What is Tor Browser? And how does the dark web browser work

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Definition of Tor browser

The Tor Browser is a web browser that anonymizes your web traffic using the Tor network, making it easier to protect your identity online.

If you are investigating a competitor, finding an opposing litigant in a legal dispute, or just thinking that it is scary for your ISP or the government to know which websites you are visiting, then Tor Browser might be the right solution for you.

A few caveats: Browsing the web on Tor is slower than clearnet, and some major web services block Tor users. The Tor browser is also illegal in authoritarian regimes that want to prevent citizens from reading, posting and communicating anonymously. Journalists and dissidents around the world have embraced Tor as the cornerstone of online democracy today, and researchers are working hard to improve Tor’s anonymity properties.

Where to download Tor browser

Tor Browser is available for Linux, Mac and Windows, and has also been ported to mobile. You can download desktop versions from Tor project website. If you’re on Android, find OrBot or OrFox on the Google Play Store or F-Droid. IOS users can grab OnionBrowser from Apple’s App Store.

How to Use Tor Browser on Cell Phones and Cellphones

More and more people are browsing the web from their phones, and in poorer parts of the world that are primarily mobile, people are browsing the web only from their phones. As a result, the Tor Project spent a few years working to create a better Tor browser for mobile phone users.

In September 2019, the Tor project announced the official version of Tor browser for Android, replacing Guardian Project’s Orfox as an officially approved Tor browser for Android. (Orbot of the same name from The Guardian Project, a Tor proxy for Android that lets you pipe all your app traffic to Tor, not just web traffic, continues to be alive and well.)

Due to technical restrictions on Apple’s proprietary iOS platform, the Tor project has yet to release an official Tor browser for iPhone and iPad users, but approves OnionBrowser for iOS users who want to browse the web anonymously. Major security improvements are underway for OnionBrowser, including fixing some information leakage issues and enabling website security settings. The latest and greatest version of OnionBrowser is slated for release in early November 2019, the developers told CSO.

How to use the Tor browser

For most people, using the Tor browser is as easy as downloading and running it, the same way you would download Chrome or Firefox.

If you’ve never used Tor, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s slow – or at least, slower than normal internet browsing. Still, Tor has gotten a bit faster over the years, and with a good internet connection, you can even watch YouTube videos on Tor.

The Tor Browser gives you access to .onion websites that are only available on the Tor network. For example, try accessing the New York Times at https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/ and Facebook at https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion using a classic web browser. Keep on going. We will always be there when you get back. It didn’t work, did it? You can only access these sites through Tor. This allows news to be read anonymously, a desirable feature in a country where you don’t want the government to know which news sites you are reading, when you are reading them, and for how long.

One major downside to using the Tor browser is that there are many important web services that block access to Tor, often without useful error messages. If a site you normally visit suddenly returns 404 while visiting Tor, the service is probably blocking Tor traffic and is unnecessarily opaque about it. Sites that don’t block Tor can trick you into clicking a ton of captchas. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s annoying.

How Tor Browser Works

The Tor browser routes all of your web traffic through the Tor network, anonymizing it. As the images below illustrate, Tor consists of a three-layered proxy, like the layers of an onion (hence the Tor’s onion logo). The Tor browser randomly connects to one of the publicly listed ingress nodes, returns that traffic through a randomly selected central relay, and finally spits out your traffic through the third and final egress node.

how tor 1 works Electronic Frontier Foundation (CC BY 3.0)

How Tor Works, Step 1

Therefore, don’t be surprised if Google or another service greets you in a foreign language. These services look at your IP address and guess your country and language, but when using Tor you will often appear to be in a physical location halfway around the world.

tor 2 Electronic Frontier Foundation (CC BY 3.0)

How Tor Works, Step 2

If you live in a regime that blocks Tor or need to access a web service that blocks Tor, you can also configure Tor Browser to use bridges. Unlike Tor’s ingress and egress nodes, bridge IP addresses are not publicly listed, making it difficult for web services, or governments, to blacklist those IP addresses.

tor 3 Electronic Frontier Foundation (CC BY 3.0)

How Tor Works, Step 3

The Tor network carries TCP traffic of all kinds but is optimized for web browsing. Tor doesn’t support UDP, so don’t try to torrent ISOs of free software, as it won’t work.

Is Tor Browser Legal?

For most of the people reading this article, Tor Browser is absolutely legal to use. In some countries, however, Tor is either illegal or blocked by national authorities. China has banned the anonymity service and is preventing Tor traffic from passing through the Great Firewall. Countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are working hard to prevent citizens from using Tor. More recently, Venezuela has blocked all Tor traffic.

It’s easy to see why a repressive regime hates Tor. The service makes it easy for journalists to report corruption and helps dissidents organize against political repression.

The freedom to communicate, publish and read anonymously is a prerequisite for freedom of expression online, and therefore a prerequisite for democracy today. Using and supporting Tor helps support free speech around the world. Technically sophisticated users are encouraged to give bandwidth to the Tor network by performing a relay.

How to access the dark web?

Let’s get rid of this “dark web” nonsense once and for all. While it is true that some criminals use Tor to commit crimes, criminals also use the ordinary internet to commit crimes. Bank robbers use getaway cars on public roads to commit crimes. We weren’t slandering the highways or the internet because that would be foolish. Tor has tons of legitimate uses and is considered by many to be the cornerstone of democracy today.

So when you hear people talking in low voices about the “dark web” or the “deep web” or something like that, understand that there is a lot more going on here than just “The Dark Web”. Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse use computers in a non-normative way. Online anonymity is not just the bailiwick of criminals and trolls.

In practice, Tor is aimed at ordinary people, as criminals who want to break the law can achieve better anonymity than that provided by Tor. As the Tor FAQ points out:

Doesn’t Tor allow criminals to do bad things?

Criminals can already do bad things. Since they are willing to break the laws, they already have a lot of options available that provide better privacy than Tor. They can steal cell phones, use them and throw them in a ditch; they can hack into computers in Korea or Brazil and use them to launch abusive activities; they can use spyware, viruses and other techniques to take control of millions of Windows machines around the world.

Tor aims to provide protection for ordinary people who wish to obey the law. Only criminals have privacy right now, and we need to fix it.

Is the Tor browser anonymous?

The Tor browser offers the best anonymous web browsing available today, but this anonymity is not perfect. We are currently witnessing an arms race between researchers seeking to strengthen Tor, or even develop a next-generation anonymity tool, and governments around the world are studying how to break Tor’s anonymity properties.

The most effective technique to de-anonymize Tor browser users has been to hack them. The FBI has used this technique successfully in numerous criminal cases, and under Rule 41, enacted in 2016 by US Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court, the FBI can now mass hack a large number of computers. anywhere in the world using just one money order.

Such hacking techniques should be of concern to everyone, as innocent Tor users will inevitably be caught up in such fishing expeditions.

Does that mean you shouldn’t be using Tor? Definitely not, if you care about your online privacy. Tor Browser is an essential tool that will only get better over time. What if you don’t care about your privacy? Well, Edward Snowden said it best:

Saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say .

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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