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Education FAQ

What is Tor?

There is still a lot of confusion as to why people would need a tool like Tor. For most consumers, accessing the “regular part” of the internet is more than enough, yet it does not include everything that can be found online. Tor proves to be a valuable addition in this regard, as it provides access to a completely different internet.

The Purpose of Tor Explained

Before explaining what Tor exactly does, it is important to remind everyone this is not a mandatory tool. Using Tor is completely optional and should only be done if the user feels completely comfortable with doing so. Obviously, accessing the regular internet doesn’t require this particular tool, although it can offer a more privacy-centric browsing experience while doing so.

One of the main selling points of Tor is how it allows users to browse the internet anonymously. This is not something that matters to everyone, although users who value their privacy will undoubtedly see merit in this approach. This is tone by routing all internet traffic through its native network, known as The Onion Router. It offers a network of servers which mask users’ identities by spreading out the internet traffic across different servers and encrypting the data in the process.

what is tor

Accessing The Onion Router requires the Tor Browser, which is a separate client that accesses the so called “dark web”. The software can be downloaded free of charge and is completely legal to use within the United States. How the software is used by the individual, is a different matter, but that applies to traditional web browsers as well.

One downside to using Tor is how it will provide a significantly slower browsing experience. That is not entirely abnormal, as the traffic is routed through different servers, which will add some delay. On the upside, using Tor does not require any configuration on the user’s side, making it a very approachable and accessible technology in this modern age.

The main user base of Tor revolves around people who value privacy, those who dislike advertisers, or people who live under oppressive regimes censoring part of the internet. There is also a budding darknet marketplace community for illegal activity, though it only represents a fraction of the total Tor user base to date. Accessing websites is only part of the process, as you can also host websites which are only accessible by other Tor users. However, that does require some basic web server administration knowledge and more tools than just the Tor browser.

Despite the benefits of Tor, it is far from a perfect solution. Its anonymity only works up to a certain extent, and the FBI can effectively obtain a warrant for Tor users if they suspect foul play at any given moment.

Image(s): Shutterstock.com

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