Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

  • Tor (The Onion Router) is a part of the internet hidden to normal browser software, but accessible via a specially modified version of Firefox.
  • It was invented by the US Naval Research Laboratory to help people use the net without being traced and aids anonymity in two ways.
  • Firstly, it can be used to browse the world wide web anonymously. It does this by randomly bouncing the data packets involved through hard-to-follow routes across computer networks using internet bandwidth donated by volunteers.
  • Secondly, there are hidden sites on Tor that use the .onion domain suffix rather than .com, .org or one of the standard address endings.
  • These are effectively websites but, as they sit on Tor, have typically been hard to find unless you have been given the relevant address since they are not indexed by normal search engines such as Google or Bing.
  • Although many media reports about Tor have focused on how it is used to spread pornography and images of child abuse, it is also used for many legitimate means.
  • Journalists and whistle-blowers use it to communicate with each other, with the New Yorker magazine's Strongbox being one example of a "dead drop" service based on the technology.
  • Tor has been funded by, among others, the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights group, Google, Human Rights Watch and the US National Science Foundation.

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