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With our most recent guest speaker who presented on the dwindling levels of privacy on the internet, I was curious to find a way to retain one’s anonymity online. After a quick Google search I was able to find the browser client Tor.

So what exactly is Tor?

“Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.”

About Section Tor

In relevance to our guest speaker’s presentation, Tor allows us to navigate the internet without being tracked. Other uses for Tor include connecting to sites blocked by domestic ISPs, connecting to private instant messaging services, publishing “web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site,” and more.

For those who are interested in the technical aspects of how Tor works, here is a link to their website. For the lazy, here is a link to a plain English video explaining how it works.

Anyway from my understanding, Tor uses a random relay of different computers to send and encrypt data packets in order to ensure increased privacy as a user surfs the web.

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Picture by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

So why is this important?

One of the major uses of Tor that I specified earlier, was for users to access blocked sites. This is a huge deal in places like Turkey. The Turkish government has been blocking social media sites such as twitter and YouTube by hijacking DNS requests and redirecting them to Turk Telekom. However with Tor, activists are still able to access such sites to spread information and organize other activists. The about Tor section even states how “Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistle blowers and dissidents. ”

Tor is also important in places like Ukraine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the Russian government has attempted to use the Russian equivalent of Facebook to track down political activists in Ukraine that oppose Russia. Now that the founder and president of the company has been ousted, it seems that the social network is in the hands of government officials. It would be wise for such activists who wish to remain anonymous in their efforts, to begin using a client such as Tor.

Obviously we aren’t in the same situation as the citizens of Turkey and Ukraine; however, I wanted to bring this tool to the attention of people who are unaware of its existence because it is an essential tool for privacy that should be downloaded and utilized. We may not be in the same situation as the aforementioned countries but from how easily and thoroughly we can be tracked and our behaviors recorded, it doesn’t seem like a bad protection to have.

Featured image courtesy of Johan Larsson

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One thought on “Tor, The Browser You Need

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