Tor is short for “The Onion Router.” This refers both to the software that you install on your computer to run Tor and the network of computers that manages Tor connections. Put simply, Tor enables you to route web traffic through several other computers in the Tor network so that the party on the other end of the connection can’t trace the traffic back to you. That way, the more Tor users there are, the more protected your info. As the name implies, it creates a number of layers that conceal your identity from the rest of the world. Thats why most of the hacker use Tor Browser to hack data because this Browser helps to hide hackers identity like there IP address .
There are two key aspects to onion routing. First, the Tor network is composed of volunteers who use their computers as “nodes.” As mentioned earlier, during normal browsing, information travels across the Internet in packets. When a Tor user visits a website, however, their packets do not simply travel to that server. Instead, Tor creates a path through randomly assigned nodes on that the packet will follow before reaching the server.
The other important aspect of onion routing is how the packets are constructed. Normally, a packet will include the sender’s address and the destination, not unlike a letter. When using Tor, the packet is wrapped in successive layers of packets, like a nesting doll.
When the user sends the packet, the top layer tells it to go to Router A, the first stop on the circuit. When it is there, Router A takes off the first layer. The next layer tells Router A to send the packet onward to Router B. Router A does not know the ultimate destination, only that the packet came from the user and went to B. Router B peels off the next layer, seeing that the next stop is Router C. The process continues until the message reaches its destination. At each stop, the node only knows the available information: the last place the packet was, and the next place it will be. No node knows the complete path, and neither would anyone who observes the message being sent from a node.
While Tor has its downsides, it’s probably the easiest and best way to use the internet anonymously. Like I said before, though, the growing popularity of the software could signal some changes with how authorities treat it. So it’s always nice to have alternatives.
The most popular method for becoming anonymous is the Virtual Private Network (VPN), typically those that are encrypted. As the name implies, a VPN is a private network that’s spread across the public internet enabling that can also be used to encrypt data or increase security of individual accounts. Depending on what VPN you use, you’ll have access to different levels of security. The good news is that VPNs work well. The bad news is that they cost money. While there are hundreds of choices out there, Hide My Ass, Private Internet Access and IPredator are two established and trusted options.
In keeping with the ideological aims of the Tor Project, Tor is free to use. Simply download and install the browser, which is a modified version of Firefox available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. For mobile browsing, there is also an Android app called Orbot. Note that while the Tor browser is already configured to work properly, users on networks with firewalls or other security systems may experience difficulties. Moreover, careless Internet usage can still compromise one’s anonymity. Tor’s website has a comprehensive list of things to avoid doing while using the browser, as well as fixes for any problems that arise.
Tor is valuable as a tool to protect the user’s privacy, but that is not its only function. The other, more infamous use for Tor is as a gateway into the Deep Web, the massive portion of the Web that is not indexed by search engines. The term “Deep Web” is thrown around in popular discourse, often in tones reserved for bogeymen. There are good reasons for this, but most of the Deep Web is fairly mundane. It is merely all the information that cannot be easily accessed through a Web search, which is a lot of data, actually.
The Internet, to use an old but apt cliche, is like the ocean. Like the surface of the world’s oceans, the surface of the Internet is mapped out, easily found via Google search. The bulk of the world’s oceans lie beneath the surface, however. The bulk of the Internet (around 80 percent) comprises pages unknown to most people, locked behind passwords and protocols.
Tor allows web pages, like clients, to protect their anonymity, by configuring a server to connect with clients at a Tor relay in between. The server does not need to provide the IP address, and the user does not need it, instead using an “onion address,” a 16 character code that clients enter in place of a traditional URL. The hidden pages on the Tor network comprise one of the most famous darknets, networks only accessible through specific protocols. A phrase like darknet conjures up images of shady dealings, and not without cause; some of the most notable hidden sites are used for trafficking illegal goods, such as the Silk Road, a popular site for selling drugs which was shut down by the FBI in 2013.
Anonymity is Tor’s bread and butter, and as such it is probably impossible to ever get a comprehensive view of its userbase. There are certain trends that become apparent, however, and some Tor advocates are especially vocal about their reasons for using the service.
Tor has become popular with journalists and activists in countries with restrictions on the Internet and expression. Countries like China are known for censoring their citizens’ access to the Web; Tor provides a way around this control. For whistleblowers, Tor provides a safe avenue to leak information to journalists. In fact, Edward Snowden released information on the NSA’s PRISM program to news organizations via Tor. One doesn’t need to be a freedom fighter to appreciate Tor, however. Many academics and ordinary citizens endorse Tor as a tool to keep privacy and freedom of expression alive in the Information Age.
Despite the Tor Project’s good intentions, Tor has developed a bad reputation in the mainstream press, and not without cause. Just as large cities, with growth and prosperity, attract criminals, the growth of Tor and the cover it provides has made the network a refuge for unsavory individuals.
To be fair, the fact that Tor allows such communities to grow is troubling. However, it is important to note that criminal activity on Tor is a consequence, not a goal, of the Project’s commitment to freedom of expression.