Tor is short for The Onion Router (hence the logo). This refers to both the software you install and the relay network it runs on. It was initially developed by the US Navy to help its operatives use the internet anonymously. Now, it is a non-profit organisation whose main purpose — according to them — is to provide users with anonymity online.
How does Tor work?
The Tor network, in essence, disguises your identity by moving your traffic across Tor’s relay servers — encrypting the traffic so it cannot be traced back to you. The more people use Tor the better.
Anyone who tries to snoop would only see traffic coming from different nodes on the Tor network rather than your computer. As the name implies, it creates a number of layers to protect your identity online.
Read more about Tor browser, how and when to use it, and if it keeps you anonymous here.
Who is Tor for?
- Privacy-conscious netizens: People who value their online privacy more than your regular Joe.
- Journalists and Whistleblowers: Those who report and communicate sensitive information.
- Law enforcement officials: To maintain anonymity online and to conduct sting operations.
- Activists: Human rights activists who are stuck in countries where a site is blocked.
Tor also opens up the “Darkweb”, which is essentially unindexed sites by the search engines of the internet. People should tread carefully on these sites as they often have poor security, contain scammy schemes or illegal content.
Is Tor Browser safe?
A common question since Tor’s inception. Here I’ll just lay some points and let you be the judge.
- Opensource: Beneath the green skin, Tor is basically firefox and its browser code is open-source. People may not have the keys do decrypt the network now but it’s out there — making it possible for hackers or the Government to find a workaround if they choose to.
- Roots with the US Navy: Although they claim it to be a non-profit now, it was made by the United States Navy. Look up their track record on privacy. Just saying.
- Exit nodes and sketchy sites: Exit Nodes and the website you’re visiting will be able to snoop on your data ad they get off the onion relay and it may be an issue.
- Unsecured content: Since sites are unrestricted and unfiltered in the darknet even a single script could potentially compromise your safety.
In Short, the Tor browser although safer than your regular browser at hiding your identity but it isn’t 100% foolproof and comes with its own unique pitfalls.
Precautions you should take while using Tor
If you’ve decided to go with it, here are 8 safety tips you can use to have a safer experience in the web using Tor.
- Use sites which have HTTPS encryption: HTTPS is your friend. Avoid using sites without it.
- Avoid transmitting personal information: Never enter personal information such as a phone number, e-mail address, physical address or your name onto any sketchy site.
- Avoid transactions: Almost everything offered in the darknet is probably a scam or illegal plus they will actively try to rob you so, be smart and only proceed with transactions when you’re cent percent sure.
- Do not click on random links: I can not stress this enough never trust a link in some sketchy blog or message board as it might lead you into a trap.
- Stay on the darknet: As mentioned previously avoiding bad nodes can be a secure move to do this you will have to stay in the darknet by only using the hidden services within the Tor network itself.
- Never download anything off the darknet: Another point I can not stress enough never download anything off the darknet period.
- Never trust anyone on the darknet: There are more bad people than good there so you can never be sure especially in the darknet.
Now, you’ve known the basics you can now go use the Tor browser to explore the internet or darknet.
Note: We highly suggest you be extremly careful on the darknet as there is much illegal content which you might stumble upon which might scar you emotionally or even mentally. Exercise caution.