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How To Use TOR For Safe Web Browsing

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By: Shimon Brathwaite

September 1, 2021

Being able to browse the internet privately is a valid concern in the 21st Century. Many countries, such as China, have been very open about the fact that they monitor their citizens’ internet usage, going as far as blocking access to specific websites depending on what those governments think their citizens should access. Even for countries that don’t spy on their citizens themselves, there are other ways to get browsing information. There is something called the Fourteen Eyes Surveillance Alliance, which consists of notable countries like the US, France, and Japan. What is this alliance? It is an agreement amongst these countries to share information with other members. This means that even if a US government intelligence agency is not legally allowed to spy on their citizens, they can have another member of the alliance monitor their citizens’ browsing information and then relay that information to them. This can also be useful if people are using private VPNs to mask their location. If the service provider for that VPN is in a member nation, then that information can be accessed by any alliance member.

One way to circumvent this is by using a decentralized public browser named Tor. Tor stands for The Onion Router, an open-source privacy network that allows users to browse the web anonymously. T works by routing all of your web traffic through randomly selected public nodes, which works as a proxy server. Tor connects to one of these publicly listed entry nodes, then goes through a second relay, and, finally, browsing traffic comes out through a third and final exit node. This way, all traffic appears to be coming from a source other than the actual machine.

Tor also has built-in capabilities for getting around governments/web services that have tried to block Tor. Imagine finding yourself in a situation like Tor can be configured to use something called bridges that are not publicly listed, making it much harder for people to blacklist. Tor functions similarly to many VPN services, but the benefit is that Tor is completely free to use and is open-source, which means users don’t have to worry as much about someone storing their browsing information. It’s important to note that many countries - such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran - have made services like these illegal or have blocked them for use, which means research should be performed before considering these services.

How to get Tor?

Tor is available for download from the Tor project website. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux in desktop versions and can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store. Once installed, it’s extremely easy to use, functions similar to almost any other web browser, and does all the work behind the scenes. The only time users will need to do any extra work is with any desired customization. However, it should be noted that Tor is a bit slower than most other browsers, just because of the extra steps involved in protecting identities.

Conclusion

Tor browser is a great way to protect oneself from prying eyes or accessing areas of the internet that service providers or governments may have restricted. Tor has revolutionized the way people can access the internet and has made it much harder for people to have their freedoms restricted. Given these protections, someone can still track web activity even if Tor is used. There have been cases of the FBI getting around it, tracking who are doing some very shady things. But for regular people using it as part of their job, such as journalism or to access restricted websites in your country, there’s nothing to worry about, and Tor gives everyone a free way to achieve this goal.

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