What is the Tor Browser? The Tor Browser is based on the Firefox browser, and uses multiple relays to anonymize your web surfing. Sure, you can use your current browser to utilize their version of private browsing, but these only keep other people who use the computer from seeing you’re browsing history. They can’t keep your ISP, for instance, from monitoring the sites you’re visiting (see my previous privacy articles for other ways of doing this.)
Tor Browser, which stands for The Onion Router (to reach The Dark Web, more on this later) offers different levels of protection to keep your activities, location and identity completely private. All this anonymity does come at a small cost though, performance.
Tor routes your traffic through multiple relay servers, or Circuits, each of which anonymizes the information that comes from the previous relay. The more hops your data packets take on the way to and from your destination, the slower your browsing will become. If you find your surfing is unusually slow, or a page is no longer responding, click on the triple bar icon ( the “Hamburger” icon) on the far right hand side of the browser where you can select ‘New Tor Circuit for This Site” and your browsing should commence as before.
As well, you can choose your security level when you start Tor, Standard, Safer, Safest. When you start Tor for the first time, Security is set to Standard. Even Standard is FAR more secure than any other web browser, but if you want to work with either of the increased security levels, you need to be aware that these settings allow less and less features of a site to run or function, due to their ability to compromise your privacy, and warnings will also be shown to you onscreen.
In order to get the most out of Tor Browser, you’ll need to change your surfing habits. One of the first things is to change your default search engine from the likes of Google or Bing, to something like Duckduckgo.com, startpage.com, or searx.me that don’t attempt to track your searches. See my previous article on this.
If you log into your usual Facebook account or other social media while using Tor Browser, it completely defeats the purpose as the social media sites already know so much about you. As well, avoid installing any extensions in Tor as many extensions are not coded with privacy in mind.
Another feature under the Hamburger icon is called ‘New Identity’.
This is not as far reaching as it sounds, what is happening is that Tor is getting you a new IP address, which means it is changing all of the relay servers used to make your connection back to the web. Tor Browser will restart to accomplish this.
Staying safe and anonymous online starts with using encryption in all the connections you make. Tor Browser will automatically attempt to redirect you to the HTTPS version of a website, rather than the HTTP connection. The S in HTTPS stands for Secure, or encrypted. If Tor Browser can’t connect to the HTTPS version, a large in-your-face notice will be displayed alerting you to this issue. Another way to know if your connection is secure is that a green padlock icon will be present next to the URL.
For even more privacy and security, connect to a VPN prior to launching Tor Browser. The VPN will not be able to see what you’re doing in Tor Browser, and no Tor node will be able to see your IP address.
And now to The Dark Web we spoke of earlier. The Dark Web is basically a collection of .onion sites. These sites are not accessible to search engines so you will have to find a .onion directory on the clear web. And even though you are private and secure while visiting The Dark Web, be aware that many of the .onion sites contain illegal content, are selling illegal products, or promoting illegal activities. The Dark Web has its uses, but not for the average web surfing individual in my experience, in fact it can be dangerous.
You can get started with Tor Browser by going to the official site here: https://www.torproject.org/
If you would prefer to have me set you up on the Tor Browser, phone and we’ll set up a time to meet that works for you!
Surf safely folks!