So you might have heard of the the anonymity network called TOR.
Or maybe not. I would like to enlighten you a bit on what it is and why it’s a good thing.
First and foremost, TOR is an abbreviate of The Onion Routing. Basically, it’s a small piece of software that lets you access a subnet within the net. It consist of people out there setting up their own computers to help out route traffic thru them and become a hidden network of computers, strongly encrypted and untraceable.
Privacy is key here, so let me explain how the network operates.
Let’s say that you would like to visit Facebook or some other website that resides in the open, but you would like to stay anonymous. The TOR software on your computer will connect and send your request to another computer that has it and in turn that computer will also send your request to another computer that uses TOR and the pattern will repeat itself for a couple of times until the last computer in the line goes out on the internet and actually executes your request. Then it’s time to get the result back to you so it sends the information from the request backwards in the chain. In that way the computers does not know where the information came from or where the information was heading except for the first and the last computer in the chain. Did I say that it is crazy encrypted along the route?
That is the basic of TOR. So why is this a good idea? Does it not help bad people do bad things without the risk of being exposed? Yes, it does but there is a big but in this. In services that can end up being used in malicious ways, there are countless of opposite ways to use it. Say for example that you are in the midst of a burning war, you are a reporter that need to get your article out of the country exposing the regime of vile destruction and humanity crimes and you know for sure that every single way out of the country is heavily surveilled by the oppressing regime. Then this is a very good way to save your life and let the information flow thru the network without detection.
Or for instance you are in the middle of an evil corporation, government or private, that is doing so much wrong that you just have to inform the world of the information. Of course this evil one will keep you under heavy surveillance. What now? TOR to the rescue.
Let’s go for a less dramatic example. You own a business and have some very delicate drawings of machines or a product that need to travel the wires inconspicuously far away from prying eyes. TOR to the rescue. Heck, why not just encrypt and route all the traffic the company has so no one can figure out what you are doing or are searching for.
Even less dramatic? Let’s say you don’t want to let google register that very very private search you made about your love life and show you a bazillion ads about it later.
TOR will help encrypt the traffic, but to just use TOR as a service is fundamentally wrong. There need to be some habits changed and to learn exactly how to stay anonymous. Point is that most mistakes that exposes people into the open is human error. It’s easily mitigated and avoided but if you don’t know what to look for, I would suggest that you do some research. Some examples would of course be to not use previous used aliases, not use normal accounts (register new if you must access a service), never give out any information about you in chatrooms or in webforms. etc etc.
If you would like to use this software, head over to https://www.torproject.org and download the client for OSX. Of course this is available for Windows and Linux to.