By Michael DeFelice
Feb 3, 2017
Tor Browser is a free online privacy tool that enables all Internet users to both browse the web and host web services on its network anonymously. Your Internet usage is being tracked by both the websites you visit and your Internet service provider (ISP). Primarily for marketing cost optimization, but in some cases and in some places for less innocuous reasons. You should seriously try using Tor - if only to demonstrate how strange the web behaves when sites are not tracking you.
Tor’s main benefit to me in quality checking our website is to see the site without a browser’s cache, without cookies from previous sessions and without its CDN content i.e. to see it slow and naked.
Detailed information on how Tor works can be found here and here but my notes to get started are as follows:
First, install Tor Browser on your computer like you would any other program or web browser. Windows, MacOS, and Linux are all supported.
Next, run it. It will start up and look like a version of the Mozilla Firefox web browser.
Navigate to a website. Your browsing experience will seem very slow compared to your usual experience. This is because Tor’s core principle, “onion routing,” is creating a “Tor Circuit” for each site you navigate. Similar to how the phone call worked in the 1992 film “Sneakers” starring Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley, this circuit is routing your connection through multiple random servers in multiple random countries in an effort to anonymize your browsing activity. In this example, my connection to https://www.jungledisk.com is routed through to a Tor node in the Czech Republic, then Germany, then the United States before reaching the Internet. Cool, huh?
Similar to how most Internet tracking is relatively harmless, most anonymous browsing with Tor Browser is as well. Tor gets interesting though as it also allows a user to both publish and browse to anonymously hosted hidden services. These services use a .onion extension (vs. the more familiar .com, *.org, *.edu, … *.gov extensions) and include services ranging from The Guardian’s SecureDrop service which aids whistleblowers and anonymous news sources to the infamous Silk Road which aided black market activity. Given this disclaimer, please browse responsibly and consider that there are some things that cannot be unseen.