The Tor Browser Review
I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building.
As the phrase goes, nothing is secret. The saying can be applied to the current state of internet security, privacy, and anonymity.
The latest researches on cybersecurity risks have demonstrated that average users compromise their network environment unconsciously due to the lack of knowledge and responsiveness of their online activities.
With the growing number of internet-connected devices (IoT, AR/VR) we make our state of affairs even worse, as long as there are more ‘things’ to be used for spying upon us on the part of government agencies and all the adversaries.
It is expected that the number of gadgets connected to the Internet will be higher by 2020. With the increase of such internet-friendly devices, the number of Android hacking attacks rises as well.
Fortunately for us, computer professionals and security experts have already developed several highly-useful technologies and tools for our online protection. Tor Browser is one of the search systems used by many advanced customers and falsely left behind by numerous average users.
To begin with, it is necessary to point out that Tor Browser has nothing in common with TorVPN. Having decided the browser was developed by a group of thoughtless hackers, we must state that you are wrong, as long as the browser was developed by the US Naval Research Lab and D.A.R.P.A.
The Tor project was created to be a non-profit one, which is invested on the part of some independent federal entities like The National Science Foundation.
Therefore, if you think the tool is applied by ‘criminals’ only, you should know it’s highly appreciated by journalists, dissident political members and average users looking for online anonymity.
What is more, with the increased number of identity thefts customers employ the tool for avoiding leaving any online traces. In compliance with the method of its functioning, Tor is not used for making your traffic encrypted, but routes your traffic through a series of intermediate nodes, which makes it impossible for any prying eyes to track back to a sender of a data packet.
Being interested in the up-to-date anonymizer you might have already searched for the official website. There are several variants of Tor Browsers regarding your OSes and language in use.
Firstly, you need to know what is included in the browser.
The Tor Browser contains:
- a modified Firefox ESR,
- and HTTPS-everywhere.
However, in some countries access to the official website is blocked or restricted, which makes downloading the tool impossible.
Nevertheless, with the help of a VPN service or accessing the mirror website placed on Github (Tor Browser Bundle), you can download the necessary software. If some help is required, you are free to access the FAQ section of the website or look for some assistance on the internet.
Here we are to review several ways of the browser installation in keeping with the platform you run on your connected device.
Primarily, it should be explained that the Tor Browser has several variations:
- Stable Tor Browser.
- Experimental Tor Browser.
- Hardened Tor Browser.
- Tor Browser Sandbox.
Stable Tor Browser supports the following languages:
♦ and Chinese.
Experimental Tor Browser supports the same languages, whereas Hardened Tor Browser and Tor Browser Sandbox are compatible with all languages.
Providing that you have decided to install the browser for MacOS, you need to get acquainted with the following instructions:
- You need to download a compatible file with your system from the Tor official website.
- Then you are to save it somewhere on your device’s memory and click on it.
- After that, you will see the .dmg.file is opened.
- The included file you see should be dragged into your Application folder.
- Once it’s done, you will have a Tor Browser app that can be pinned on your Dock.
If you see that the actions seem to be confusing to you or facing some operation problems, you are able to follow the FAQ section to learn everything you need. Or, it is also possible to make use of a VPN service for Mac.
In case you are a common Windows user, you will come up with the next screen while downloading Tor Browser:
- After you’ve downloaded a necessary file from the official website and saved it somewhere on your connected device you need to make double click on it.
- Choose ‘run’ and select the installer’s language you need and click ‘ok’.
- At least 80MB of free space in the location you select should be provided.
- You can also choose to leave the bundle on the computer while saving it to the desktop.
- In case you want to shift or limit all the traces you leave behind your online activities, you should save it to a USB disk.
- Choose the option ‘install’ and wait until the installation is fulfilled. It can take you up to a few minutes, so don’t be afraid of this.
- After that a Tor Browser’s wizard should be launched by clicking ‘finish’ and connected;
- Here you have an alternative way. By entering the folder Tor Browser (at the location you saved it) and double-click the Start Tor Browser application.
When Tor is ready for usage it will be automatically launched. In this case, only the website you visit through Tor Browser will be routed through Tor router, whereas if running IE, all your traffic is to be just on the surface (so if you want to use different browser privately, it is recommended to subscribe for ane of the VPNs for Windows).
When running Tor Browser all your browsing history and cookies will be deleted for privacy reasons. Having decided to use the Tor browser again, all you need is to make double-click on the Start Tor Browser app.
If you are one of Linux lovers, you need to pay attention to the following manipulations required for Tor Browser installation:
1. Firstly, you need to download the architecture-appropriate file above.
2. After you have saved it somewhere you need to extract the package archive:
- The first way to make it is: tar –xvJf tor-browser-linux32 (or linux64)- 6.5.1._LANG.tar.xz
- The next way to make it is: tar –xvJf tor-browser-linux32 (or linux64)- 6.5.1._LANG.tar.xz
(In this case, LANG stands for the language included in the filename.)
