Tor – Your Questions, Answered

tor-logoTor – How did it start?

The U.S Naval Research Laboratory developed Tor as a way to protect the security of confidential government information and communications. Later on, the Tor Project took over the network and it is in charge of its maintenance. Currently, Tor is financed by donations from its users, who are people from all over the world that want to enjoy anonymity online. Tor is also said to receive funds from the U.S. Department of Defense but that does not mean that it is run by the government. Since Tor is no longer a channel of communication used exclusively by the government, the NSA has attempted to infiltrate it with the purpose of finding information and uncover the identity of its users. Fortunately, these efforts have not been entirely successful and even though the security of Tor has been questioned, it continues offering an option for anyone who wants to maintain their privacy online.

What is Tor and how does it work?

Tor is a free network that allows you to surf internet anonymously. The network consists of thousands of computers located across the world, which are maintained by users that allow their devices to work as “nodes” or “routers”. The Tor software can send encrypted traffic through secure tunnels established by the computers that manage the network. Since the data transferred in Tor is encrypted, it is not easily to access and unlike regular internet traffic, your conversations or messages cannot be intercepted by third parties. Tor allows you to bypass any firewalls or blocks that are in place and to avoid monitoring. It is a network and also a self-contained software that does not require installation and that is available for Operating Systems such as OS, Linux and Windows.

Before transferring data, the Tor software selected at least three relay points (or routers) to determine a secure route that cannot be tracked down. The data is send from one point to another but each relay can only identify the immediate source from where they information is received. They are not capable of tracing the origin or recognizing the entire route. A specific route to transfer information can only be used for a limited amount of time (a few minutes) and after that, a new route must be established. This ensures that the information transmitted is secure and makes monitoring practically impossible. The name “Tor” comes from The Onion Router, which refers to the way data is protected by multiple layers of encryption. The icon that appears when you connect to the network uses the onion image. Using Tor can protect your information effectively as it is extremely difficult to crack down. However, it is very slow since the data transferred has to travel large distances and this is one of the reasons why it does not work for Torrent downloads. It is important to keep in mind that its secure encryption system is not 100% infallible. Users looking for a layered solution would use VPN and SSH encryption along with Tor for a more robust solution.

Tor-onion-network

A full overview with more images can be found on Tor Project’s official page.

Who can use Tor and is it safe?

Tor can be accessed by all kinds of users and there are many situations in which it can be useful. For businesses, it offers a good solutions as it can protect the sensitive information from your company and ensure that it does not fall in the hands of the competition. Individuals can also take advantage from the protection that it can offer to personal information. You can ensure that your browsing history is not shared with large companies that only want to use it for their own commercial benefit. In summary, Tor provides a good option for anyone that is concerned about their privacy. With Tor, it is possible to keep your identity and location secure. This is specially important for those who are fighting for online freedom and that want to avoid censorship and prosecution from the government.

Tor is meant as a free global communication and information channel and since our privacy and right to express our opinions are under threat, it is important to have a secure space to use internet without restrictions. That being said, just like anything else, Tor has a dark side. The fact that it facilitates anonymity also means that it is used by fraudsters and criminals that exchange illegal content and information. Tor itself is a legal network and there are many legitimate purposes to use it such as protecting the security of your information and defending your freedom of expression when you live under an oppressive regime. Those who use Tor to engage in illegal activities are detected sooner or later.

Further Reading:- Best VPN for use with torTor

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