In the last few years, the number of hours people spend online has increased tenfold. Whether it is for school, work, socializing, tending to your finances, or entertainment, we rely on the internet as our one-stop source of access. The more time that we spend online, we realize how vulnerable we are online. Cybercrime is becoming more and more common and people are searching for ways to protect themselves and their information. Most of us prefer the protection and security of VPNs, but if anonymity is your desire than look no further than Tor.
What is Tor?
Originally founded by the United States Navy, and funded mainly by the State Department and the Department of Defense, Tor is a non-profit organization that conducts development and research into online anonymity and privacy. Tor offers a technology that literally bounces the users and websites traffic through ‘relays’ and bridges’, run by thousands of volunteers around the globe. This bouncing of information to a minimum of three relays makes it incredibly hard for any bad actors to identify the location of the user or the source of the information.
To a common person, Tor is similar to browsers like Google Chrome and Safari. Most people know Tor like this due to their offering of the Tor Browser Bundle, which can be used on any computer or android device. While using this browser, you will browse the web completely anonymously. Tor was developed as protection and anonymity of its use as the main objective. The government wanted to create a technology that would provide the military and other risky occupations a safe way to conduct communications and research without the risk of having the information intercepted. So, who all uses Tor for the right reasons?
- US Navy
- Law Enforcement Officers
- IT Professionals
- Business Executives
- Regular people wanting to browse the internet safely.
How Does Tor Work?
Using Tor is actually much easier than it sounds. However, behind the scenes the system is incredibly complex. This complexity is what makes the anonymity of Tor possible. Your information and data are bundled into separate layers of encrypted packets. These packets are then released into the Tor network, where they are routed through a series of servers referred to as relays or nodes.
Each time your data is routed, a layer of encryption is removed to reveal the location of the next node. This process repeats as many times as the network requires till the final layer is removed at what is called the exit node. From the exit node your data is sent to its final destination. Since this process is completely randomized and the nodes do not keep records, your information becomes virtually impossible to trace back to you.
For those who want to maximize their safety and privacy online, you can even pair using of Tor with a VPN. A VPN or a Virtual Protection Network protects you and provides privacy, while Tor focuses on anonymity. The combination of both methods can encrypt your data through the VPN before entering Tor’s network.
Darkness in Tor
Since Tor masks the users’ identities, it has been adopted by criminals around the globe. There are websites that are only accessible through the Tor Network, this section of the internet is known as the infamous “Dark Web”. Criminals use the Dark Web for some of the worst crimes in the world, ranging from massive drug trading (Silk Road), hiring hitman, producing and distributing all forms of child pornography, and arms trading. This was not the reason for Tor’s creation but is a gigantic and terrible outcome.