3. Then you need to run cd tor-browser_LANG.
4. To use the browser you can go several ways: to click the Tor Browser Setup icon, Tor Browser or use an appropriate option from the terminal. Once Tor Launcher is connected to Tor, Firefox will be opened. You shouldn’t run or unpack TBB as a root (the best VPN for Linux list is offered as an alternative to Tor Browser).
Note! Don't forget about a new privacy tool.
When Tor appears to be normal for one group of users, the others seem to know nothing, a little or take the view the software is ill-advised and illegal to use. We have decided to delve deeper into the root of the issue and have some facts that can shock a low-skilled reader.
There are stories told by Tor users posted on the official website from which we see that the technology is applied by numerous law-abiding customers. Thus, today, Tor Browser is on the list of worthy internet privacy tools.
So, why then people run it?
There are several reasons why people install and use the software while surfing the internet:
- Unscrupulous marketers and identity thefts protection
Any of your internet browsing records can be sold by your ISPs to any interested marketers or people who eager to pay for it. Although ISPs have claimed to save no personal information that can be misused in relation to a customer, there are plenty of cases when the loud statement has been disproven.
Usually, the gathered metadata contains data on every site you visit, texts of every research you make, and even some password information can be a part of the data. As well as your ISPs, some logging-in websites are armed with the same or even broader specter of confidential information on your IP (however, it is possible to mask your IP address).
- Correspondence protection
Starting with lost backup tapes and finishing with data handed over to researchers, your confidential information is not protected by people who have been entrusted to do so.
Therefore, more and more customers tend to Tor usage for making their online activities protected from extra surveillance and interceptions.
- Children protection
Even if you have warned your kids not to share any of the personal data online, their geo-location can be easily worked out through your dedicated IP address assigned by your ISP.
Besides, with the growing number of geo-detailed apps, such as Instagram where people posting their photos along with an appropriate point on the maps, an adversary doesn’t need to be a super-detective to determine your geo placement. Thus, in the US, for instance, the government is interested in making the map as precise as possible. So that, a VPN for the USA is a must these days.
- Sensitive issues accessing
Provided that you live behind a national firewall, you are deprived of a possibility to access some critically important topics as AIDS, birth control, believes and etc. Moreover, people from outside the country can stay cut off the outer world, their business partners and relatives while traveling there. That is the reason why average customers that have nothing in common with criminality use the up-to-date software.
- Fourteen eyes surveillance escaping
You might have already heard there are countries that commit surveillance over their citizens and are obliged not to commit supervision over the countries-partners.
Unfortunately, it can be a nasty surprise for you to see your native country in the list of the fourteen:
The US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia.
This is the UKUSA Agreement, which is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing data between two states. The countries follow an additional agreement not to spy on each other, but the statement has been multiply disproved.
Five Eyes + Denmark, France, Holland, Norway.
Some more countries have been added to become part of the network.
Nine Eyes + Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain.
The network has been fatherly extended to fourteen states (14 eye alliance). They are known to be officially called Senior Europe. Military signal intelligence is stated to be exchanged between these countries.
What is more, a global demand for online anonymity protection has been evoked by E. Snowden’s revelations. With the use of Tor, you will make it extremely difficult for even advanced computer engineers to track back to your IP through your online activates.
- Censorship circumvention
While living in a country that restricts access to Facebook or YouTube and implements heavy fines and even arrests for ‘rebelliousness’, you might have already tried to find the most reliable ways of your identity protection (there are also Facebook VPN unblockers).
Moreover, the countries make everything to be closed for tourism and business relationship as well, as long as having traveled there on a business trip, you might be divided from the world and all the up-to-date apps used for communication with your business representatives and relatives.
Who are they: Tor browser users?
As you can see, Tor users are average customers that run the technology for making their networks free from mass surveillance, identity thefts, and censorship. For people living behind a national firewall, the software is almost the only free solution, which can make their internet connections protected from tracing and identification.
Besides, most countries that follow an impinging political regime are deprived of a possibility to look at the state of affairs from another angle. In case the people decide to speak out online, they can be easily singled out and fined or arrested for the ‘illegal’ activities. Unluckily, the internet is not as safe and free as it was intended to be.
However, Tor is used by some people attributed to criminal activities too. The Dark Web, for instance, can be accessed only through Tor. Therefore, people who live on sales of drugs or some adult materials run Tor.
Nevertheless, nobody can say Tor is illegal, as it is used by criminals, as long as it used by thousands of law-abiding citizens too. Therefore, everything depends on your needs. If you are looking for some measures for your online protection to make all your web accounts free from identity thefts, you can’t be referred to as a criminal.
Risks for both simple and sophisticated analysis of your traffic are reduced by the technology. In this case, no one can point you at your destination or reveal your true address. The software creates a hard-to-follow route to confuse anyone who tries to follow your online activities.
