Tor is an acronym for The Onion Routing and the Tor Browser is a modified version of the Firefox browser which allows the user to access the Tor Network. Developed and maintained by the Tor Project, which is a non-profit organization, the aim of this application is to provide a safer and more private internet surfing experience free from tracking and censorship.
How Tor Works
The way this works is that all your communications from the Tor browser are routed through a series of volunteer run relays that make up the Tor Network. A pathway of several relays is formed creating an encrypted circuit with each relay in the circuit being unaware of the exact nature and extent of the pathway. After 10 minutes a new circuit is created and all evidence of the old one erased making back tracking your digital footprints almost impossible. Since these relays can be all over the globe the traffic you send through the network may be routed through several countries or even continents before arriving at its destination. It also makes your digital fingerprint appear to be the same as every other Tor User.
Who is Tor For?
The Tor Browser is used by individuals who for various reasons wish to use the internet with a higher degree of privacy than normal web browsers can or are willing to provide. It is used by a wide spectrum of individuals to anonymously communicate over the internet. Some popular uses of Tor are:
- Activists circumventing surveillance and censorship to organize.
- Journalists communicating with sources or operating countries with extreme censorship.
- Anyone wanting to bypass potential surveillance or censorship.
- People wanting to protect their identity against theft or marketing.
- Whistle blowing using SecureDrop to transmit information to media organizations.
The Tor Browser is Available to Download For:
- Mac OS X
Currently the Tor Browser is not available for iOS
- Fully functioning web browser
- Does not keep any browsing history.
- Cookies are valid until the browser is exited or a new identity is created.
- Your ISP and any sites you visit can only see that you are using the Tor Network but not anything you are using the network for.
- Used as a gateway to visit .onion sites.
- Guards against traffic analysis
- Download Tor Browser to your computer or device
- Run the installer
- Open the browser and click ‘connect’ (if your country censors Tor then you will have to configure the browser network settings by clicking ‘configure’
- Once the browser window opens you can navigate to any site you wish with a higher degree of privacy.
- It is recommended to not install any extensions in the Tor Browser
Issues of Note
- System clock and time zone must be set to the correct time.
- Flash is disabled
- Some firewall programs may interfere with Tor and need to be disabled while using the browser.
- BitTorrent is not recommended and is not anonymous through Tor
- Browsing speeds are slower than the Clearnet since the signal is routed through so many relays.
The Tor Browser can also be used to access the ‘Dark Web’ or ‘Deep Web’. Users should be advised to do so at their own risk as they may expose themselves to disturbing or illegal content. Fortunately these sites are unlisted and not accessible by normal search engines so accessing them would be only accomplished by actively seeking such illicit sites out.