Tor is a free, open-source web browser designed, developed, and used to carry out confidential communication. But why is it that we need safety precautions while using a security tool? While Tor does provide privacy-centric features, the problem arises with its connection to the deep and dark web. Admittedly Tor is a security and anonymity tool. Still, since it’s an open-source network with volunteers owning its servers, we can’t ensure that a legitimate entity runs the server where our data is routing. You need to use the Tor browser safely with real security measures.
The chances are that the government or a cybercriminal could own it. And since Tor works on the onion routing method providing layered encryption, meaning it merely wraps your data into encryption, your data largely remains vulnerable to spying.
Other problems sum up to ISP throttling due to P2P traffic, compromised exit nodes, and malware attacks. Nevertheless, Tor is significantly secure in comparison to other browsers. It will not save your logs like other web browsers do and provide a layered encryption environment to browse anonymously around the Internet. But, with Tor, you need to proceed with caution.
How Tor Works:
Quite like its name depicts, Tor used the Onion routing method to process and anonymize user requests while relying on nodes and layered encryption. Onion routing routes each request through nodes and processes through layers to make it more secure when it comes out from the last layer.
For instance, you make a request, and the data is entered through the entry node, where it is enclosed in layers of encryption. From the entry node, it hops to the middle of the relay node. Your data finally proceeds towards the exit node. Here all the layers of encryption are stripped off for the data to move on unprotected towards its destination.
Apart from the problems mentioned above related to layered encryption and the server network, data that travels unsecured after the exit node in Tor is concerned.
But, keep in mind, layer encryption will not provide data encryption. This means you can be tracked back if authorities want to, like when the FBI crashed the network. Despite everything, Tor is generally somewhat secure if you have the correct means of using it.
How To Use Tor Browser Safely:
Along with using Tor with a VPN, several privacy measures need to be addressed. Attaining complete online privacy is tricky, and even a slight overlook from your part can shatter the privacy bubble you have carefully constructed. While using Tor, it is crucial to consider the following things:
1. Install Tor Safely
One guaranteed way of using Tor safely is to pair it with a reliable VPN compatible with Tor. Since Tor compatibility is somewhat rare, you need to be careful in the choices you make. A VPN with a dedicated space for Tor means you can speed up the browsing speed, plus it will secure your data by providing the best data encryption.
- After downloading and enabling the Tor VPN.
- Get the Tor browser on the site available for macOS, Windows, Linux OS & Android devices. Unfortunately, it’s not available for iPhone or iPad users.
- Once installed, open the browser, click on connect and configure to connect on their servers.
So far, Tor over VPN is the best solution to browse safely and anonymously on Tor.
2. Habits to avoid:
It is crucial to remain secure with the Tor browser due to the several above-mentioned privacy risks associated with the browser. Some of the critical habits you need to avoid are as follows:
- Avoid using any Google personal products, like Gmail, Drive, or Hangouts.
- Don’t uploading media files, like your private pictures or personal information.
- Avoid using any social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
- Use Https Anywhere to the browser-only secured versions of the sites.
- Avoid using any peer-to-peer connection to download Torrents.
- Avoid using Tor without a VPN connection.
Putting these privacy habits and measures into consideration will ensure that you remain safe while using Tor. Since most of these habits are personalized, even a slight oversight can cause privacy and data leaks.
3. Advance security settings:
Although using Tor might sound a bit intimidating, in reality, Tor is a versatile tool allowing you to Tor privacy settings as per your needs. However, while doing so, you would have to compromise your browsing experience. Such as most sites won’t work, but a few likes like Wikipedia are in the whitelist would work as usual. By default, Tor connects the relay and builds the connection with its proxy server. Once it connects, Tor enables Noscript and HttpsAnywhere by default.
4. Cookies settings
Albeit, Tor provides the best privacy and anonymous environment to protect your identity. Sometimes you use social media platforms to communicate with each other or watch videos. These sites only work once you permit them and allow their scripts to run smoothly. This could store your cookies and track your data and cause data leaks.
The Tor browser opens with private mode by default, which means it will not maintain any search hisTory. Once you close the Tor, it will automatically delete all the cookies.
5. Use Privacy Search Engines
By now, it is common knowledge that Google, Bing, Safari, and other search engines don’t value your privacy. Instead, they collect your information through sponsored ads and affiliate commissions and sell it to third parties. Therefore, it is best to replace them with privacy search engines.
Privacy search engines are privacy-centric search engines that don’t track your data in any way or log your activity. Along with that, they block ads, cookies, and trackers while hiding your IP address which somewhat privatizes your search queries.
6. Re-build Circuit
Each time you open the Tor browser and build the connection, it will connect through a mechanism called “Circuit.” The whole process of “Circuit” is based on nodes, layers, proxy servers, and bridges.
You can change the Circuit by clicking the “Onion” logo next to the address bar. Changing the IP with the whole Circuit will restart the Tor, build another connection, and provide a fresh IP address. This way, you can delete all save logs in time and also improve your browsing speed.
