Communicate Like a Secret Agent

Increase privacy with anonymous, offline chat and file sharing.

If you are concerned about privacy and the risk of spying, you can reduce this risk by using something called a PirateBox for discrete communication. A PirateBox is used to create both a Wi-Fi network and file server that allows nearby people to connect and communicate without having those communications touch the internet. This private, local network gives users the ability to chat and share files while never touching an online network. Data is privately routed through the device avoiding cellular and standard communications that go over the internet.

By leveraging the wireless card of a Raspberry Pi we can bridge the restrictions that would normally be used such as cables and having to rely on third-party infrastructure or hardware. This provides us with a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that can easily be concealed.

We will be using a Raspberry Pi Zero W for this guide, but you can use a Raspberry Pi 3 or another model with a wireless adapter.

Download the correct PirateBox image for the Raspberry Pi hardware you are using.

Once the download is complete, flash the image to the micro SD card.

Get Started

Load the micro SD card into the Raspberry Pi and boot up. After a few minutes, browse Wi-Fi access points around you and look for one name PirateBox - Share Freely.

Using a network scanning service like Nmap or Fing we can find the IP address of the Raspberry Pi.

The PirateBox is configured with default credentials for logging in. Both the user and password are alarm.

SSH into the PirateBox as the user alarm using the IP address recently discovered.

ssh alarm@<IP ADDRESS>

Once you have a successfull SSH connection you will be prompted to enter in a password. Let’s go ahead and change the password using the passwd command.

In the network scan we can see http service running on port 80. Enter the Raspberry Pi’s IP address into the browser URL and hit Enter. This should bring up the running PirateBox server. Our PirateBox is now available for further configuration.

Configure the PirateBox

Enable Timesave

Enable Discussion Board

A forum can help segment discussions for organized communication over specific topics.

USB Storage

Unless you are using a micro SD card with a large storage capacity you’ll most likely want to leverage a USB thumb drive or external hard drive.

Best Practices

Safely shutdown the PirateBox with

sudo shutdown -h now

PirateBox Mods

Enable Persistent Chat

By default chat, known as Shoutbox, is reset on startup. To disable this edit the file /opt/piratebox/conf/piratebox.conf and set the following to no.

# Reset Shoutbox on Startup?

Enable Wiresless Protected Access

To restrict access to your private box edit the file /opt/piratebox/conf/hostapd.conf to set a password for WPA

Rename SSID

Edit the file /opt/piratebox/conf/hostapd.conf and change the line

ssid=PirateBox - Share Freely

Change Hostname

Change IP Address

Edit the file /opt/piratebox/conf/piratebox.conf and change the line


More modifications can be found on the offical PirateBox website here.