Tor is a freely accessible network that allows Internet traffic to flow through it securely and anonymously. Tor brings anonymous internet surfing to your browser and helps to prevent websites from tracking users and can also help users to bypass blocked sites by their Internet service providers (ISPs) or government. Tor download bundles are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
So how does Tor work? Volunteers run Tor software to allow their computers to become Tor nodes. Tor nodes pass Internet traffic between each other securely and anonymously. When the traffic reaches the final destination, it does so through a normal Internet connection. For more detail on how Tor works, please visit the Tor overview.
Installing Tor is relatively simple. As the instructions are different for each supported platform, I won’t go into detail on the installation here. Visit the Tor documentation page to find out how to install Tor on your computer. Essentially it involves downloading and installing a Tor bundle, which includes a GUI for Tor, Privoxy, and a few other programs that make it easy to configure and use Tor.
Once you have Tor installed, you have to configure your browser to take advantage of it. To do this, configure your browser to use the HTTP proxy located at localhost on port 8118 (Privoxy). If you use Firefox as your web browser, you should install the Tor button addon. The Tor button makes it very easy to switch Tor on and off in Firefox.
After your browser has been configured, you should verify that you are running Tor. If you are, the Tor checking website will display a notification indicating that you are indeed running it.
As Tor is passing encrypted traffic through multiple Tor nodes, it can be very slow. Your connection cannot be any faster than the slowest node used to route your traffic. For that reason, I would highly recommend using Tor with Firefox and the Tor button. This way you can just switch Tor on when you need to access a site anonymously.
It is important to note that Tor is not a silver bullet for anonymity and security. The network traffic between you, the Tor network, and within the Tor network is anonymous and encrypted. However, the connection between the last Tor node and your final destination is just a normal Internet connection. You also need to protect the information stored by your browser (saved passwords, cache, etc.) if you wish to maintain privacy and security.
What do you think of Tor? What other tools do you use for anonymity, privacy, and security?