Anonymous Internet Surfing with Tor

Jorge Sierra 22-12-2008

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 5 Methods to Bypass Blocked Sites You're at work or school, but you want to check on Facebook, or watch something on YouTube. It's blocked - so how do you get around this and ruin your productivity? Read More 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.

tor - anonymous internet browsing

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.

tor firefox plugin


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.

tor network verification

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?

Related topics: Online Privacy, Proxy.

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  1. JK
    September 22, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Tor is jeopardized in Iran and no more effective find a way out.

  2. TJ
    September 22, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Tor is jeopardized in Iran and no more effective find a way out

  3. rabiu campbell
    May 29, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    well well well

  4. Aibek
    December 25, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    I prefer UltraSurf, provides more or less the same thing.


  5. mchlbk
    December 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I think Tor is too slow. Downloading large files takes forever.

    I use relakks in stead. It's not free but every time you sign up you get a few weeks for free. (No, you don't have to give them your credit card info or anything.)

  6. stepashka
    December 25, 2008 at 5:51 am

    Is it possible to control the location of the last node?
    For instance, I live in Russia and it would be nice if tor gived me a russian ip:
    • site policies for local and non-local visitors may differ;
    • some big sites that are available in many languages often showup in one that i can't understand.

    • lYDA
      September 10, 2009 at 1:25 am

      Do you know Lida

  7. Jorge Sierra
    December 25, 2008 at 10:12 am

    You can control which nodes you use for entry/exit by specifying them within the torrc file. To get the fingerprint for a node, you can visit a Tor status site and view the details for the node(s) you want to use for entry/exit.

  8. John Robie
    December 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I tried out Tor back in the day with Torpark (now called xB, I think) and another "secure portable browser." It seemed a great idea, but I always found it far too slow to actually use. Did you have speed issues?

    • Jorge Sierra
      December 25, 2008 at 10:02 am

      It does tend to run slow, although I think it is much better now than it was in the past. It is probably best to use when you wish to visit certain sites, but is probably still a bit slow for everyday use.

  9. rimanere
    December 22, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Is itpossible to configure Tor with Firefox 3 portable? So I can launching from a USB flash drive If so; is there a tutorial about how to do it?
    Thank you

    • Jorge Sierra
      December 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

      Check out the Portable Tor project. Just download and extract it to your Portable drive and launch PortableTor.exe (assuming you're on Windows). This will launch the Vidalia GUI and Privoxy and connect you to the Tor network. You will still have to download and install the Tor button for Firefox seperately.

  10. Mulder
    December 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    You don't need the Tor bundle, since Vidalia is not needed to use Tor. You could download one of the "expert" packages and the Tor button separately and have it startup at boot time, and use the torbutton in Firefox to toggle it on and off.

    • Jorge Sierra
      December 22, 2008 at 7:19 pm

      This is true. If you are an advanced user, you do not need to use Vidalia. The bundle just makes it much easier to get Tor up and running and provides a simple interface.

  11. Kevin
    December 22, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Can't someone mask themselves as the last Tor node and do whatever they want? Won't it effect the last Tor node? (i.e. an IP ban)

    • Jorge Sierra
      December 22, 2008 at 7:16 pm

      Yes, essentially that's exactly how it works. If someone were to perform some sort of activity that would result in an IP ban, it would effect the last Tor node.