With the internet being the massive resource that it is, people are becoming more and more reliant on it. Not only do we search for recipes and directions on the web, but we use it for banking, storing photos and videos of ourselves and our loved ones, accessing healthcare information, and doing other activities that may involve sending and receiving private information. It seems like more and more frequently, there are stories of personal data being leaked from financial institutions, social media services, and the cloud. Tor looks to ease our worries with a web browser that aims to help people use the internet without fear of being tracked or spied on. According to Tor, their mission is to "advance human rights and freedoms by creating and deploying free and open source anonymity and privacy technologies, supporting their unrestricted availability and use, and furthering their scientific and popular understanding". If that doesn't say security, we don't know what does!
Towards better privacy
Three layers of encryption keeps your data private.
So, what exactly is Tor, and how does it work? Every day when we use the internet, especially if we're using devices that don't have software that protects us from spyware, hacking, and other malicious activity, we are essentially at risk. This doesn't just include times that we go to our bank's website and transfer money, or enter our social security number to take care of our taxes. With every website that we visit, someone somewhere could track where we go, what we search, what we save and download, and more. To works by shielding us from all of that. Tor is an internet browser run by volunteer-operated servers. Tor's icon is an onion because like an onion, Tor's has layers that encrypt your internet connection. When you connect, your activity is sent through three different voluntarily operated servers around the world. So, three layers of protection secure your activity in transit from you to your destination on the internet. None of the locations of any of the servers are known.
Finally, Tor warns you that because of all the services that it offers, your browser may run a little slower depending on the level of security you've selected and which features are enabled. Onion services include creating your own webpages and stores.
Where can you run this program?
Tor is currently available for download on Mac and PCs running Windows.
Is there a better alternative?
This depends on the user. If you just use the internet for casual browsing, social media and maybe to do some shopping from time to time, this may not be the browser for you. The Chrome browser would be an excellent option, as it’s faster than other popular browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer (which is surprisingly still widely used), it has a simple and clean layout, and has a large extension gallery that grows exponentially as time passes.
Tor is a browser for a specific type of user. It has a lot of functions in place to help people keep their information private, and walks us through all of our options - and there are many. It does a good job of repeatedly reassuring the user that they don’t have to worry about who is seeing their web activity.
Should you download it?
For the everyday user, we don’t recommend Tor. As we said earlier, Tor is for a specific type of user. The browser is supposed to help keep things a secret with all of the security features that it has, but we don’t think most of the general population is going to make use of them. The location of the voluntary servers are unknown, but this also means that we have no idea who is running the servers and what they see. Tor is also known to be the home of many black market websites, so even if you’re not using Tor for that purpose, that fact alone is understandably enough to scare a lot of users away. Sure, this browser jumps through hoops to lock in your connection, but it’s not foolproof. As unfortunate as it may be, if someone wants to hack into your computer through Tor, they still might be able to do it. Your connection is encrypted as it moves from server to server, but the moment it leaves the third server and makes its way to your internet destination, there is no layer of encryption covering it. Unless you’re an undercover journalist, you live in a country that has heavy restrictions in place by the government on internet use, or you’re looking for trouble, we would pass on downloading Tor.