What is a Tor browser, how does it work and what makes it different to a “standard” browser such as chrome?


What is a Tor browser, how does it work and what makes it different to a “standard” browser such as chrome?

In: Technology

A Tor browser is used for truly anonymous browsing, typically on the dark web. It conceals the user’s identity by routing everything through a long series of servers in foreign countries that can’t be subpoenad so that nothing ever goes directly from a server to your computer or from your computer to the server, and preventing any data from being stored locally on your machine.

To keep it simple, I’ll skip some of the technical aspects. Normal browsers, such as Chrome, when you type a website in, basically the target website would know this computer at this place whose owner can be tracked by a search warrant on the ISP is the one that wants this webpage, and then sends data to your computer. Your computer also sends data to the website, or stores data on your machine that says which websites you’ve been to. If you were doing something illegal, that’s supremely easy to track. If you’re not, it doesn’t really matter.

If you’re not doing anything illegal, you very probably don’t need a Tor browser for anything, although some privacy advocates maintain that the anonymity can protect your data and privacy.

Source: I’m a defense attorney and I’m acquainted with how police catch people.

Though people say it’s safe, it’s not impossible to trace you. Many dark web sellers have been caught before. Search “Australian drug dealer mom” She got caught.

Let’s use a mail analogy. Let’s say you want to send an anonymous love letter to someone named Alice. You don’t want Alice to know it was you who sent it, and you’d prefer not to let anyone else know you have a crush on Alice either.

Using a standard browser is like handing your letter directly to Alice. Obviously not going to work.

Fortunately, there are thousands of strangers who volunteer to run a love letter anonymization network. Out of the thousands of strangers, you randomly select three of them. Let’s call them stranger #1, #2, #3.

So here’s what you do: Take your letter addressed to Alice. Place it in an envelope, addressed to stranger #3. And put that envelope into another one addressed to stranger #2, and finally another one addressed to stranger #1.

Now deliver the envelope to stranger #1. Stranger #1 opens it and finds the envelope addressed to stranger #2, which he delivers accordingly. Stranger #2 opens the next envelope, finding and delivering the envelope addressed to stranger #3. Stranger #3 opens it, finding the letter addressed to Alice, and delivers it to Alice. Since it is illegal to open an envelope not addressed to you, each stranger can only open up one layer. (In Tor, this is cryptographically enforced with math, not postal law.)

So what’s the final result? Stranger #1 knows who sent the letter, but not its contents nor its ultimate destination. Stranger #2 knows neither who sent it, nor the contents, nor the destination. Stranger #3 knows the contents, but not who sent it. Alice also knows the contents but not who sent it. Thus anonymity is achieved: nobody other than you knows both the contents and the sender.

So that’s Tor in a nutshell. There’s also a lot of confusion out there about the differences between Tor and VPN. In this analogy, a VPN is like handing your letter to a trusted friend who hands it to Alice. Your friend is in a position of being able to know both contents and sender, so you’re putting a lot of faith in your friend (VPN) to not rat you out. But it has the advantage of not letting a stranger (stranger #3) read your letter, and it’s simpler with less hops making a VPN more suitable for daily browsing.