The Tor network is free and open-source software that helps provide anonymity and data protection when using the internet – and the Tor Browser provides direct access to this without the need for any other software.
But just how private and secure is it? Here’s everything you need to know if you plan on using Tor as your default browser.
In a hurry? Whether you want to view sensitive content or access blocked sites in certain countries, Tor ensures you have complete anonymity.
- 1 Pros & Cons
- 2 Overview
- 3 What Is the Tor Browser?
- 4 What Can You Use Tor Browser For?
- 5 Streaming Movies and TV Shows With Tor Browser
- 6 Using Streaming Devices With Tor Browser
- 7 Features
- 8 Plans and Pricing
- 9 Tor Browser’s Privacy and Security Features
- 10 Technical Details
- 11 Customer Support
- 12 Does It Work in China?
- 13 Methodology
- 14 Wrapping Up
- 15 FAQs
Pros & Cons
- Protection against online tracking and surveillance.
- Access to websites that may be blocked.
- Simple interface.
- Slow browsing speeds.
- It is blocked in some countries.
|Countries||38 supported languages|
|Log policy||No logs|
|Encryption protocols||SOCKS5, TLS link encryption|
|Supported platforms||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android|
|P2P File Sharing (Torrenting)||Yes|
What Is the Tor Browser?
The Tor Browser was designed by the Tor Project, a US non-profit organization, to ensure that your internet history and identity remain anonymous when you’re online. Tor hides your location by concealing your IP address, which also prevents any of your information from being tracked.
This secure browser works by routing your connection request through multiple computers on its network, making it difficult to trace where the traffic comes from or where it’s going. It makes Tor an ideal tool for accessing geo-restricted content, protecting yourself from trackers and surveillance, and bypassing censorship firewalls.
Online privacy is a concern for many people, which is why the Tor Browser has been gaining a growing following. It’s unique to other browsers, as it allows users to access the internet anonymously by routing traffic through a network of servers, making it difficult for anyone to track the user’s activity or location.
What Can You Use Tor Browser For?
Tor can be used to access most websites online – though there are some that may block the Tor Browser if detected. However, it’s capable of concealing your browsing activities from your internet service provider (ISP) or third-party advertisers who might sell your information, and it’s also beneficial for overcoming censorship restrictions within your country or geo-blocking on certain websites.
The best use of the Tor Browser is to access the Dark Web. While this area of the internet has a reputation for being a haven for illegal activity, there are legitimate uses for it: secure mail servers, private data transfers, and countless resources available for free regardless of which country you reside in.
While access to the Dark Web can be made through a Tor Browser, due to the higher risk of contracting malicious materials often associated with the Dark Web, you should also ensure your device has a VPN and antivirus software installed. This will ensure complete anonymity before you even execute the Tor Browser, so will hide that you’re using the Tor network and help to protect your home network and device.
Note that the Tor Browser is not a VPN, and as such does not offer some features that a VPN would typically provide. While you can access news sites that might be blocked by government authorities or networks, it only encrypts data transmitted through the browser (and not the entire device).
The Tor Browser is commonly used by journalists, activists, and those living in countries with heavy internet censorship, but it can also be used by anyone who values their online privacy.
Streaming Movies and TV Shows With Tor Browser
Tor doesn’t restrict your browsing experience, no matter where you live.
Does It Work With Popular Streaming Services?
If you want to check out a Netflix library from another country, you can attempt to do so on Tor.
However, Tor Browser is primarily designed for privacy and is not recommended for streaming. It’s not possible to specify the location of the servers your internet connection will be routed through, making it difficult to access specific country’s content libraries.
To watch movies and shows on streaming sites, you may need to pair the Tor Browser with a reliable VPN.
To best protect your privacy and provide you with a secure experience, the Tor network routes your connection through multiple nodes at once. This keeps you anonymous but often comes at the cost of slower speeds.
If you’re planning on streaming media or downloading large files, you’re unlikely to experience fast (or even average) speeds – even if you’re on one of the fastest internet plans on the planet.
