Solved: MMS messaging in spite of Orbot, via Signal (OpenWhisper)
I’m including this stuff on my site because I haven’t found good answers out on the Internet. I may need to be reminded of how I did various things, or maybe you’ll do a search that turns it up…in which case I hope it helps. Incidentally, I have published a book on privacy and internet security. If you’d like to leave me a tip, feel free to buy it from one of the links posted on that page. Or download it for free (same page), and then consider buying something else…maybe fiction? If your mind is twirled pleasurably by sf/fantasy/crime/thriller stuff. Regardless, welcome to the site!
Look, I don’t like MMS. Or SMS. And in principle I think it’s best if we all just avoid them. In favor of some great app or other, like Signal.
But. I’m a foster parent. I get texts from lots of people, and I need to respond to them. Most are to both me and my wife, thus sent via MMS, from people who won’t install Signal. So I use MMS.
So there’s a bug in Orbot, the Tor proxy app for Android. It attempts to send MMS messages via Tor. Trying to un-check “MmsService” in Orbot, with the idea of proxying most but not all traffic via Tor, doesn’t work. The checkbox re-checks itself. Or re-ticks itself. Ticks me too.
So okay, can Tor or Orbot be set not to proxy certain protocols? Nope. To let traffic to and from a range of IP addresses pass through unmolested? Nope.
Same problem with a VPN, by the way. For me at least (this is carrier-specific) I need to connect directly to send or receive MMS messages.
It’s not a hard problem to solve. It’s probably not difficult within Orbot either, and of course Tor could allow protocols or IP addresses to pass through. But the workaround I used was to quit using Orbot’s “transparent proxying,” install ProxyDroid to do the same damn thing, but tell ProxyDroid to exclude the IP addresses near the one I found for the server listed under “MMSC” in my APN settings. So, Tor works, Signal is excluded (because of voice chat quality issues), and MMS works too. Even though I think we should all quit using it as soon as possible.
Have fun out there!