What is Tor?
The Tor is a software that provides its users with completely anonymous internet access. It provides similar benefits like a VPN service, but in terms of practical use each of them provides slightly different features.
Although Tor provides a very high level of internet anonymity, it also comes at a cost of internet speed reduction. On the other hand, all the best VPN providers offer a very high level of privacy, but because the VPN provider knows your actual IP address then it’s hard to regard it as a fully anonymous network.
The Tor is the best tool for anyone who’s looking for maximum possible anonymity when browsing the internet, plus it’s a great anti-censorship tool. However, being free and with many users around the world, many governments have tried with a varying degree of success to block access to the Tor network.
Why is Tor free?
Tor network is completely free and open source. Although Tor still accepts sponsorships and donations, since the beginning of its launch in the mid-1990s, it’s been receiving a substantial funding from the USA government. The true reason to start the Tor project was to protect government communications. However, today Tor’s main purpose is to assist those people who are living under oppressive regimes like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and many others.
Who uses Tor?
Today, Tor Network is used by many people around the world and for a wide variety of reasons. It’s regularly used by the military, law enforcement officers, journalists and many others.
Here are some of the best uses of Tor for specific industries:
Tor for Everyone
The Tor is a popular tool within regular internet users as it protects their internet identity and privacy. The Tor is also a great tool for everyone who’s concerned about their private data that can be breached through an online communication. Many Tor users also mention their kids protection online as one of the main reasons for using the tool. It also lets circumvent censorship and access even sensitive topics that typically are blocked in their country.
Tor for Journalists
Tor software is very advisable for journalists, sources and bloggers protect their online privacy and security. Even Reporters without Borders have recommended journalists around the world to use a Tor to keep their identities anonymous. Most of the journalists in China, where the internet censorship is in a high level, use Tor when writing news and articles to encourage social change and political reforms.
Tor for law enforcement officers
Anonymous internet access allows law officers to facilitate confidential operations. If the communication includes connections from government, law enforcement or from police IP addresses, then the cover can be easily blown.
Tor for activists and whistleblowers
Many human rights activists report abuses from danger zones, to do so anonymously they use Tor as although it’s within the law, it doesn’t mean that it is actually safe.
Tor for celebrities and low profile people
Many celebrities choose to use Tor because being in a spotlight their private lives are completely shut off. Tor lets celebrities and high profile people share their opinions online without consequences to their public roles.
Also low profile people use Tor to keep their online profile anonymous, people who are living in poverty are in fear to voice out their opinion. They’re scared to lose their job or worried to be treated differently if their boss or social worker comes across to their opinion published online.
How does Tor network work?
The Tor is an official name of the program which is an acronym of The Onion Router. It’s related to the way in which your online data encryption is layered.
Tor works at an extremely high level, it bounces connections from your computer or mobile device to the end destination like google.com though several (at least 3 random) intermediate servers that are also called as “nodes”.
Currently, there are a few thousands of nodes located all across the world that is routing traffic through the Tor network. It is run by volunteers who are willing to give up some bandwidth for the good cause therefore it’s also good to know that only rare nodes have a special software or hardware to run, but most of them use only Tor software to act as a node.
Each time your data passes through a node, it is re-encrypted. Nodes only recognize IP addresses that are in front and behind it, which means that no one can figure out the whole path of your data traveling between your computer and the website you are trying to connect to.
For the speed and anonymity, it’s important that there are more nodes, because of the limited bandwidth that each node offer. The more nodes there are, the more difficult it is to track its users. And that makes the Tor system to be one of the best privacy tools as it is designed so that no one can trace back your real identity and no one can access your online data.
Tor against censorship
Tor randomly directs your internet connection so that it exits through a node that is located in some other part of the world. Most of the nodes are located in countries that are pro freedom online therefore Tor works as a great anti-censorship tool. To bypass censorship and avoid school or work firewalls is one of Tor’s core feature. However, there are some countries and even organizations that have blocked Tor network access. Countries like China and Iran have tried to block the access to the Tor network by using Deep Packet Inspection.
I’m a global nomad. Enjoy traveling and letting other travelers know about firewalls and other geo-restrictions around the world.