What is Tor (The Onion Router)?

by Hanley Page
Published: Last Updated on 85 views

Throughout the years, the Internet has become a quite dangerous place for the average users. Things get hacked and private data gets shared almost daily, making people anxious with worry. The users’ fears are all well grounded: people worry for their privacy and Internet safety and they worry with a good reason. They want to stay anonymous and browse privately, while still staying on the safe side of things.

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All of these privacy issues have inspired the creation of much software that deals with the process of enabling anonymous communication.

One such software is Tor.

Tor overview

Tor is a free software tool for enabling anonymous communication throughout the Internet, so you can go online without getting snooped. The initial software release was in the latter half of 2002 and the name itself is derived from an acronym of the original “The Onion Router” project name.

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Tor has an unique approach when it comes to the privacy protection. It directs the Internet traffic through a free, global volunteer network that has more than 7000 relays all in order to conceal each and every user’s location and usage. Tor also helps fight censorship. By using it, users are allowed to visit otherwise blocked or censored websites.

Here’s a bit of history

Tor was initially created in 2002 by the developers of The Tor Project, Inc. It was created on the basis of Onion routing which basically is encryption in the application layer of the communication protocol stack (nested like the layers of an onion!). You can visit https://www.torproject.org/

Nowadays, Tor is adjusted to work on many different platforms including Windows, Android, Linux and Mac. Its size is relatively small, ranging from 2 to 4 MB, making it possible for everyone to have it installed.

Why anonymity is so important?

In a world where network surveillance and traffic analysis are considered normal and acceptable, it is only natural for the users to want to hide their Internet tracks. Having privacy on the Internet means having freedom! By staying anonymous, you are able to conduct confidential communication without risking of being monitored. You should read:

Benefits of using Tor

There are multiple benefits of using Tor:

Unblock ISP censorship visiting blocked sites

Tor generally focuses on protecting the transport of data, but it can serve as personal info-hiding tool, too. One of Tor’s additional features, the Tor Browser enables users to visit blocked sites from everywhere. Some users say that the browser is somewhat slower than the regular ones. That slowness, however, is a small price to pay for the security that you get!

Staying anonymous while sharing sensitive information

Tor users often reach for it when it comes to sensitive communication. With Tor, for instance, individuals can access chat rooms and web forums for things like, rape and abused survivors or chats for people with different disabilities and illnesses without risking identity leakage.

Guaranteed online anonymity for journalists

Journalists use Tor as well. They use it in order to communicate more safely with whistleblower and dissidents. For journalists, such anonymity is crucial! An example is how journalists in China use Tor to write about specific events and to encourage political reform. Tor is also used by many bloggers from around the world to protect their identity and Internet activity.

Tor for illegal activities

Anonymity is double-edged sword. Many Tor users, unfortunately, use Tor for illegal activities (such as spam, hacking, phishing). They use it to gain access to censored political information, to organize political activities or to circumvent laws against criticism of heads of state. In their hands, Tor becomes a dangerous mean to access the dark corner of the web.

Tor as torrent client

Tor may also be used as a torrent client, in a way. By using it, the users can download torrents anonymously for free. The download process, however, is fairly slow. So, if you want a faster and anonymous download you might want to get a look at a reliable VPN service instead.

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