Tor Browser (short for “The Onion Router”) is free and open-source software that protects your data by wrapping it in multiple layers of encryption, like an onion. Encrypting your data protects your privacy and identity on the internet allowing you to browse the web anonymously.
The development of the Tor Browser began in 2008, however, the project was initially created to help safeguard U.S. Intelligence online communication in the 1990s. But all of the people who have been involved in Tor are united by a common belief, internet users should have private access to an uncensored web. Tor Project history
The Tor Project is a non-profit and a labor of love produced by an international community of people, devoted to human rights. The Tor Project is deeply committed to transparency and the safety of its users.
What is Tor Browser?
The Tor browser is easy to use and is essentially a modified version of the Firefox web browser. The main difference between Tor Browser and your standard browser (like chrome) is that it connects you through the Tor Network. This means that you are directed through a network of servers so that your location and identity are protected.
How does Tor Browser Work?
The back-end system is pretty technical, but I’ll try and break it down… Your personal data is bundled into layers of encrypted packets before it enters the Tor network. It is then routed through a series of volunteer-operated servers (called nodes or relays) to disguise where you are coming from before you reach your final destination. When you are finished with your session, the browser will instantly delete cookies, browsing history, and other data.
The Tor network is designed so that no server can know who you are or what you do.
Why you Should Use Tor Browser?
A lot of people think that Tor Browser is just for those who are trying to access the “Dark Web” such as hackers, criminals, and people that are essentially up to no good. This is because Tor is great for users who want to hide their activity online from websites, ISPs, and advertisers or for those who don’t want their browsing habits linked to them but it doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Users of Tor also include people who have censorship restrictions within their country, journalists, or police officers hiding their IP addresses.
Is Tor Browser Secure?
In terms of tracking and hiding your location, it’s great! However, this does not automatically mean it’s secure as such. You are still vulnerable to the same attacks as you might get in any browser. If you’re using Tor, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re 100% anonymous either. Intelligence services may see that you’re a Tor user which means you’re more likely to be a target too.
Tor With VPN
Now in relation to whether you should use a VPN or not causes a lot of controversies. Some state that using a VPN in addition to Tor will not make you more anonymous and could harm your anonymity. Some others claim that onion over Tor (ie connecting to a VPN first is fine).
However, if you check on the Tor Project they state that “Generally speaking, we don’t recommend using a VPN with Tor unless you’re an advanced user who knows how to configure both in a way that doesn’t compromise your privacy.”
What is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a part of the World Wide Web that is hidden from view and cannot be indexed by search engines and is only accessible with special browsers such as Tor. Due to the anonymity that Tor provides, the Deep Web has become quite popular for criminal activity including; drugs, weapons, and hitmen for hire! The Silk Road also became popular on the dark web, with people purchasing drugs with the use of Bitcoin.
Best Dark Websites
If you fancy checking out the dark web, but are not too sure where to start. Check out my video Exploring The Dark Web and takes you through some handy dark websites to get you started.
How to Download Tor Browser – 32-bit & 64-bit
Downloading Tor Browser is very simple and is available for multiple operating systems and languages, including the likes of Windows 32-bit/64-bit, Mac, Linux, and Android. To get started;
Navigate to; https://www.torproject.org/ and click onto the “Download Tor Browser” option
Select the correct operating system that you are running and allow the file to download.
Follow the installation process and ensure that you verify your download to ensure that it is the original copy and has not been altered/hacked.
How To Check Your Tor Browser Connection
Once you have installed the browser, you can double-check your connection by navigating to; https://check.torproject.org/. You will also find that your IP address is different from your standard address.
Tor Browser Settings
Create a New Identity with Tor
Within Tor, you can create a new identity that will provide you with a new IP address. This is useful if you want to prevent your subsequent browser activity from being linkable to what you were doing before. To create a new identity, click on the onion icon in the top right-hand side of your Tor Browser and select “New Identity“.
Tor Security Settings
You can amend your security settings in your browser to disable certain features that can be used to attack your security and anonymity. To amend your current settings, click on the shield icon next to your onion icon in the top right of your browser and choose “Advanced Security Settings“
You can then amend to your chosen level of security.
How to Update Tor Browser
It’s really important to keep your browser up to date. As you may otherwise be vulnerable to serious security flaws that may compromise your privacy. To check you are running the latest version click on your onion icon in the top right-hand corner of your browser.
Select “Check for Tor Browser Update“.
Tor will then check for any available updates and update accordingly.
Tor Browser for Android – Download .apk
Android users can use the Tor Browser with Orbot which is available from Google Play, F-Droid or Direct Download (.apk). Orbot creates a private mobile connection by using Tor to encrypt your Internet traffic. This is then hidden by bouncing through a series of computers around the world.
Tor Browser Mac iOS
Although the Tor Browser supports many platforms including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android, unfortunately, it does not support iOS. So, if you’re scrolling through your iPhone on the AppStore searching for a Tor Browser you will find a lot of options. Some of these Tor Browser apps also include the added extra of combining VPNs too. However, the Tor Project only recommends one browser for iOS which is the Onion Browser.
Onion Browser is a free and open-source Tor Powered web browser for iOS which helps you access the internet with more safety and privacy. It protects your privacy with website tracking, secures your traffic from insecure wireless networks and ISPs, supports HTTPS anywhere. Plus, it allows you to access .onion sites that are only available over Tor.
Some of the settings are a little limited and the browser itself is quite basic. However, you can make some customization in terms of content policies, security settings and look and feel, etc.
Fake Tor Browsers
Its been reported cybercriminals have been distributing a compromised version of the official Tor Browser. Hackers have been targeting Russian-speaking users in an attempt to spy on users and steal their bitcoins. Please be careful when downloading anything from the web.