Bandwidth and Connection Speeds
Unfortunately, Tor does not offer enough bandwidth to support video streaming in HD quality, and its multiple encryption process usually results in speeds that are too slow.
You may still be able to watch shows from your favorite streaming services, but you might need to adjust your settings to a lower quality.
Mobile and Desktop apps
The availability of the Tor Browser on multiple operating systems is a significant advantage for users seeking to protect their online privacy.
Tor Browser is available for:
Those on Android may need to install the Orbot app to route other apps through the Tor network.
While there is no official Tor Browser for iOS, the Tor Project recommends the Onion Browser as an alternative for iPhone users.
As Tor Browser is a browser itself, there’s no need to install it as an additional browser extension.
Users wanting to use the Tor network through their existing browser can install the Onion Browser Button, available for:
This lightweight add-on effortlessly connects your browser to the Tor network, allowing you to surf the internet with enhanced security and anonymity. With a simple ON|OFF switch, you can easily connect and disconnect from the Tor network.
Before using this add-on, you will need to download the setup and follow the simple instructions to be connected to the Tor network. Once connected, you can enjoy anonymous browsing with just the click of a button.
It should be noted that the Onion Browser Button does not belong to the Tor Project.
Ease of Use
Despite allowing you to browse parts of the internet that are not possible on other platforms, Tor is just as simple and user-friendly as any other web browser. When you load it up, you’ll see the typical address bar and any bookmarks you’ve saved for easy access.
You probably won’t even realize you’re accessing the dark web unless you notice the “.onion” at the end of the web address (these are also known as onion sites). Using Tor Browser is a completely seamless experience and doesn’t require learning anything new to use it.
If you’re a regular user of other browsers such as Chrome or Safari, you may need to adjust to the slower startup time Tor takes to launch, which can take around sixty seconds.
Using Streaming Devices With Tor Browser
You can use Tor on several streaming devices including:
- Windows laptops and PCs
- Apple Macs and MacBooks
- Android mobile devices
One of Tor’s key features is its ability to allow anonymous web usage. The browser achieves this by routing traffic through a series of servers, making it incredibly difficult to trace online activity back to the user.
Additionally, the Tor Browser has a built-in tracker blocker, protecting users from advertisers and data brokers.
It’s also able to bypass restrictions and access a variety of content that may be blocked in different countries.
More features offered by the Tor browser are explained below:
Tor is often used by many users wanting privacy and security on the internet. One of the reasons for this is that Tor doesn’t keep any logs that could be used to identify any particular user.
However, this doesn’t mean the network operates blindly. Tor uses metadata to ensure the network is functioning properly and efficiently by collecting some of the following information:
- the network’s users—where they are from and how they are connected to Tor,
- data on the number of relays and bridges online,
- how much traffic the network can handle,
- the speed of the network,
- information about onion services (which are increasingly popular among Tor users), and
- how many Tor applications have been downloaded or updated
More information on the measurements Tor takes can be found on the Tor Metrics site.
Onion services, previously known as “hidden services,” provide an alternative to traditional websites, protecting both users and operators.
These services are only accessible through the Tor network, which hides the location and IP address of the website, making it nearly impossible for adversaries to censor or identify the operators of the service.
Additionally, all traffic between users and onion services is end-to-end encrypted, removing the need for HTTPS.
Using onion services also eliminates the need for purchasing a domain name, as the address is automatically generated with a “.onion” URL, ensuring a secure connection.
Why use Onion services?
There are many reasons someone may want to use Onion services over traditional web services.
- Location hiding. Unlike conventional websites, Onion Services operate on an overlay network on top of TCP/IP, making IP addresses meaningless to the protocol. As a result, these services offer an extra layer of protection for users who want to keep their online activities hidden from prying eyes.
- End-to-end authentication. Unlike most websites, these domains are not subject to impersonation or man-in-the-middle attacks. This means that, when you visit a specific onion, you know the content you are seeing can only come from that exact source.
- End-to-end encryption. With onion service traffic, data is encrypted from the client to the onion host, keeping your online activity private and secure.
