We need to understand how exactly internet and deep web work before getting into details of Tor browser’s working. When Computers were born, they were isolated. There was no communication between the two computers whatsoever. Eventually, ways for communication between two or more computers were developed. Computers then started communicating with each other. The only constraint was the distance. Those computers needed to be close to each other as the range of communication medium was limited. Soon, medium with long ranges was developed like fiber optic cable which is used today for very long-range communication. Computers then started connecting across continents, forming enormous networks.
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Due to long distance connectivity, the Internet was born.
Some computers store the data which constitutes the Internet. Those computers are known as servers. Web pages, Downloadable data, User data, everything is stored on the server. A device which requests this data and communicates with these servers is known as a client. PC, laptop, smartphone, a client can be of many types. All a client need is a connection to the server. A connection can be wired or wireless.
The client initiates the communication between itself and the server. The information flows both ways between the client and the server in the form of packets. This very article you are reading came in the form of packets. These packets contain the information related to the sender, receiver, information accessed by the client, physical addresses, websites visited and much more. Now, there are some organizations which keep a watch on these activities, they continuously monitor the data shared. You can call them cyber police, keeping a watch on illegal stuff. But hey, not all illegal things are bad. And what if there was a way to be super-anonymous and get rid of people monitoring you? Yes, there is. It is Tor.
Onion Routing is a method of encapsulating a data packet with successive layers of encryption. These layers are applied one above the other, hence the name “Onion Routing”. Tor network comprises randomly assigned nodes which connect to the servers. So, instead of direct communication between the client and the server, the data is sent through those nodes. So, in onion routing, data is sent through multiple nodes. Each node removes one layer of encryption and when the packet is received/sent through the last node, actual data is obtained. This is exactly how it works and maintains anonymity.
How to get Tor browser?
Downloading Tor browser is as simple as downloading any other browser. It’s free too so, no hassle at all. It browser does not need any special configuration, so you shouldn’t bother about setting up anything after installing it. But, if you have set up a firewall or any other sort of security system, then you might want to consider removing it as it can interfere with Tor and cause difficulties. Visit Tor’s official website and check the list of things to avoid while using the browser.
The Deep Web and Tor
Until now, you have seen how to use Tor to remain anonymous while using the internet. Well, Tor not only adds anonymity, but it also grants access to the deep web. The deep web is a colossal portion of the Internet which contains websites not indexed by search engines. Hence, they cannot be accessed by the general audience on regular search engines.
A Tor relay is present between the clients and a server configured by tor to maintain anonymity. Neither an IP address is provided by the server, not the client needs it. For accessing a webpage from the Deep web, an Onion address i.e. A 16 Character code is entered instead of URL. Tor network has hidden pages, websites which are a part of some famous darknets. These darknets can only be accessed by specific protocols. Darknet isn’t a good guy zone, its dark for a reason. Darknet contains websites selling drugs, weaponry, narcotics, illegal items. Silk Road was a popular Drug website in the Darknet which was shut down by FBI back in 2013.
Tor’s anonymity is useful to the people whose countries don’t allow them access to the internet. These people are mostly Journalists or Activists. In China, the government has censored the whole Internet, so in this scenario, Tor becomes a handy tool for accessing the internet.
Tor was developed with good intentions in mind. But, due to the fact that Tor provides anonymous browsing, it became a platform for committing cybercrimes, trafficking, illegal goods selling and buying etc. This eroded the reputation of the Tor browser.
Tor limitations, hazards, general safety-
Tor has drawn attention from government organizations like NSA and FBI. It is a target for interest to them.
Tor is a modified version of Firefox. The issues which are likely to occur in Firefox would occur in Tor as well.
Just Using Tor will attract the attention of NSA even if you don’t use it for illegal purposes.
You are not completely secure on the internet. If taken certain precautions, you will be safe.
Avoid plugins like Flash or Torrents. Torrent plugins send your IP address which would give away essential information.
Even a single click on an illegal page can land you in trouble. Use Tor with caution.
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