Tor browser : Your gateway to privacy

  • Sun,1 Dec 2019 08:29:49 AM

Dec 1, 2019

Ananth Prabhu G, PhD and Post Doctoral Fellow is a Professor in Sahyadri College of Engineering and Management. He is also the Cyber Law Trainer at the Karnataka Judicial Academy and Cyber Security Trainer at the Karnataka Police Academy.

 In this modern era of technology, the usage of internet has hit the roof. The internet is utilized almost everywhere to complete most of our tasks. As we are surrounded by a web of networks, it’s pretty obvious that whatever we do online, can be monitored. Because most of the things we do are connected to the internet, the errands we run are also tracked, recorded and also analyzed by the internet and because of this, our privacy has been weirdly compromised. Privacy has been a top most issue in the modern day. And there is always the tingling fear of the things we do is being watched. And to help us with this major issue we have browsers like Tor.

Tor, which is the acronym for the name ‘The Onion Router’ is a browser which was developed in the year 2002. This wonderful browser provides anonymity services which in turn provides privacy. To brief you up, it is a secure portal that helps us in accessing the internet unambiguously as an anonymous person without an original identity. Tor has always been the popular browser ever since it was established. (There are some specific websites or apps that specific nations are banned to use but by using Tor, they can be accessed )

Generally, when we access the internet, our internet provider gives us a unique IP address. This unique address is first verified whenever we want to access a website, following an authorization after which you can access that particular website. But when we use Tor, the request for authorization bounces off on to various and random IP addresses which complicates the task to obtain the original IP address. Due to this, our IP address remains anonymously secure. By this we can reckon that the main purpose of Tor is to conceal user information and prevent traffic analysis, where the user could browse the web, keeping his identity hidden. Tor has been a best friend to journalists, secret service agents, whistle blowers and many others to help them remain anonymous online and carry out their tasks.

Apart from Tor’s positives, there’s also a dark side to it. You may have come across the term ‘Dark Web’ at some point. Tor lets you browse the Dark Web. For many of you who aren’t much aware of this, the deep web and the dark web are two different things although they are co-related; The Deep web is often confused with the Dark web but they are two very distinctive things.

"Deep web," originally, was a search engine indexing term coined by computer scientist Mike Berg in 2000. He was comparing what search engines do to dragging a net over the surface of the ocean (and thus, they don't catch everything). Search engines use programs called "crawlers" to find and index web content (which are the pages you will see in search results). So the "deep web" refers to pages that aren't indexed by these crawlers, which could be something like a private Instagram profile, or anything behind a paywall. Also, if you instruct web robots not to index your site, it won't show up in searches, and will thus be in the deep web as well.

The "dark web, on the other hand, refers to content that exists on anonymity networks like Tor, 12P, Freenet, ZeroNet, etc, also known as "darknet". It cannot be accessed by google, yahoo or even Bing for instance because unlike the regular domain names that have extensions like .com,.in,, .net, .org etc the dark web websites use .onion domain extension. This does not, however, mean that the content is "dark" which is a misconception about it.

Now this world of dark web along with regular good information also holds tons of information that could possibly ruin lives and organizations because the kind of information being stored and analyzed is threat-posing to the community. Say for example, the content of your personal email and social media accounts, your bank account details, driving license, passport details, what information marketing companies and brand hold of the customers etc. Moreover pornography, drugs, arms and ammunition are easily available here. Tor browser is very popularly used to access the dark web.

Although Tor, built by the US government, has been privacy’s best friend ever since 2002, it could be a backstabber if not being used the right way. And that is why we need to keep ourselves updated about the changes and trends as well as the fruits and poisons of digital technology.

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