I’m Brandon from Bypass-Censorship.org. I’ve had lots of experience with Tor. I use Tor regularly and I even run a relay!
This purpose of this post is to expand everybody’s knowledge of Tor. I’ll try to touch (almost) all aspects regarding Tor.
What is Tor?
Tor is a software and a network, both of which has the purpose of giving the user privacy. It was
Tor Browser is a tweaked Firefox browsers tweaked with lots of privacy features. Most plugins are disabled because they are known to reveal the user’s IP Address and other information.
Tor Browser also contains two main addons.
- TorButton – An addon that was created for Tor Browser. You can still install it on most FireFox browsers.
This is where all your traffic goes when using Tor. Instead of using a VPN or proxy and having your traffic go through one centralized server, your traffic goes through 3 nodes, which include a bridge, relay, and exit relay.
The only way for your anonymity to be compromised is if the attacker (which may be a government, hacker, or even a private investigator) has access to the bridge and exit relay; however, that’s an unlikely situation because all relays and bridges are randomly chosen.
Who uses Tor?
Tor is used by a variety of users. Here are the basic types of Tor users:
- People who want to access a site that has been blocked (E.g. a blog about gay rights that’s being wrongly filtered as pornographic).
- Privacy geeks like Roger Dingledine, who is one of the original founders of Tor Project.
- People who do not want companies to track their Internet usage (goes along with #2).
- Government agencies (many people who work for the FBI and other government agencies use Tor) for network security.
- Journalists, activists, and whistle-blowers who do not want to get killed or detained by their corrupt government (E.g. USA, China, Iran, et cetera).
Tor Hidden Services
The onion network consists of hidden services. Hidden services are anonymous websites published within the Tor, and only accessible through Tor (or a Tor proxy). They end in a .onion address.
Here are some examples of some hidden services:
http://kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page – The Hidden Wiki (more info on How to Access The Hidden Wiki).
http://eqt5g4fuenphqinx.onion – Core.Onion
The Flaws of Tor
There are several flaws in Tor:
- Tor cannot encrypt the traffic between your exit relay and the final destination. You must use SSL (HTTPS) if you want to prevent the exit relay from seeing your traffic.
- Also, Tor is pretty slow. It can take from 7 seconds to over 60 seconds to download a webpage (depending on the size).
- Plugins like Flash Player are disabled.
- And finally, many websites block traffic from exit nodes due to abuse.
2 Ways for Extra Anonymity in Tor
If you want Tor to be even more secure, you can use Tails and bridges.
Tails, the Amnesic Incognito Live System, is a debian-based Linux operating system that is designed for anonymity and Tor use.
If you want your traffic to go through more than 3 nodes, you can choose to use bridges. Bridges offer extra privacy, and will unblock Tor in many places.
You can obtain bridges at bridges.torproject.org, or you can email them through a Gmail or Yahoo email account to have them automatically send you a few bridges based on your location. Here’s how to do that:
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Have the phrase “get bridges” in the body of the email.
- They will send an email back with the bridges.
Creative Commons image found here.