What is TOR? What can you use it for, and How?

What began as the security project for military and law oriented firms has now transformed into something for the general public. TOR (short for "The Onion Router") is actually a network consisting of tunnels, nodes, and servers enabling people to secure and hide their identity from content and websites on the internet. This network enables users to connect with their friends and/or customers without the danger of being spied on, having your information, and more importantly your identity, being compromised.

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The threats on the internet are more numerous than anyone would hope to count. Hackers, Business', the NSA, your Ex, or Exs' (keeping it open here) -- just to name a few. What you do and how you use your internet is something everyone has the right to. Essentially, TOR can be used for protection of your personal information that may otherwise be utilized by malicious persons or organizations to harm you. So, basically, TOR helps anonymize you, so that you don't have to worry about people spying on you (a growing concern in today's society). Currently, there are projects and tools in addition to TOR being developed in order to make this anonymization easier.  These projects include Tor browser servers and HTTPs around the world. What this helps to do is further obfuscate your digital signature as it is being transferred from position A, from position B. What does this mean, exactly? To understand this, you might want to have a simple understanding of how TOR works in the first place. But on a basic level, TOR hides your physical location, identity, and information being relayed. These new projects in development will build on this. Definitely check out our article on how TOR works, if you want to learn more about it.

An example of the use of TOR can be seen with journalists, or people located in a country with censorship. Journalists use TOR in order to anonymously connect with whistleblowers, or dissidents their government may not approve of. This allows them to get the word out about different governmental practices, which otherwise may have stayed under the radar, and out of public knowledge. Furthermore, people living in a country such as China can utilize TOR to access websites not authorized by their government. Citizens living in countries which have blocked websites like YouTube, or Facebook, can use TOR to circumvent censorship.The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) recommends using TOR to preserve your civil liberties online. Basically, TOR protects you from getting your information stolen, and then sold, by a 3rd party. Anonymizing your identity, and search habits, a 3rd party would have a near-impossible time getting your information, if you are using TOR.

On the flip side, TOR is also utilized by hackers, and used for criminal activity. Since everything on TOR is so anonymous, Criminal activity such as black markets for drugs, credit cards, guns, or pretty much anything, exist. Forums where Hackers discuss what to do next, or people order Hitmen to take out someone bothering them. The darkest of the dark of the internet if you ask me. If you thought the deep section of YouTube was bad...well, you were wrong. In a way, these sites are a testament to the absolute freedom that TOR offers. Anything goes on TOR, literally.


So TOR conceals your identity using the genius of decentralization and encryption methods. But why the onion router. OK. Admittedly, calling something an onion router is pretty much the least cool thing you could possibly call something utilized by the crazy 1337 (Stupid Hacker slang for "Leet") hackers of the world. The reasoning behind this naming, however, is sound. It is named because of the method which Tor uses to encrypt and anonymize, part of how TOR works. Basically, TOR uses layers of encryption, just like an onion has many different layers. these layers of encryption are relayed through "bridges" creating a decentralize network.

What can you do on TOR? Thought you would never ask! The answer to that question is: Everything you can do on a conventional browser, you can do on TOR plus much, much more. Remember that "Onion Network" I mentioned earlier? Well, the onion network is what it sounds like, a network. This network, however, is not accessible with a conventional browser, and is classified with a .onion domain. These ".onions", are only accessible using browsers such as TOR. (TOR being the most popular, and probably the best way to access them). On these .onions , you can find anything imaginable. When I say anything, by the way, I REALLY mean anything. 

Since .onions are hidden sites, you probably don't know of any yet. To make this more complicated, .onion domains do not have traditional names just like "Facebook.com". If Facebook was a .onion, it's domain would look more like 2asdf2342842qSdDFadfFB.onion. There are many .onions out there of blogs, forums, and websites. And it is a totally anonymous way of communicating with the internet, and others around you.

How do you use TOR? This part is easy. Go to The Tor Project, download the Browser Bundle/ Follow the instructions on the website, extract with 7Zip or Winrar, and then click on the TOR executable. Viola, you are now on TOR and anonymous.

In essence, TOR is a great way of anonymizing your presence on the net. If you ever are worried of people spying on you, no matter who they may be, TOR is a great way to put your mind at peace.

BEWARE, there is illegal activity on TOR. Liquid Think and it's affiliates does not condone any of this activity, nor has it ever taken apart in any of it. This article is for educational purposes only.

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Andrew Plaza

Nerdy Tech fanatic interested in the intricacies of life, technology, and high existence.

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