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Home / Tips and Tricks / Tor browser FAQ: What is it and how does it protect your privacy?

Tor browser FAQ: What is it and how does it protect your privacy?



Tor is one

Tor is an “ui routing” network that protects your privacy online.

Tor Project

If you are new internet privacy and security, you’ve probably already read references to something called Tor – a critically acclaimed piece of internet-connected software with its own internet browser. Tor has been embraced by privacy enthusiasts for its reliable encryption and history of hiding users’ Internet traces.

At first glance, the terminology surrounding Tor seems intimidating and strange. But do not worry. It’s simpler than it looks.

Here’s everything you need to know about Tor.

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What is Tor?

In the mid-1990s, as the U.S. Navy was looking for ways to securely communicate sensitive intelligence information, a mathematician and two computer scientists from the Naval Research Lab came up with something called onion routing. It was a new kind of technology that would protect your internet traffic with layers of privacy. In 2003, The Onion Routing project, Tor for short, was in the hands of the public, where the extensive network of users – the engine that makes Tor possible – has continued to grow ever since.

Today, thousands of volunteers around the world connect their computers to the Internet to create the Tor network by becoming “nodes” or “relays” for your Internet traffic.

At a basic level, Tor is a kind of internet connected network with its own internet browser. Once you connect to the internet with the Tor browser, your internet traffic is stripped of the first layer of identifying information when it enters the Tor network, and is then sent back by those relay nodes, which serve to encrypt and send your data. privatize, layer by layer – like an onion. Finally, your traffic reaches an exit node and leaves the Tor network for the open web.

Once you’re in the Tor network, it’s nearly impossible for others to follow the manic pinball path of your traffic around the world. And once you leave the Tor network through an exit node, the website you’re viewing (assuming HTTPS is in front of the address) isn’t sure which part of the world you’re from, giving you more privacy and protection.

Read more: The best 2021 antivirus protection for Windows 10

How do I use Tor?

Normal web browsing is easy with Tor. Go to the official site and download the Tor browser. Follow the installation instructions as you would any other program. When you open Tor for the first time, the program will ask you to configure your connection (if you are in a country where Tor is prohibited, such as China or Saudi Arabia) or to simply connect. Once you click connect, it may take a few minutes for Tor to find a set of relays to connect to.

But once you’re in, you can use Tor the same way you would any other browser. You will also be asked to review the security settings of your Tor browser. If you’re aiming for maximum privacy, I recommend that you leave the settings at their default selections.

If you’re starting to experience slower-than-normal speeds, you can put Tor into action by looking for a faster connection path to the website you’re trying to view. In the top right corner of the Tor browser, click the three-line menu icon and select New Tor Circuit for this site.

The privacy-oriented Brave browser also has an option to direct traffic through Tor
when within a private window.

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Are there any drawbacks to using Tor?

Since Tor is a volunteer-run network, speed can often be an issue. As your traffic moves from node to node, you will likely notice more speed loss than, say, most commercial ones virtual private networks. This becomes especially noticeable when trying to watch streaming Netflix content make phone calls via Tor or voice-over-IP or video calls with an app like Zoom. Tor technology isn’t necessarily built to provide seamless audio-video experiences.

Speaking of videos, there are also limits to the amount of privacy Tor can provide if you enable certain browser media plugins such as Flash. Likewise, your browser’s JavaScript plugin – which allows you to view many embedded media from websites – can still leak your IP address data. Torrenting files with Tor also exposes you to privacy risks. Due to these risks, these types of plugins are disabled by default in Tor’s privacy settings.

If you’re just looking for common, daily internet access with a browser that can better hide your traffic from spy eyes, Tor is probably not the best choice due to its slow speeds and incompatibility with most embedded media. But if you’re concerned about privacy around some topic of internet research (and you don’t have a VPN), Tor is probably the best choice for you.

Does Tor work with a VPN?

In some cases yes. However, it usually takes some know-how to configure your VPN’s connection to work in harmony with Tor. If you don’t do it right, you run the risk of both Tor and your VPN being ineffective when it comes to protecting your privacy. We recommend that you become familiar with both types of software before marrying the two.

On the plus side, however, a successful combination of both can be helpful. While Tor protects your internet traffic, your VPN can be set to encrypt internet traffic from other applications running in the background on your device.

Check out our beginner-friendly guide to explore VPNs further all the VPN terms you need to know and our directory of the best VPNs of 2021.


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