Protect your privacy while using the internet
Tor Browser is free and open-source software that guarantees anonymity online and enhances your security and safety while using the internet. Tor helps you anonymize publishing, web surfing, instant messaging and other functions, using the TCP protocol. The sophisticated browser isolates any website you visit so third-party trackers and ads can't follow you, automatically clearing any cookies when you've finished browsing.
How does Tor anonymity work?
Tor's name comes from its original moniker, The Onion Router, and as the name suggests Tor uses several layers of encryption to protect your data. The software program was developed by the Tor Project, which is run by more than 6,000 volunteers around the world.
All web traffic gets relayed through a huge network of open connections worldwide. Tor directs traffic through its vast volunteer overlay-network, which consists of more than 7,000 relays. With each relay of data, another layer of encryption is added so that by the time your data or traffic reaches its destination, it's virtually impossible to track back to its origin.
Is it safe to install Tor Browser?
It is safe to install Tor Browser – after all, it was created to let users surf the internet safely and protect online privacy. However, while installing the software itself is safe, Tor can be used for risky activities, such as accessing the deep or dark webs. Care should be taken when accessing this heavily encrypted collection of websites.
Installing Tor is as simple and easy as downloading popular and common browsers, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, although neither provides as much privacy protection. Tor functions similarly to regular browsers. The main distinction, though, is that Tor takes a few moments to configure itself every time you launch it. When you launch Tor, you don't need to restart your computer or device each time.
Tor Browser is available for Windows, Mac, and Android operating systems. Alternatives to Tor include Epic Privacy Browser, Tor Browser Bundle, PirateBrowser, and DuckDuckGo. Orbot, meanwhile, provides anonymity for Android users.
Can Tor be traced?
Tor Browser hides your location and prevents your web traffic from being tracked, making it virtually impossible to trace your activity on the internet. When you’re using Tor with proxy servers, keyloggers, ISPs and various kinds of malware aren't able to easily track your activities. It also lets you get around jammers and sensors.
However, Tor Browser is not 100% secure and can suffer the same attacks that other browsers do. Concerned users may wish to switch off Tor's plugins and scripts as these can be used to expose information such as your IP address.
In addition, Tor's system has a few vulnerabilities. Each server in the browser's network is operated by volunteers so you never truly know who is managing the relays your data travels through. Normally this isn't a problem, as each relay is only able to access the location of the previous and following relays – all except the exit node.
The exit node removes your data's final layer of encryption. While it can’t access your location or IP address, it can in theory spy on your activity if you visit an unsecured HTTP website.
Freedom from online censorship
One of Tor's key features is its ability to unblock censored websites. For example, if you’re browsing the internet in a country where peer-to-peer websites, news, or social media channels are blocked, Tor can help you bypass security modules so you can continue surfing the internet.
The browser lets you choose from several proxy tunnels based on a geographical world map, which displays exactly where each proxy tunnel is located.
In recent years, Tor has become popular for businesses, allowing secure and confidential exchanges of information. It's a useful tool for journalists and human rights defenders who may be targeted online, as well as victims of domestic violence, high-profile whistleblowers, and activists.
Using Tor to explore the ‘dark’ web
Tor is inevitably linked to the dark web. The dark web, which forms part of the deep web, is a collection of websites that are encrypted and cannot be accessed through ordinary software and conventional search engines. Users instead require special browsers, such as Tor, to access them. Websites on the deep web are recognized by .onion domain extensions.
Since these sites can only be accessed from Tor-enabled web browsers, the dark web has become a place for like-minded people interested in maintaining their privacy to communicate. Their reasons for wanting anonymity vary and the dark web has become associated with hacking, gambling, drug trading, and other activities related to malicious intent.
However, venturing into the world of the dark web is a choice and users can simply use Tor for the sole purpose of securing their privacy. As it's a gateway to potentially malicious content, however, it is a good idea to fully understand the risks of using Tor as your primary or secondary browser.
Do you need a VPN for Tor?
While you don't need to use Tor with a VPN, using the two technologies together does give you an additional layer of anonymity. This is because VPN encryption stops the Tor entry node (the server where you enter the hidden network) from seeing your IP address. This can give you extra protection if the entry node becomes compromised and an attacker tries to use it to break Tor's anonymity.
Effective tool for online anonymity and privacy
Tor is an effective and easy-to-use tool for people worried about online anonymity and privacy. Its clean and uncomplicated interface is straightforward to navigate, allowing you to easily toggle between anonymous and non-anonymous browsing. The tool is light on system resources and doesn’t affect computer performance.
While connecting to sites can take some time, slower internet speed is a trade-off for extra security. It's important to remember, however, that Tor gives users access to .onion sites on the dark web and all the material available through it. For this reason, if you are using Tor as your primary browser, you should educate yourself and other users on using Tor safely.