The Beginners Guide to using TOR

Want to be invisible online? Get to know Tor.

TORTor will make you cyber-anonymous, concealing your cyber footprints, ID, browsing history and physical location. It even makes the sites you visit anonymous. Now, all that being said, there seems to be a concerted effort by certain US government agencies and others to crack Tor, but that hasn’t been completely accomplished…yet.

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Realize, that Tor can’t provide 100 percent security. On paper, the Tor network is secure. But the typical Joe or Jane may unintentionally exit Tor using an “exit node,” and end up getting on a website or server that’s in the “open web.” If the visited site is not encrypted, Joe or Jane’s communications can be hijacked.

Tor is actually easy to set up. You can download packages for your operating system: Mac, Windows or GNU/Linux, and this includes the Tor Browser. The Covert Browser supports Tor for iOS and Android.

You may find, however, that your device may fight against installing Tor; the device thinks it’s malevolent and won’t accept the download. Keep trying. Have faith in the Tor code and download it.

The Tor experience is quite leisurely, slowing down what you can do in a given amount of time. It’s not going to get faster, either, as more and more people decide to use Tor. It’s slow because it directs traffic through multiple, random relay nodes prior to arriving at the destination node. So realize that you’ll be dealing with more of a turtle than a hare.

Tor blocks applications, too. If you want total anonymity, you should use the Tor software with the Tor Browser. But plugins will be blocked by the Tor Browser—because plugins can be used to see your IP address. This is why the Tor Project suggests not installing plugins. This means giving up YouTube and other sites while using Tor.

Be warned, Tor can get you undesired attention because the government is more suspicious of Tor users. This doesn’t mean the government will knock down your doors if you’re using Tor. It just means that Tor users may get the attention of the government more than typical Internet users.

As previously stated there’s evidence that government agencies, including the NSA, are trying to dismantle the Tor network, even though it delivers strong privacy protection to average Internet users.

If you want this level of anonymity, you’re going to have to get used to the fact that using Tor will change your online experiences (can you get by without YouTube?). The Tor Project says: “You need to change some of your habits, as some things won’t work exactly as you are used to.”

No matter whether on Tor or the open web, make sure if you are on free public WiFi that you are using Hotspot Shield to encrypt any wireless data.

Give Tor a try if privacy and anonymity are important enough for you to give up some of the features that make your online activities enjoyable, convenient and/or productive timewise.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.