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Inside the Tor Network

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Tor, an abbreviation of The Onion Router, is a technology for protecting your online activity from unwanted eavesdroppers.  It relies on a distributed network of peers to pass along any messages and data to the server you want to interact with.  In this network structure, the server doesn't know who you are... unless you log in.  Your internet service provider (ISP) knows you are using Tor, but they don't have a way to see what you're browsing on it.

The internet you're using to read this article is probably far from private.  Individuals can figure out where you are located and obtain a large amount of information from you about your online habits.  This is done via cookies or device fingerprinting.  Not everyone is okay with sharing their sensitive data, especially since there's software available at their fingertips to enhance privacy.

In this article, we are taking a look at Tor, how it works, and how it can benefit the user!


I am not sponsored by anyone or anything mentioned in this article. 
This is not financial advice.  I am not a financial advisor.
Please do your own research before making any decisions before investing. 
This article is meant for educational purposes only.


Tor network stock photo

The anonymity of Tor is achieved through onion routing.  By encrypting all communications received by you and bouncing them around a network of nodes, no one can tell where they originate from.  You're hearing about and seeing onions regarding Tor... why?  Onions (and Shrek) have layers, just like the packets that are being sent through the Tor network.  Below, I've shown how this works.

  • Messages are encrypted to form the first layer
  • The wrapped (encrypted) message is encrypted with a different key
  • The now twice-wrapped message is then encrypted with a third and final key

There are hackers everywhere unfortunately.  However, if a malicious individual wanted to get to the core of your onion, they would need to decrypt all three layers outlined above.  Three encryption keys are being used simultaneously and each peer within the network only knows one.  This makes it difficult for anyone to trace back where the original information came from.

This privacy through encryption of your browsing pleasure does come at a cost though.  Not necessarily with money, but with time.  If you've ever used the Tor Brower, you've probably noticed that it's a bit slower than the average browser.  This is because when using the Tor Browser, you're not communicating directly with the server.  Your information is taking the long route to ensure privacy and needs to be altered every step of the way.


Tor browser logo stock -

Whenever you hear about Tor, it's usually always getting a bad rap.  To a lot of people, it's synonymous with markets for drugs, weapons, and other illicit goods and services.  Tor does allow users to interact with a high degree of confidentiality, but that's not what it's all about.  You could just be the average person that just doesn't want your ISP snooping on conversations between your friends and family on Facebook.  Regardless, Tor is a tool available to the public to enhance everybody's privacy alike.

Onion routing was actually developed in the mid-1990s by United States Naval Research Laboratory employees Paul Syverson, Michael G. Reed, and David Goldschlag with the purpose of protecting U.S. intelligence communications online.  The Tor Project is primarily responsible for maintaining software for the Tor anonymity network.  Protecting the privacy of the user relies on the user itself and not only Tor.  You can easily leak personal information if you don't know what you're doing while browsing.  JavaScript could even profile you unless protected by browser extensions that block it.

Tor, along with onion routing in general, are the integral components in the digital privacy landscape.  While impossible to be totally anonymous online, Tor allows users to enjoy a browsing experience free from malicious eyes.  These tools are crucial for evading censorship and defending the fundamental right to privacy we all deserve.


What's your experience with onion routing?
Let us know in the comments down below!


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