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Use Tor to Protect Your Online Privacy

 Tech Talker's simple solution to encrypting your data to help protect your privacy online. 

By
Eric Escobar,
January 28, 2013

 

The focus of this week’s podcast was online privacy, and one of the programs that I mentioned in the episode was Tor, a free software and open network that helps keep your online activity anonymous with the use of a layered encryption system.

First let’s go into what Tor is. Tor stands for “The Onion Router” because it uses layers of encryption to protect your data and obscure its original source. Normally when you visit a website the communication goes directly between you and the website. When you use, Tor your activity jumps through multiple Tor servers.

Think of it this way: When you normally use the Internet to visit a website, your data goes from your computer, to your Internet Service Provider, and then to its intended destination. This route makes it obvious to anyone monitoring your activity just where the traffic came from (via your IP address) and just what was sent (provided there was no encryption).

Tor eliminates this problem. When you use Tor, the information you send or receive from your computer is encrypted. Not only that but it gets routed to multiple servers before it reaches its intended destination, and each jump adds an extra level of encryption. All of this extra encryption and jumping makes using Tor pretty slow at times. If you need the extra security though, speed is probably one of the last things on your mind.

See Also: How to Encrypt Your Files

It’s also interesting to note that Tor was developed originally for the US Navy, in order to safeguard military communications. Tor also has many uses for people in countries where Internet freedom is severely restricted. It’s useful for anyone who needs extra security while online.

Next let’s talk about the best ways to use Tor. The first is as an application that runs on your computer. Anything you do in this application will be protected using Tor. It includes its own Internet browser which is configured for security right from the start.

Tor also has its own operating system that you can put onto a USB drive! I’ve been using this for a while now, and it is pretty amazing. An encrypted operating system designed with security and privacy as its number one goal, it has a number of tools including office software, audio, and picture editing software, as well as a built in e-mail and chat program that is fully encrypted. The operating system also comes with a preconfigured browser just like the desktop application.

You can learn more about Tor from their website, https://www.torproject.org/.

Onion from The Tor Project, Inc.

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