Any of your outcoming traffic is usually routed in packets that contain some confidential information on you including your geo-location. In case if you send something to a website (a server) all your traffic is packed and rerouted to one of the chain nodes known as onion ones.
Besides, when passing from one node to another the same packet becomes repacked with a new layer so that it becomes practically impossible to trace back the sender of the data.
However, although Tor makes your online activities anonymous your traffic is not encrypted, but enclosed in several packets forwarded through several connected to Tor devices (nodes).
A random pathway makes your network protected from any unauthorized interference. Nevertheless, some security-concerned users opt for some additional layers of protection that help them to make their traffic encrypted.
One of the top-notch solutions, which is applied by many average and advanced customers is known as a VPN (read other VPN service reviews).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tor Browser
It is not without purpose that there are both supporters and critics of Tor software and Tor browser. From this fat, we may not ignore both strong and weak points of Tor web browser.
- Necessity to install software
- Does NOT encrypt users traffic (sent and received data, messages
and what not)
- Scales down the speed
- Not for peer-to-peer file sharing
+ Conceal user IP address
+ Access to restricted and censored websites
+ Your ISP does NOT know what websites and services you use
+ Free and anonymous web browsing
+ User-friendly interface that reminds Firefox
As far as you could conclude Tor browser is not ideal in terms of security.
In this regard, many resourceful users make attempts to combine one of the best web browsers with VPNs.
Tor Browsers supplies its customers with a high level of anonymity, whereas a VPN service offers a wide range of additional services, such as true addresses hindering and making all of your generated traffic encrypted.
Despite Tor, a good VPN offers a wide list of server locations all over the globe. Having connected to one of the servers placed in some other countries, you can easily change your authentic address and access any geo-restricted content.
Besides, what differs a VPN operation from Tor is that the service encrypts all your passed or received traffic with the help of military-grade protocols, such as L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, PPTP, and etc. Therefore, while using the service along with Tor you kill two birds with a stone. But before choosing the best VPN for running it with Tor Browser you need to learn some more information on protocols in use.
This one has features of both L2P and PPTP protocols. Cisco and Microsoft have come together to come up with this one as L2F comes from Cisco. The main thing is that the data link layer is really important. As for confidentiality of the data, it follows PPTP to the T.
Also, data protection is guaranteed against customization happens during tunneling. Another important aspect is the origin authenticity. You will also be impressed with the replay protection. Since Microsoft is part of the design, Windows will give you a built-in support for L2TP. Also, for implementation, you will need a digital certificate.
It can be used as a tunneling protocol if you want. Also, you can use it along with L2TP. When it comes to gateway VPN it is considered as the standard protocol.
It also works as a Security Layer as well. This one was basically developed for IP traffic. One thing you need to realize is that it is time-consuming as well as costly. Windows versions post-Windows 2000 supports this protocol.
Without any doubt, this is one of the most commonly used VPN protocols out there.
The configuration is really simple. Also, one doesn’t have to worry too much about the maintenance either. As for PPTP, it is an extension of PTP. Several remote connections are utilized to send data over the internet when it comes to PTP.
Microsoft developed this protocol with the help of a few other corporations. That is exactly why Windows comes with built-in support for PTTP protocol.
If we take a closer look, we can see that previous versions of PTTP were criticized for lack of security. With the help of EAP authentication, such problems have been eliminated of late.
Also, today PPTP is supported by many firewalls. Yes, that includes Sonic Wall and ISA server as well. When it comes to accessing streaming services, this can be the best bet.
SSL stands for Secured Socket Layer. It has several advantages over many VPN protocols considering the fact that you don’t need VPN client software.
That is exactly why VPN connected via SSL is called clientless. You don’t have to worry about using a client at all. All that it uses is HTTP or a web browser.
The session layer is what it operates on. As you know, the session layer is above the layer at which IPSec operates. When it comes to authentication, SSL needs digital certificates.
It has been introduced together with Windows Vista. Today it’s compatible with numerous platforms.
However, its main platform is still Windows. It offers similar possibilities to OpenVPN. But it is easier and more stable for using it with Windows.
The standard is owned by Microsoft, which makes it bad for safeness, as the company is known to leave backdoors for the NSA.
The task is as simple as ABC.
All you need is to install a compatible Tor Browser app on your connected device and to subscribe for an appropriate VPN service. Having made both the manipulations, you are ready to experience a new internet deprived of mass surveillance and censorship.
The next step is to choose a VPN server located in a country you need and to choose the most suitable protocol from the list presented by the VPN.
Having established an internet connection through one of the servers your authentic address is assigned with a newly-chosen one. Therefore, when surfing the internet with a connected VPN over your Tor Browser you get a 99,9% of defense against all the prying eyes, identity thieves, computer fraudsters and other malware.
Therefore, a combination of both the technologies supplies your online life with all-time protection.