What Is Tor?


Worried about surveillance? Don’t want the government to intercept your private life? Wanted to become anonymous while surfing? Wanted to get rid of web tracking? Want to be secure from hackers? Want complete anonymity while surfing the net?

The solution to all the above problems is TOR.

What is TOR?

Tor was originally developed and implemented by U.S. Navy. It was part of their anonymous routing project. It was used for the purpose of protecting government communications. However, today it has grown exponentially and used in a variety of applications by journalist, military, police and anyone who wants anonymity on the internet.

Tor is useful in many ways. One can use it to get rid of websites tracking them. We can also use it to visit the websites which are blocked by local internet service providers. TOR also lets us publish websites without needing to reveal websites location. TOR services also let us do the socially sensitive communications. A journalist can use tor to interact with whistleblowers (Snowden, for example). Law enforcement agencies use it to gather the intelligence and surveil the websites without leaving their IP addresses behind.

Also Read: What is Dark Web?

How it works?

To simplify the understanding the working mechanism of TOR, lets take an example of a treasure hunt. I am sure all of you had played this game in your lifetime. So, in a treasure hunt you start with a clue, that clue gives you the address of next clue location and so on until you find your destination. It is somewhat similar to working of TOR. The person in this game is the data packet and the clue is your relays or checkpoints. Each relay knows where the data is coming from and where it is going, no more and no less. And obviously, the treasure is your destination web site or any web service.

TOR comes with a relay client and browser, which is often bundled together. As it starts really client configures your connection to the internet. It finds another relay client (around 10-15) and forms a circuit. This is the path through with our data travels.

How Tor Works

Each relay client only reveals information about, from which client data has come and to which client it should be sent. This works by multiple layers of encryption. As message being sent, the sender encrypts it in multiple layers. Each client only decrypts one layer of encryption in order to know the next relay address. So, not a single relay in circuit knows the origin and destination of the message. As the network setup is random, it changes in every few minutes. So you get dummy IP addresses that have absolutely no connection with you.

But everything comes at a price, using TOR heavily affects your browsing speed. While using TOR your internet speed can reduce up to 40-50 %. That’s the price you are gonna have to pay for your security.

Why to Use?

You might think that using TOR is so much slower, why shouldn’t we use proxies or VPN’s instead? Because proxies and VPN’s are not as secure as TOR. As we know proxies and VPN’s only act as a middleman in our communication. While using VPN or proxies, websites and we are not connected to each other directly, instead we are connected through proxy or VPN server. So, VPN and proxy services give website dummy IP addresses which belong to their proxy or VPN server, hiding our original IP address. You might think that is our goal, job done! Nope. It is true that website you visit cannot know who you are but the VPN or proxy server does. Who knows they might keep a log of your history. Clearly, that is unsafe and stupid for you. I mean it is not bad to use VPN for unblocking facebook on your college wifi or using it to create new Gmail account if your IP limit runs out.

Also Read: What is Deep Web?

But what if someone hacks the proxy or VPN servers? They could have control over our whole communication, they can easily determine from where the traffic is originated from and where is its destination. TOR covers all these drawbacks of proxies and VPN’s. Using TOR also reduces the possibility of traffic analysis ( a type of surveillance).

How to use?

There are two apps you can download right now for your android phone. First is Orbot, which is relay client, used to configure and set up connection in TOR network. Second is Orfox, which is a browser made for Orbot. Orbot uses Orfox as a browser, you can also re-route all your internet traffic through TOR network (ROOT required). You can also use TOR on your computer, visit their official website- https://www.torproject.org

Online privacy is a major issue nowadays and TOR can be incredibly helpful to you in protecting it. I hope you liked the article. Do share it with your friends and help in spreading awareness among people. Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Stay tuned for future updates.

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