How to Use Tor Browser (And Why You Should)
A while ago I wrote an article about how best to protect your privacy using a web browser. Part of that advice was to use the Tor browser. Simply put, you can’t get more privacy and security from a web browser than you can from using Tor.
Also: The best browsers for privacy
The Tor browser uses the Onion network to ensure privacy and security. What is the onion network? First of all, Tor is short for “The Onion Router”. When using the onion network, all traffic is encapsulated in layers of encryption that travel through a series of nodes called “onion routers”. As traffic passes through a node, it detaches a single layer that reveals the next destination for the data. This makes it very difficult for third parties to track your internet activity (more so than any other browser).
Both the Tor Browser and the Onion Network are free for everyone to use, and the Tor Browser is available for Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows. And even though Tor is a web browser, using it is a bit different than using browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Safari, and Edge.
Also: Your guide to the dark web and how to safely access .onion websites
Seriously, if you really want to protect your privacy and security online, the Tor browser is the only way. No other browser can match it, and you shouldn’t even bother to change your current default setting to match what Tor delivers.
That being said, Tor isn’t perfect. Back in 2020, a number of security issues for Tor were announced. Of course, since Tor is open source, you can rest assured that these issues were patched right away (or, as the article says, debunked by the developers).
Also: It’s time for open source users to open their wallets
Of course, no software is perfect and as long as your computer is connected to a network, it can never be 100% secure. Also, you should know that when using Tor Browser, network traffic is not as fast as in other browsers. This slowdown is due to the security layers that need to be peeled off.
Now that you know what Tor is, let me show you how easy it is to use.
How to connect Tor to the onion network
All you need is the Tor browser installed on your desktop or mobile device. I’ll be demonstrating the Tor browser on Linux, but it doesn’t matter what platform you’re using. You can download Tor Browser for your desktop from the official downloads page. The Android version link takes you to a page with downloads for .apk files. On the same page you will find a link to the Google Play Store Tor listing. I would suggest installing Tor on Android from the Google Play Store.
Also: No browser is perfect. What should a user do?
If you’re using Linux, you can also install Tor from the default repositories, which means it should be available for installation in your desktop app store.
With Tor installed, I’ll show you how to use it.
The first thing you need to do is open the Tor browser, which you can do from your desktop menu.
If you installed Tor on Linux from the default repository on first boot, it will automatically download the latest version of Tor for you.
Once opened, you will see a button labeled Connect. When you open Tor, it’s not set to automatically connect to the onion network. Until you connect to the onion network, the Tor browser cannot be used. I would suggest enabling the connection automatically by checking the box labeled Always connect automatically. Once you’ve done that, click Connect and Tor will work its magic.
Also: This could become my new favorite browser
The connection will not be established immediately, so give the browser time to complete the process. If you find that Tor cannot connect, close the browser and try again. I had to do this almost every time I launched Tor for the first time. The next time you open Tor, you shouldn’t have any problems connecting.
Once Tor is connected, you can use it like any other browser.
However, I found that some websites cannot be viewed using the Tor browser. For example, when you try to view ZDNET.com, Tor displays a 403 Error: Forbidden. Your client does not have permission to fetch a URL from this server.
In this case, click the padlock icon to the left of the URL in question and click New Circuit for this Site in the pop-up window. After the new circuit is created, the website should load as expected.
And that’s the why and how of using the Tor browser. While you’ll find that it’s slower than your average browser, the extra privacy and security you get from Tor is well worth the speed reduction.
Also: How to improve your browser privacy with DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
I use Tor when I need increased security for a specific website or service (otherwise I just use Firefox). Try this browser and see if you can’t find that extra privacy and security with the effort.