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Ishan Mishra
Ishan Mishra

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What is Tor and how to use it?

1. Intended audience.

This article is for everyone who browses the internet and wants to learn how to surf the internet anonymously to protect one's identity.

2. Overview.

This article is an introduction to an open-source project "TOR" in this article we will get an overview of how tor works, how it can help protect one's identity while browsing internet and how to download, set it up and use it. I will try to make this article as simple and free of technical terms as possible. This article is for educational purposes only.

3. What is Tor?

The United States Naval Research Laboratory developed The Onion Routing Protocol (Tor) to protect U.S. intelligence communications online. Currently Tor is an open source project maintained by the Tor Project, Inc., nonprofit organization. According to the official website Tor is helpful to "Browse privately, explore freely. Defend yourself against tracking and surveillance. Circumvent censorship."

4. Tor vs VPN.

Normal request
When we visit a website let's say "" a packet similar to the one shown in the image below is generated and sent to the requested website's server, now this packet contains our(source) IP address, destination IP address, and the request data. If we are using an HTTPS connection(see the lock icon in url bar) then the data is encrypted and cannot be read by any middle man but the source and destination IP addresses can be sniffed by hackers and other advertisement agencies to show relevant ads to a user based on the website he/she is visiting.

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Through VPN(Centralised)
When a request is sent through VPN, the client's IP address is hidden and replaced by the VPN server's IP therefore its not possible for any middleman to get the client's source and destination but the VPN service provider knows everything about the website a user is visiting, so there should be trust between the user and the VPN service provider, plus VPN services are not free of cost.

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Through Tor(Decentralised)
When a request is sent through Tor, it goes through Tor Nodes, then finally to a destination, so when source(client) sends a request it will show destination as "Tor Node-1" and when exit node send request to destination it will show source as "Tor node-3(ex)", therefore it is very difficult to track by a middleman as to which website a request is sent and from which user a particular request is coming. Drawback of using Tor is that it's very slow as compared to normal and VPN connection.
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5. How to download and setup Tor.

Visit tor project official website, here, then choose your operating system, for android Tor browser can also be downloaded directly from playstore. Tor is currently available for windows, MacOs, linux, and android. This will download a Tor browser now whenever you want to surf the internet anonymously simply open the browser and click the "Connect" button.

6. Is Tor legal?

So, is Tor legal? In short: yes, using Tor is completely legal and is not banned in India. However, if you use Tor for illicit activities, like buying drugs, weapons etc.. then you can face legal scrutiny if your activities are traced back to you.

7. Conclusion.

Tor is a great project to protect one's identity online and can be used like a free and no data limit VPN, if you can tolerate slow loading 😅.

[1]: Tor project official website


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