how to:How to Surf the Internet Anonymously With Tor
Tor helps protect your privacy online. It is a free and open source software that makes it difficult for people to find out where you’ve been online by masking your location. Tor protects you against a form of internet surveillance known as “traffic analysis.” According to Tor, “Traffic analysis can be used to infer who is talking to whom over a public network. Knowing the source and destination of your Internet traffic allows others to track your behavior and interests.” Using Tor makes it much harder to trace internet traffic to you.
So just how does Tor work? You send out a request to the internet through the Tor program. Tor then bounces your request amongst different relays (servers run by Tor and volunteers who want to help others) located around the world (this is known as onion routing). While a simple proxy server may only relay your traffic through one server, with Tor, your information will pass through at least three servers before sending it on to the destination. Learn more about how Tor differs from other proxy servers here.
Image from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Passing your information request through multiple servers makes your information safer and provides anonymity because the end computer you are communicating with never sees your IP address. It only sees the IP address of the last Tor router that your communications traveled through. Each circuit (the multiple encrypted connections your communication makes to various servers along its route) will be used by Tor for ten minutes. After ten minutes, new requests are given a new circuit. This gives you better protection and keep people from linking earlier connections you made to newer ones.
Tor was originally designed by the Naval Research Laboratory, and was developed specifically with the U.S. Navy in mind. Today, it’s used by people all over the world.
The Tor Project is a non-profit organization that maintains and develops the Tor software. Learn more about who uses Tor.
It's important to remember that Tor does not encrypt all of your internet activities. It cannot and does not protect against someone monitoring traffic entering and exiting the Tor network. Learn more about what Tor can and cannot do by reading the information on this page. You can also find out more about how to choose the right circumvention tool with our guide. This guide will walk you through the steps for installing and using Tor.
Not advanced enough for you? Skip this guide and head to the FLOSS manual, which might be more your speed.
Get the software by pointing your browser to http://www.torproject.org/.
Tor works best with the Firefox browser, which is the most secure browser out there. Get it here for free.
To get started, click on the the “Overview” tab and read about Tor. This page explains in greater detail what Tor does and how the software works. You can also learn more about the installation process by clicking on the “Docs” tab.
Click on the “Download” tab. Then, you will want to select the installation bundle for your particular operating system. Save the file to your computer.
Locate the file on your computer. Double click on the icon to begin the installation process.
Select your language from the drop-down menu and click OK.
You will be asked to choose the components you want to install. These are the different programs that Tor utilizes.
Vidalia is the user interface. Tor is the anonymity software. Polipo helps increase the speed and functionality of your web browser when you are using Tor. Torbutton is a button that gets added to the Firefox browser. It lets you turn Tor on and off by just clicking one button. Leave all of the components checked, then click Next.
Tor will begin installing. Then it will prompt you to install the Torbutton by opening up Firefox.
When the installation process is finished, you can click Finish and your computer should automatically run the components you just installed. Otherwise, just locate the Vidalia bundle, and then click on Vidalia. Remember, Vidalia is the user interface for using Tor.
It will take a moment for Vidalia to connect to the service. What are the different buttons on the interface?
Stop Tor: Stops Tor from running.
Setup Relay: Allows you to use your own computer as a relay for other people to access the internet.
Use a New Identity: Gives you a new route through the different relays.
View the Network: Allows you to see all of the open network relays on a map.
Check the box labeled "relay traffic for the Tor network" if you want to run a normal Tor relay, or the one labeled "Help censored users reach the Tor network" if you want to run a bridge relay which allows users to access the Tor network who are blocked from accessing it directly.
You will see the green onion icon appear when you are connected to the Tor network. Click Hide to hide Vidalia.
Open up your web browser again. Since you installed the Tor button, you will see “Tor Disabled” in red in the bottom right corner of your browser. You need to turn Tor on in Firefox. Click the button once, and you will see “Tor Enabled” in green. Tor is now working! Type any URL into your web browser. You should now be able to surf the web anonymously.
The Tor network can be slow. Don’t expect your connection to be very fast. Your traffic is bouncing through multiple servers and this takes some time. The Tor network is also small compared to the number of people using Tor.
Want to turn Tor off? Click on the “Tor Enabled” button to turn the service off.
Remember: anonymity is not the same thing as privacy. Tor recommends that you use end-to-end encryption such as SSL. Using HTTPS provides encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server. Learn more about HTTPS here.