What is the TOR browser?

What is the TOR browser

Are you worried about your security and anonymity while browsing the Net? Then you’ve probably heard about Tor as one of the possible solutions to your problems.

Some of you might think about the TOR browser as illegal because you’ve heard it’s used by criminals and those surfing the Dark Net. However, TOR is not something bad as a whole. It’s a valid option if you want to hide your activity and remain anonymous.

So, today we’re going to talk about what Tor browser is and what its advantages and disadvantage are.

But before we talk about the TOR browser, we have to explain what Tor is and how it works. So, let’s begin.

What is Tor and how it works?

TOR stands for The Onion Router, the name of the original project going back to the 1990s. Researchers Paul Syverson, Michael G. Reed, and David Goldschlager were looking for a way to protect sensitive government communications online. So, they came up with the principle of onion routing which was further developed in the following years.

As you start to understand, TOR was initially a government project to keep state secrets. But that’s not the case anymore. Now it’s a non-profiting organization developing privacy tools.

How does TOR work?

At its core, TOR employs the routing principle. For example, when you type a website address, TOR encrypts your data into multiple layers to ensure that nobody would know your IP address or the site you want to visit.

These encrypted layers are routed through random nodes on the TOR network, and each node deciphers one layer until the information reaches the exit point. When that happens, your browser will load the website. Do you get it will it’s called the onion router?

Since the nodes decrypt only as much information from the layer as they need to know where to send the data, they can’t be used to identify you or the website. That’s important because everyone can run a node on the TOR network.

The bouncing of the data through several nodes and the level of encryption guarantees a high-level of anonymity. But do not be mistaken that it means that you’re completely anonymous. Yes, it will be very difficult for someone to pinpoint what you’re doing via TOR, but it’s not impossible.

Remember that your data has to leave TOR network if you want to reach your destination – e.g., the website. So, the information is not encrypted once it leaves the exit point. In other words, the person who runs the exit node or the website you’re connecting to can read any unencrypted information.

This tracking would be a difficult one, but you never know who runs the node or monitors the activity of a site. That’s why it’s not advisable to send any sensitive information.

What is the TOR browser?

To resolve the possible security issues past the exit node, TOR has developed its own browser, which allows you to connect to the TOR network. The browser is similar to Firefox, and you’ll notice that it uses the HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP. The “S” means that the browser uses asymmetric encryption to keep your data secure.

Another good news is that the TOR browser blocks some plugins and application. That’s because they can leak your identity. So, don’t be shocked when you notice that some of your plugins are not working on TOR.

Of course, you can manually transfigure these plugins to work with TOR, if you’re computer savvy. Another solution would be to use Tallow, which will diver your traffic through the TOR network without you having to worry about changing program settings.

To download the TOR browser, click here and follow the provided instructions.

Who uses the TOR browser?

  • By reading the news, you’ve might come under the impression that only criminals use the Tor browser. That’s far from the truth. Nowadays, it’s very easy for third-parties to spy on your activity, for example:
  • Governments
  • Advertising companies
  • Hackers
  •  Stalkers

The sad truth is that it’s easy to track one’s life through the digital world. So, a lot of people are looking for options on how to protect their privacy. Most of them do not want to commit crimes, and they don’t do any illegal activities.

They usually have very good reasons why they don’t want the government or anyone else to know what they are doing. We’re talking about: 

  • Activists who post propaganda against the ruling government
  • Victim of abuse or those afraid of stalkers
  • People who want to bypass their country’s censorship on certain websites

Of course, there are those who rely on TOR’s anonymity to commit crimes, but as we already established, it’s possible to trace someone’s activity over TOR, although with great difficulty. So, do not use it

What are the disadvantages to the TOR browser?

You might be wondering why the TOR browser is not as widely used as Firefox or Chrome. If you think about it, you’ll find the reason. Both the encryption and the routing of your information through several nodes take time. As a result, TOR browser is not as fast as the other ones.

Of course, speed doesn’t really matter when you’re reading articles or posting comments but think about downloading large files. It’s going to take forever, and it’s not the best option for streaming content or downloading torrents. What’s more, BitTorrent is prone to broadcasting your IP, so don’t assume that you’re safe pirating moves with TOR.

What are the alternatives of the TOR browser?

Some people use VPNs in addition to the TOR browser to ensure their security. VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, creates an encrypted tunnel around your data so that no one can know what you’re doing. The only thing they can see is that you’re connected to the Internet.

However, your security is as good as the VPN you’re using. Some of them do not keep any logs, but others keep some type information, which can be used to track you. That’s why you have to check the policy of the VPN to understand how anonymous you’d be.

One of the best VPN is ExpressVPN, but it’s an expensive one. There are free VPNs available, but most of them are not reliable and likely to infect your device with malware or see your data to the highest bidder.

If you’re still on the fence about VPNs or the TOR browser, you can give TunnelBear a try. It’s a VPN, which has a free version and a paid one. Its biggest advantage is that you won’t have to configure ports, but unfortunately, it might not unlock Netflix or similar geographic –restricted streaming services.

As a conclusion, I would like to say that you have nothing to fear about using the TOR browser to protect your online identity. It’s secure and encrypted but it’s slow.

What do you think about the TOR browser? Did you understand what TOR browser is? Do you use it? Share your opinion in the comment section. 

(Last Updated On: December 13, 2018)
About the author

    Whale Sumo

    Hwang is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves helping people understand complex concepts. He has a passion for crypto and online privacy and enjoys teaching others about the benefits of both. Hwang is an advocate for individual freedom and believes that knowledge is power. When he's not busy sharing his knowledge with the world, Hwang can be found running full marathons or playing video games.