Introducing the “Tor” Project. 1
Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory around 2005 for protecting U.S. Navy communications. It was envisioned long before that during “Desert Storm”. Today, it is used daily by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others. Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers like in third world countries. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with controversial illnesses. The more people who use Tor actually is part of what makes it so secure. Tor hides you among the other users on the network, so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your anonymity will be protected.
Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.
A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently.
Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or conducting surveillance on web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.
Tor helps to reduce the risks by distributing your transactions over several places on the Internet, so no single point can link you to your destination. Instead of taking a direct route from source to destination, data packets on the Tor network take a random pathway through several relays that cover your tracks so no observer at any single point can tell where the data came from or where it’s going. Tor updates transactions and network circuits every ten minutes so your footprints are erased constantly.
The only flip-side to using Tor is the network delay due to the re-routing of your traffic. It does slow the web browser down considerably. I have mine setup so I can turn it on or off instantly depending on what I’m doing. It has been said that given the sheer numbers of people using Tor, that even the NSA has trouble collecting information when users incorporate Tor. Tor does not provide protection against end-to-end timing attacks: If your attacker can watch the traffic coming out of your computer, and also the traffic arriving at your chosen destination, he can use statistical analysis to discover that they are part of the same circuit. The NSA uses this type of collection method among others to retrieve data but it is difficult to track large traffic. Tor also has hidden services that can be used to publish web articles without the fear of censorship, or authorship tracking.
Ongoing trends in law, policy, and technology threaten anonymity as never before, undermining our ability to speak and read freely online. These trends also undermine national security and critical infrastructure by making communication among individuals, organizations, corporations, and governments more vulnerable to analysis. Each new user and relay provides additional diversity, enhancing Tor’s ability to put control over your security and privacy back into your hands. Become a Tor user and help the Tor Project to protect us all.
1 Information about Tor can be found on their website. The Tor Project is an “open source”, non-profit entity. This is a summary taken from their website. For more information about the Tor Project please visit: https://www.torproject.org/