- NAT punching. If you are struggling to open certain ports on your network due to filtering within various settings, such as universities, offices, and airports, onion services have the solution. It doesn’t require open ports and can punch through NAT to establish outgoing connections. This means that, even if your network is filtered, you can still access onion services without any issues.
Accessing the Tor network can sometimes be difficult, as it’s often blocked by governments or Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The Tor Browser comes equipped with circumvention tools called “pluggable transports” to help bypass these restrictions.
There are currently three different transports available:
Each one has its own unique properties and effectiveness in circumventing blocks. When first starting with Tor, it’s worth testing all three of these tools to find out which works best for your needs.
Although most pluggable transports require the use of “bridge” relays, these bridges are not publicly listed, making it more difficult for adversaries to identify them.
However, using bridges may slow down your connection compared to using ordinary Tor relays. Fortunately, there are pluggable transports like Meek that don’t require the use of bridges.
If you’re looking for a faster connection and don’t want to bother with obtaining bridge addresses, meek might be the way to go.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which anti-censorship technique best suits your needs.
There are three ways you could compromise your safety when using the Tor browser:
Certain software, such as the Flash Player plugin (which is commonly used to display video content on the web), can sometimes put you at risk.
It’s important to be aware that this software operates outside of Tor Browser’s proxy settings. As a result, it can reveal your true location and IP address.
Thankfully, web browsers like Tor have built-in features that can help.
- NoScript is an add-on that allows you to control which scripts run on individual web pages or block them entirely.
Tor Browser is based on Mozilla Firefox, but it’s important to note that not all browser add-ons or themes are compatible with it.
In fact, the only ones that have been thoroughly tested and approved are those that come with the browser by default. Adding other extensions could potentially harm the functionality of the Tor Browser and even put your privacy and security at risk.
For the Tor network to function effectively, it relies on volunteers to donate bandwidth and run relays.
Unfortunately, the current size of the Tor network is inadequate for the number of people who rely on it.
By running a Tor relay, you can make the Tor network faster, more robust against attacks, more stable in case of outages, and safer for its users.
While running a relay requires technical skills and commitment, the Tor Project provides a wealth of resources to help its volunteers.
Thanks to the large number of volunteers based around the world and the way the network is set up, it’s not possible for governments to interfere with the Tor Browser or the Dark Web.
There are a number of contingencies in place so that, should something be compromised, the network will remain operational and Tor users won’t experience any disruption.
Even if one of the relays or exit nodes were disabled, it wouldn’t make a difference, as Tor uses a distributed network to spread out the processing load.
Using relay and exit nodes this way also makes it difficult to track users accessing the internet, which helps in keeping users anonymous.
Due to the secure nature of the browser and its ability to disguise users from governments and corporations, Tor allows citizens, journalists, and whistle-blowers to safely communicate without fear of prosecution or repercussion.
Plans and Pricing
Like most web browsers, there’s no charge to use Tor, even though it’s the best browser for privacy.
The Tor Project is a non-profit; you can choose to donate money to help support the developers, but this is not necessary to access the software.
While its free usage might make it seem the same as any other web browser, such as Chrome, Edge, or Safari, there are several additional features you get with Tor that set it apart.
To be anonymous on other internet browsers, you would need to use a robust private browsing option or a VPN in conjunction with the browser to conceal your identity from the company site you’re visiting, as well as your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
This means Tor could save you money by providing some of the features of a VPN for free.
The team behind Tor believes the internet should be open and free for all. It’s run by a group of volunteers who support the platform in their spare time.
Tor Browser’s Privacy and Security Features
Below we have explained all of the top security features the Tor browser provides to help keep its users safe while online.
The Tor network works by relaying and encrypting its users’ traffic three times over, ensuring their online activity remains untraceable.
This kind of encryption is made possible by thousands of volunteer-run servers called Tor relays. These servers are not linked to the user’s IP address, making it impossible for anyone to determine the user’s real location.
Every connection in Tor uses TLS link encryption, so no one can look inside and see which circuit a particular cell is meant for.
