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Tor - The Onion Router

kulsoomzahra profile image kulsoomzahra Updated on ・2 min read

What is Tor?

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows you to improve your privacy and security on the Internet.

Privarcy is a human right. We at Tor advance human rights and defend your privacy online through free software and open networks

Tor works by sending your traffic through three random servers (also known as relays) in the Tor network. The last relay in the circuit (the exit relay) then sends the traffic out onto the public Internet.

Alt Text

The image above illustrates a user browsing to different websites over Tor. The green middle computers represent relays in the Tor network, while the three keys represent the layers of encryption between the user and each relay.

It protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world, it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

This collection of volunteer relays is called the Tor network.

The way most people use Tor is with the Tor Browser, which is based on Firefox ESR and comes bundled with privacy enhancing & anti-fingerprinting features.

So is Tor a VPN?

Nope. Tor is NOT a VPN and furthermore it is not recommended to use Tor and VPN together.
These are fundamentally very different. In the case of VPN, you're just transferring your trust from your internet service provider (ISP) to the VPN provider.
The VPN provider can log any data while you use their network and anyone snooping on the VPN connection can also easily gain knowledge of your activities.
While using Tor, your connection is made to the website by bouncing the connection through three different relays so the website you're connecting to can only see the IP address of the 'exit' relay

Some more about Tor

The Tor Browser furthermore comes bundled with features like: a different circuit of every different domain, i.e. a new circuit for every website you're connecting to so as to mitigate cross-site tracking; 'Security Settings' with which you can also disable most of the harmful JavaScript.

The noteworthy part is that the idea is not to hide that you're using the Tor network but to anonymize your activities on the Tor network.

Tor is an essential tool for privacy and anonymity on the internet. It is a tool used by millions of people all around the globe - from journalists to human rights activists to ordinary people

Challenges

Direct access to the Tor network may sometimes be blocked by your Internet Service Provider or by a government. Tor Browser includes some circumvention tools for getting around these blocks. These tools are called pluggable transports.

I'll talk more about this in incoming blogs so stay tuned!

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Abhijit Tripathy

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