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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

How to Install and Use the Tor Browser on Linux

Tor browser splash screen on Ubuntu desktop

Surf with anonymity using the Tor browser. Here’s how to install Tor on a Linux desktop. Ubuntu users beware: The Tor project recommends not installing Tor from Ubuntu’s regular software repositories.

What Is Tor?

In casual speech, we use the terms “internet” and “web” interchangeably. But actually, the web and the internet are two very different things. If websites were premises—shops, factories, entertainment centers—the internet would be the roads and highways linking them together.

The internet supports many services. The world wide web is just one of them. Other services like email, RDP, DNS, NNTP are delivered over the internet, and none of these are websites.

Overlay networks also make use of the internet. The Tor (The Onion Router) network is one such overlay network. It provides anonymity and privacy to users. With Tor, if you use it effectively, no one can trace your activity back to your IP address.

The traffic that passes along the Tor network is encrypted. Whilst this helps preserve the anonymity of the people using it, the encryption causes a networking problem. The regular routing and switching elements of the internet cannot work with Tor network traffic.

A network of Tor relays, hosted and maintained by volunteers, performs the switching and routing instead. The Tor relays intentionally bounce your connection between multiple relays, even if that routing is not required to reach your destination. This “bouncing” is another reason Tor makes it virtually impossible to back-track and identify the person at the far end.

It is the strength of that anonymity that has lead to the Tor network being used to host many web sites that engage in criminal activity. The Tor network forms a large part of the dark web. It’s not all illegal activity on the Tor network, however. Dissidents in repressive regimes, anonymous press sources, whistleblowers, activists, and the military all use Tor for legitimate reasons.

The trouble is, precisely what makes it an attractive proposition for those people also makes it an attractive proposition for the bad guys.

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