An ephemeral encryption key is established with each relay in the circuit, creating multiple layers of security along the way. This guarantees that only the exit relay can read the cells, while the circuit keys are discarded by both parties once the communication ends, making it impossible to extract any information by breaking into the relay system.
Tor encrypts your browsing data to keep you safe, but you can take your security even further by tweaking the Tor Browser’s Security Levels to disable features that could potentially compromise your anonymity.
This comes with a trade-off, though, as some websites might not work as efficiently with increased security.
It’s up to you to decide which is more important – staying secure or being able to access all your favorite sites quickly.
Also known as HTTPS Everywhere, HTTPS-Only mode ensures all website connections are encrypted, making it much more difficult for hackers to intercept sensitive information.
Most websites already have HTTPS support, but some still only offer HTTP. In these cases, enabling HTTPS-Only mode will notify you that a secure connection cannot be established.
While this can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that HTTPS-Only mode is still a valuable tool in keeping your data safe online.
Ultimately, it’s up to website owners to prioritize security by implementing HTTPS on their sites.
Defense Against Malware
Anonymity and privacy are two of the key reasons users choose to use Tor as their browser of choice.
The individual data packets and relay and exit nodes that are used for surveillance get bounced via multiple nodes, making it extremely difficult to track. The team behind Tor has also made it impossible for anyone to trace IP addresses.
As Tor is an open-source platform, it’s hard to infect it with malware. Poorly vetted and maintained open-source software can be vulnerable to malware; however, the Tor community is vigilant in identifying and removing malware and vulnerabilities from their software.
They also have a robust process for code review and security testing to help prevent malware inclusion. You should always download Tor software from the official website and keep it updated to ward off threats.
Unfortunately, it is always possible to download malicious content through user error, so you still need to be vigilant when clicking on links or websites you’re not familiar with. This applies regardless of which browser and/or VPN service you’re using.
New Identity and New Tor Circuit
If you’ve ever searched for something online and then noticed related ads following you around online for weeks, or if you have sensitive information you want to keep private, Tor Browser’s “New Identity” option could be your solution.
By clicking on this feature, not only will all your current tabs and windows be closed, but your private information will be cleared and fresh connections with new Tor circuits will be established.
This is an easy way to prevent your online activity from being linked to your previous actions. Just make sure you’ve saved any important work first, as Tor Browser will remind you that all current activity and downloads will be stopped.
If you’re unable to connect to a website, or you’re experiencing slow loading times, using a new Tor circuit could be the solution. It means the currently active tab or window will be reloaded over a fresh Tor circuit – not only will this potentially solve your connection problems, but it will also be applied to any other open tabs or windows from the same website once they’re reloaded.
It’s important to note that this feature does not compromise your privacy or affect your current connections to other websites.
Is Tor Browser easy to set up and use? Here we’ll look at some of the more technical details.
How Easy Is It To Install?
Setting up Tor Browser on your device is straightforward.
From the Tor Project website, choose the correct file for your operating system or device (Windows, macOS, Linux, or Android) and click to download.
It is recommended users verify the file’s signature before proceeding. Once you have verified the signature, you can open the downloaded file and install it.
Does Tor Work in Other Countries?
Tor is available to users all over the world.
Russia and China have banned its use, though only China has been successful in completely blocking it. Despite this, you can still use Tor in China, but you’ll need to follow instructions on the Tor website to bypass the Great Firewall. (More information is available below in “Does It Work In China?”)
Tor should be available for use in most other countries, including:
- Hong Kong
Some Services Block Tor Browsers
While you might not receive a message stating “this content is not available in your country,” certain websites may inform you that your browser is not supported. This is due to some sites blocking the Tor Browser, following historic uses of it being used to launch cyberattacks.
Akamai, Craigslist, and Yelp are just a few sites that have created methods to see if you’re using a Tor Browser and will limit your experience accordingly.
Google and Yahoo are also aware of Tor users, but they don’t block them from accessing their search engines. However, some of the results may differ, and other functions might not be available.
