (openbsd)

    ansible-playbook yourplaybook.yml -l newserver --tags openbsd

  2. then reconfigure all servers (MyFamily) by running the 'reconfigure' tag against all servers.

    ansible-playbook yourplaybook.yml --tags reconfigure

Security Considerations

This ansible role makes use of tor's OfflineMasterKey feature without requiring any manual configuration.

The offline master key feature exposes only a temporary signing key to the relay (valid for 30 days by default). This allows to recover from a complete server compromise without losing a relay's reputation (no need to bootstrap a new permanent master key from scratch).

Every tor instance is run with a distinct system user. A per-instance user has only access to his own (temporary) keys, but not to those of other instances. We do not ultimately trust every tor relay we operate (we try to perform input validation when we use relay provided data on the ansible host or another relay).

Be aware that the ansible control machine stores ALL your relay keys (RSA and Ed25519) - apply security measures accordingly.

Integration Testing

This ansible role comes with a .kitchen.yml file, that can be used to test relayor - using different configurations - against Vagrant Virtualbox machines. It is primarily used for development/integration testing (spot regressions) but you can also use it to get familiar with relayor in such a local playground environment. These tor relays will not join the network since they are only created for testing purposes.

kitchen will download Vagrant boxes from Vagrant cloud to create test VMs.

To get started install the required gem packages:

gem install test-kitchen kitchen-ansiblepush kitchen-vagrant

List available test instances with kitchen list.

Then you can run all tests or just select specific instances, for example: kitchen test t-guard-debian-10.

Note that to run tests, you also need Vagrant and VirtualBox.

Origins (changed significantly since then)