7. Necessary Privacy Tools
It’s best to keep updating your OS, whether it’s Windows, macOS, or Tor browser. Tor is used mainly by investigating journalists and researchers to go beyond the limits to dig out more facts and figures.
Suppose you are accessing the Tor browser to access the Deep and Dark web. Then you need to make sure that you have all the privacy measures mentioned above, like compatible VPN and antivirus software, to handle any malicious site attacking your system or identity.
How to Use Tor Browser On Android and iPhone:
iPhone does have better privacy than Android, however, when we talk about using Tor safely, you need to take the same steps to make sure you are private enough to surf Tor.
- Encable best VPN for encrption
- Install the Tor App from app store or Google strore.
- Also make sure you setup the Tor properly and read the suggestions mention above.
Use Tor For Access Deep and Dark Web:
The deep and the dark web are no ordinary places to venture. It is the unindexed part of the Internet and the thriving hub for criminal activities. However, if you are a journalist in the hunt for actual figures on some latest criminal stories or a cybersecurity threat hunter, deep and the dark web are understandably resourceful places for you.
Since the deep and the dark web has .onion sites, they are best accessible through Tor. However, don’t just dive into the abyss unprotected! Remember to use a legitimate VPN along with Tor. Besides that, make sure not to share any personal information or download unprotected files since they may be laced with malware. Also, be sure to cover your webcam since it can be hijacked.
Is It Dangerous To Use Tor?
Instead of considering Tor as downright dangerous, we can consider Tor as insecure and that too, due to the plethora of privacy reasons mentioned above. The browser’s association with the deep and dark web has it reputed as “dangerous.”
However, to gauge whether Tor is dangerous or not depends solely on your activity. If you are merely using Tor as an anonymity tool based on the privacy it provides, then no, Tor isn’t dangerous. Just don’t solely rely on Tor’sTor’s privacy alone; better pair it with a VPN. Tor can be “dangerous” if you venture the deep and dark web unprotected. Since this unindexed part is the hub of criminal activity, it is best to avoid it altogether, and even if you do access it, make sure to pair Tor with a legitimate VPN.
What are the Downsides of using Tor?
Admittedly Tor is a reliable privacy tool, but relying solely upon Tor comes with several downfalls such as:
- The connection is slow due to ISP throttling and continuous hopping of traffic from node to node.
- Data remains insecure as it travels without encryption after the exit node.
- Several security issues due to compromised exit nodes and potential malware attacks
- Due to its link to the dark web puts excessive Tor users under the limelight of government
The ultimate solution to these downfalls is to use Tor with a VPN. The privacy, security, and anonymity provided by a VPN help surpass Tor security issues and ensure robust online security.
Can You be Tracked While Using Tor?
Although Tor provides better anonymity and privacy than your average web browser, it is not entirely secure. Several events, such as the one in 2020 when Tor vulnerability for macOS and Linux revealed user IP address with Tor.
Tor works on the onion routing method with data hopping from one node to the other and layered encryption. However, the entry node from where this process of encryption layering starts can see your data and know your location too.
Besides, the exit node can also spy on your data since the encryption layer comes off by then. Moreover, if you are not careful enough and don’t use Torsocks specifically, you might be vulnerable to DNS leaks.
It is somewhat possible for anyone to track you while using Tor through all these loopholes. Apart from that, anyone who has the tools and capability to monitor most Tor nodes can also track users like the FBI did when they crashed the drug trade. Therefore, it is best to use Tor with a VPN that doesn’t allow tracking and ensures anonymity.
Does Your ISP See Tor Traffic?
ISP providers use filters to filter out bandwidth activities. Yes, ISP knows whenever you establish a connection through Tor and put on your suspicious category. That’sThat’s the primary reason why it’s necessary to use VPN encryption to hide and encrypt your internet traffic.
But then again, your IP is also aware that you’re using a VPN. However, they remain in the dark on what you are using the VPN. Countries with strict data retention laws have VPNs banned too, and only selected VPNs to help surpass that ban. ISPs maintain such strict surveillance and data retention through filter bots that determine traffic activities and log user data.
Is Tor A VPN?
No! Tor uses proxy servers to relocate or change your IP address and provide layer-to-layer encryption. In contrast, VPN provides data encryption and masks your IP address. VPN encryption is more robust than that offered by Tor since with a VPN, all of your data is encrypted, enclosed within an encrypted packet, and is carried through an encrypted tunnel. Tor encryption starts and ends only on encapsulation.
Apart from that, Tor privacy is only limited to the browser itself, whereas a VPN protects the whole of your internet connection and activity. Therefore, in comparison, VPN surpasses Tor. VPNs also help mitigate Tor vulnerabilities.
Despite Tor vulnerabilities, it is an excellent privacy and security tool. With average browsers making online security a hassle, using Tor has become somewhat of a necessity since it provides better privacy. However, while using Tor, it is best to keep in mind the problems and vulnerabilities associated with it and get past them through a legitimate VPN provider.