The Tor Project support team and volunteers are available 24/7 if you need their assistance. You can reach them in several ways:
- Ask for help on the Tor Forum.
- If it is a bug issue, it has probably been addressed on Tor Project’s GitLab. If not create a new issue.
- If you can access Tor Forum in your area, you can reach them through Telegram.
- Send a message on WhatsApp.
- Send a message through Signal.
- You can also send an email to [email protected]. For security issues, send an email to [email protected]. These can be written in any language, though emails in English, Spanish, and/or Portuguese will likely receive a faster response time.
Does It Work in China?
The Tor Project has a support page to help users access the Tor network in China. This walks users through several steps and options to unblock Tor in China.
First, users should obtain an updated version of the Tor Browser through the Telegram bot. If that doesn’t work, users can send an email to [email protected] to request a download link.
Once installed, the Tor Browser will attempt to connect to the Tor network. If this is blocked in your location, Connection Assist will try to connect using a bridge or Snowflake.
Bridges are Tor relays that aren’t found in the public directory. This makes it difficult for governments and ISPs to block access to the Tor network, so bridges are beneficial for those within oppressive regimes or for people interested in an extra layer of security to mask their contact with a public Tor relay IP address.
Should this fail, the final option is to obtain a bridge that works in China, including Snowflake, private and unlisted OBFS4 bridges, or Meek Azure.
All web browsers have their advantages, including Tor. While it’s the only Internet browser that provides access to the Dark Web, there are also several other benefits to Tor that make it worth considering.
Providing valuable protection against websites and other services that may collect your location information and build databases about your online habits, Tor prevents anyone from viewing your online traffic and learning what information you’re accessing or sending.
By routing your connection through multiple Tor relays, no single relay can learn your activity, ensuring your online privacy and security. The use of different individuals or organizations to run these relays also provides more trust and security compared to the outdated one-hop proxy approach.
If you want complete security, you should also consider using a VPN alongside Tor. According to user results, the best VPN for this is ExpressVPN.
Can you be tracked in Tor?
No, users cannot be tracked in Tor.
With Tor Browser, users can be sure their online activities remain untraceable, as it encrypts traffic between multiple devices, helps conceal users’ identities from search engines, hides browsing history from internet service providers, and keeps websites from tracking them.
All of this provides users with total control over their privacy while using the Internet.
Is Tor Browser safer than Chrome?
Yes, Tor Browser is safer than Chrome.
Unlike Chrome, Tor uses a complex network of servers to route users’ web traffic through a series of encrypted layers, making it incredibly difficult for anyone to determine their location or access their personal information. This added level of protection is especially crucial for individuals looking to bypass internet censorship or protect themselves while browsing sensitive websites.
This makes Tor worth considering by those looking to browse the web in complete anonymity.
What is the difference between Tor and a VPN?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) mainly provide privacy and security and can assist with bypassing geo-blocks for activities such as streaming, whereas Tor emphasizes anonymity.
While both VPNs and Tor have similar objectives, they differ in their approach to achieving privacy and anonymity.
VPNs encrypt a user’s internet traffic and route it through a centralized remote server (usually owned or rented by the VPN service), whereas Tor channels a user’s internet traffic through multiple, volunteer-run Tor nodes to obscure the origin and destination.
Is a VPN or Tor better?
Neither VPN nor Tor is better.
Both provide privacy in different ways, with their own pros and cons, so which one is best depends on what each individual user needs them for.
Tor only encrypts data that’s transmitted through the browser itself, while a VPN encrypts all of the data that leaves the user’s device, whether that’s from the internet browser or any other app being used. This means those looking for comprehensive privacy protection will most likely prefer a VPN.
What is the Tor Browser’s search engine?
The Tor Browser search engine is DuckDuckGo.
Unlike most search engines, DuckDuckGo keeps users’ search history and personal information confidential, ensuring maximum privacy while browsing the web. A user’s searches, timestamps, IP address, and account information (if any) are not saved, making DuckDuckGo the best choice for anyone seeking to guard their personal information.