What is Tor?
Tor (The Online Router) is simply a network system that can be used to provide untraceable access to any internet services or websites. The browser is often used as an innocent precaution by those who don’t want their actions traced by increasing levels of online surveillance. TOR is a global network that lets you browse the Internet and the dark web anonymously for free!
As the scenario of online surveillance is becoming more and more prevalent, there are critical tools that help you stay private and secure online. Tor (The Online Router) is a powerful tool for online anonymity. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as 100% security. It is hence essential to consider its threat models and make sure that you understand what Tor can or can’t protect you against.
Browse Privately. Explore Freely.
Depending on the amount of exposure you create for yourself, it will expose you to vulnerabilities that could compromise your privacy or your device. In this article, we will be explaining all the factors about Tor and how you are secure!
Is Tor illegal?
This is the first question that will come to your mind when you adhere to the browser. Tor and the ‘dark web’ and have become associated with illegal enterprises, which will trigger you about safety. But the answer is no! It’s not illegal to be anonymous, as Tor also has many legitimate uses. The dark web itself is a powerful tool to protect privacy.
Tor is an open network of servers run by volunteers and free software that is guided by the non-profit Tor project. Some people believe Tor is a completely anonymous and secure way to access the Internet without anyone being able to monitor your browsing activities and trace it back to you. Both the network and the software can be used to browse the ‘clearweb‘ (the Internet that most of us are familiar with) like any other browser. According to the Tor Project, neither the browser no the network is illegal anywhere in the world.
Each volunteer runs a relay worldwide, allowing the users to connect to the Internet via the Tor network. Before hitting the open Internet, Tor connects to different relays, wiping its tracks and making it difficult to figure out who, and from where you really are. Some of the basic features include:
- Block Trackers: Tor Browser isolates websites you visit so that the third-party trackers and ads can’t follow you. Cookies automatically clear when you’re done browsing, and so does the browsing history.
- Defend against surveillance: The browser prevents someone from watching your connection from knowing what websites you visit. Anyone monitoring your browsing habits can see that you’re using Tor.
- Resist Fingerprinting: Tor Browser aims to make users look the same making it difficult for you to be fingerprinted based on your browser and device information.
- Multi-layered Encryption: Your traffic is relayed and encrypted three times as it passes over the Tor network. The network is comprised of thousands of volunteer-run servers known as Tor relays.
- Browse Freely: With Tor Browser, you are free to access sites your home network may have blocked.
How to Browse Anonymously with Tor?
Everything you do online can be traced back to your IP address. Even if it is accessing encrypted websites, networks, shady websites, etc. as the websites themselves know your IP address. Henceforth, Tor is used to browse with anonymity.
Tor is an encrypted network that can route your traffic through relays, making the traffic to appear from exit nodes. Dissimilar with proxies, the exit node itself doesn’t know your IP address or where you are. The browser is designed so that it is theoretically impossible to know which computer actually requested the traffic.
For example, say you are connecting to Google through Tor, your traffic is passed through several Tor relays, but it shall emerge from the Tor network and connect to Google’s servers. The last Tor node, the network leaves the traffic and enters the open Internet, can be monitored.
If you are accessing an encrypted (HTTPS) website such as your Gmail account – the exit node can see that you’re connecting to Gmail. And if you are accessing the unencrypted website, the exit node can monitor your Internet activity, keeping track of the web pages you visit and searches you perform.
While using Tor, ensure to use encrypted (HTTPS) websites for anything sensitive. This is all just so that your traffic could be monitored, not only by the governments but also by malicious threat actors/ hackers looking for private data. Tor Browser will block browser plugins like Flash, RealPlayer, Quicktime, etc. Tor Browser already comes with HTTPS, NoScript, and other patches to protect privacy and security.
How to use Tor Safely?
- Tor encrypts your data as it passes through the Tor network. You are only requested to use websites that are Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure or HTTPS. Any site that has a URL that begins with ‘https://’ uses HTTPS. There is a method that is followed for how Tor and HTTPS work together to protect your data.
- The Tor Browser blocks many plugins like Flash, RealPlayer, and QuickTime. These plugins can be manipulated into exposing your IP address in ways that Tor can’t prevent.
- Be aware of the apps on your device that still connect normally to the Internet and expose your real IP address.
- You should not maximize the Tor Browser window. If you do so, websites can determine the size of your device’s screen, which further will narrow down to which device you are using. Always use the Tor Brower’s default screen size.
- You cannot use BitTorrent over Tor. Torrenting will send out your real IP address in the tracker GET request, deanonymizing your torrent web traffic.
- If you are using Tor to access the dark web, you shall be extremely cautious. Clicking on any ads or the sites of the dark web will cause trouble. Do inspect every link on the dark web before you click it.
Like any other technology, Tor is not 100% secure as attackers can still compromise Tor’s security. Following are some of the listed vulnerabilities you need to be aware of:
- The size of the Tor window is set to 1,000 x 1,000 pixels, but if the screen is smaller, then it chooses a width that is a multiple of 200 pixels and a height that is multiple of 100 pixels.
- The Scrollbar size in the Tro browser doesn’t normalize the viewport size. The viewport size can be subtracted from the size of the window to find out the thickness of the Scrollbars.
While not 100% secure, for those in need of online anonymity, Tor is the best option, provided you follow certain guidelines. It isn’t a magic solution that will grant you anonymity. And if you need to take your privacy to the next level, you can connect to a VPN before starting the Tor Browser. No matter what you are using Tor for, remaining anonymous should be your primary concern. Online anonymity is not secure, especially when we live in a world powered by data and are interconnected.
With these points in mind, assessing whether I am fully secure and safe enough while using Tor requires some context. Specifically, the decision is yours to consider for what you’re using Tor for, what the risks are, how valuable hacking you is, etc. In other words, consider Tor a major piece of the anonymity/ privacy puzzle, but don’t make it the only thing you’re relying upon.
While using the Internet, your Internet security can only protect you from potential dangers like spyware, ransomware, and malware. You have to do that yourself as no Internet security suite can protect you against some threats. In this article, you will get to know how can you keep yourself safe while using the Internet with various precautions. This brings me back to the latest post on ‘How to keep yourself safe while using the Internet.’ For more information,visit here !!
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