Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Browse the Web Anonymously With Tor Project

The internet is an amazing tool for entertainment, research and so much more, but it is also something of a security problem. Whenever you are online, you leave behind traces of your activity – footprints that can be pieced together to determine a great deal of information about your such as where you are and who you are.
There are endless reasons why you might not want to be identified or traceable online – it is not something that is only going to be of interest to people investigating the darker side of the internet. While all web browsers include options that can be used to hide your web tracks after an online session, most do little if anything to prevent the web sites you visit from gathering information about you and your browsing habits that could be used to identify you – this is where Tor Project is different.

What is Tor?

Tor is a combination of free software and a web traffic routing network that can be used to conceal your identity and location. When you download the bundle you not only get a control panel that can be used to route your web traffic through a series of random nodes online, you also get  customized version of Firefox that features a number of add-ons to further bolster security.
Tor Browser is a web security tool available free of charge
Tor Browser is a web security tool available free of charge

The browser sits alongside whatever other web browser you may currently have installed, so you can continue to use your preferred browser for times when anonymity are not a concern.
As an added bonus, this is a portable app so you can pop it onto a USB drive and use it on different machines without the need for installation.
Tor ensure privacy by encrypting your web traffic through random servers
Tor ensure privacy by encrypting your web traffic through random servers

Downloading Tor

Launch Internet Explorer and pay a visit to the Tor Project web site at Click the purple Download Tor link followed by the orange Download Tor Browser Bundle button and choose to save the file to the desktop.
The Tor Browser Bundle is a portable app that does not require installation
The Tor Browser Bundle is a portable app that does not require installation
The file you have downloading is a compressed archive and you can start the decompression process by double clicking it and clicking the Extract button. There will be a delay while the 20MB archive is extracted into a 79MB series of files.
Tor Browser can be extracted to any folder you choose
Tor Browser can be extracted to any folder you choose

Surfing Anonymously

Open the Tor Browser folder that has been created and then double click the Start Tor Browser icon. A Vidalia Control Panel Window will appear while a connection is established with the Tor network, and you will have to wait a moment or two while this takes place.
The Vidalia Control Panel is used to connect to the Tor network
The Vidalia Control Panel is used to connect to the Tor network
Once you have been connected to the network, the specially configured version of Firefox will launch for you. If you see a green message it means that Tor Browser is functioning correctly and your identity is being masked online.
An IP will be displayed which is the one that will broadcast online, but this is different to your genuine IP address.
Anonymous web browsing means that your real IP address is masked
Anonymous web browsing means that your real IP address is masked

Checking Browser Addons

We’ve already mentioned that the download includes a special version of Firefox, and it comes with a few extensions pre-installed to help protect your privacy while you are browsing the internet.
To the left hand side of the toolbar, next to the back and forward buttons you will see a button for Tor itself and then one for the NoScript extension. To prevent scripts from running, click the button and then select the Forbid Scripts Globally option.
Should you encounter a site that you need to have scripts running in order for it to function correctly, click the button and select the Allow option for the site you are currently visiting.
NoScripts prevents potentially dangerous web scripts from running
NoScripts prevents potentially dangerous web scripts from running
To the right of the Firefox toolbar is the button for HTTPS Everywhere which ensures that you are using a secure connection whenever one is available. Just click the button and make sure that the Amazon Web Services option is ticked. In conjunction with Tor Browser’s routing, these addons help to keep your connection as secure as possible.
HTTPS Everywhere ensures that a secure connections is always used
HTTPS Everywhere ensures that a secure connections is always used

Automating Program Startup

To save you from having to remember to manually launch Tor Browser every time you want to browse the internet anonymously, you can have the program start automatically with Windows. Right click the system tray icon and select the Settings option and then make sure that the ‘Start Vidalia when my system starts’ box is ticked.
Tor Browser can be configured to start automatically with Windows
Tor Browser can be configured to start automatically with Windows
Beneath this, click the first of the two Browse buttons and navigate to the followed to which you have extracted Tor Browser and select the tor.exe executable before clicking OK followed by OK.
If you would prefer not to see the Control Panel on display while a network connection is established, select the Control Panel option from the right click menu of the system tray icon and then untick the box labelled ‘Show this window on startup’ before clicking OK.

Checking Web Traffic

In ordinary circumstances, web traffic takes a pretty direct route through servers, but with Tor Browser in place anonymity is made possible by not only masking your real IP address but also by bouncing your web traffic from server to server across the internet.
You can check the rough route of your traffic by right clicking the system tray icon and selecting Network Map and you’ll then see a map of the world showing you which route you are taking through the Tor Network.
A network map is available so you can track your web traffic's route
A network map is available so you can track your web traffic's route
You can increase your security even further by ensuring that you do not continue to use the same IP address for too long at a time. Rather than having to manually close down and re-establish a connection, you can select the automatic option from within Tor Browser.
To do this, you can either right click the system tray icon and select New Identity, or click the Tor button in Firefox and select the same option from the menu that appears.
With Tor, a new online identity is never more than two click away
With Tor, a new online identity is never more than two click away

Wrapping Up

Whatever you use the web for, it’s likely there are occasions you’d like to ensure your anonymity, and Tor Browser enables you to do just this.
So let us know what you think in the comments below and thank you so much for reading!


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