The Tor Browser is not a scary, mysterious thing that only hackers use. The Tor browser uses Pear to Pear (P2P) connection to increase anonymity online. The best way to access the dark web is through the Tor browser. This browser is considered a form of VPN as it makes the user completely untraceable. ISPs and government spies can trace your information with Tor. Once you have the Tor browser set up on your device, then accessing the dark web is easy. Aug 26, 2020 “For the most extreme cases, you can use Tor, a browser that anonymizes your IP through a series of proxy servers. For example, if you visit Amazon.com through Tor, your traffic is routed through these proxies, and each proxy only sees the IP address of the previous proxy. By the time you reach Amazon, your actual IP address is long gone. The Tor browser is the easiest and most popular way to use Tor. It’s based on Firefox and works like a bare bones version of any other web browser. It’s pretty much plug-and-play; there’s no special tweaks or configuration to start browsing anonymously after the initial setup. Tor Browser aims to make all users look the same, making it difficult for you to be fingerprinted based on your browser and device information. MULTI-LAYERED ENCRYPTION Your traffic is relayed and encrypted three times as it passes over the Tor network.

If you’re not familiar with Tor Browser, it’s a private browser that anonymizes your IP address and online activity. Dan Arel explains when it’s appropriate to use Tor and what steps to take if you choose to use it.

Dan Arel is a privacy and digital rights activist, founder and curator of ThinkPrivacy.ch, as well as an award-winning journalist, and best-selling author. His work has appeared in the Huff Post, OpenSource, Hacker Noon, Time Magazine, and more. You can follow him on Twitter @danarel.

One of the most popular questions I get at ThinkPrivacy is when to use certain tools and when not to use them. Oftentimes, the questions turn out to be an honest misunderstanding of how some tools work, how they should work, or when someone should actually utilize a more extreme measure of privacy and when not.

Some of this was covered when I discussed threat models but we all still fail to sometimes assess our actual threat level, or simply misunderstand the place certain tools have in this model.

Is Tor in your Threat Model?

Use Tor Browser Online

Tor Browser

No tool is more misunderstood it seems than the Tor Browser. I briefly touched on Tor when writing about IP addresses, saying:

“For the most extreme cases, you can use Tor, a browser that anonymizes your IP through a series of proxy servers. For example, if you visit Amazon.com through Tor, your traffic is routed through these proxies, and each proxy only sees the IP address of the previous proxy. By the time you reach Amazon, your actual IP address is long gone. Amazon sees the IP of the last proxy you passed through and has no idea who you are. The problem with Tor for most users is that it can be incredibly slow.”

If you’re a journalist researching some incredibly sensitive materials and cannot risk being tracked, especially for those inside authoritarian governments or those fearing the watchful eye of any government, Tor is for you. Even activists access materials, websites, and resources under similar authoritarian conditions or again, worried about state surveillance under any government, Tor is a great solution.

If you’re simply worried about Facebook or Google knowing too much about you, Tor could in many cases be overkill and hurt your internet experience.

If you are looking to increase your overall internet privacy, you can use a privacy respecting search engine such Startpage, and can find privacy-respecting email providers, messengers, and more that don’t rely on harvesting your data for profit. Using Startpage to search with the addition of Anonymous View, you’re going to get a lot of the same protections Tor is offering you in regards to privacy.

Install always-on privacy
Install Startpage's private search browser extension.

Again, your threat model should determine your tools and how extreme the steps you take should ensure your privacy. Tor is going to be a much slower browsing experience just to avoid Facebook tracking your browsing habits when you can just as easily use Facebook Containers on the Firefox browser to accomplish this same goal.

How to use Tor browser

If you have decided to use Tor, there are some simple steps you should take to ensure you are maximizing your anonymity:

  1. Do not add additional plugins. Do not add your favorite password manager or ad blocker. These changes modify the fingerprint of your browser making you more identifiable.
  2. Do not login to Firefox to sync your bookmarks. Tor is based on the Firefox browser, meaning you have the option to log in and sync your settings. I think it goes without saying that being logged in helps make you far more identifiable.
  3. Do not resize your browser window. This one seems weird, right? Yet, when you visit websites, they can see what size browser window you’re using. If everyone is using the same default window size, it makes you less obvious. This makes it harder for a person to stand out as unique.

There is always the old adage of when in doubt, then perhaps you should use Tor. Chances are that if you are researching something or browsing for something that you are not certain can be protected by using strong privacy add-ons and basic privacy tools, using Tor and following the basic steps above will be helpful. But, for most people, Tor is going to be overkill and simply not necessary for everyday internet usage.

As always, use common sense, browse smart, be careful what information you share, and how you access information. Using every privacy tool available will be meaningless if you don’t take a moment to stop and think about your actions online.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Startpage.

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