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What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

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So you want to surf the web anonymously? TOR's one of, if not the best, way to do it, and best of all it's FREE (and easy to setup and use).

In this tutorial we'll explain in "Layman's Terms", what Tor is.

Tor (used to stand for "The Onion Router", but it's no longer considered an abbreviation, so it's just "Tor"), is an anonymity network, used to surf the web (and more) anonymously. Basically, anyone running the Tor software on their computer runs a proxy, and traffic gets passed (encrypted) from one person running Tor to another person running Tor, multiple times through many users, until it get's to the page that you requested. Hence the term "Onion" used to describe it, since it works in "layers". Each person running Tor on their computer is called a "Node".

To the page (and anyone logging requests to that page, such as the website owner for example) they can only see the IP address of the last Node (called the "end node"). Any communication along the way, between you, when you request the website page, and the final destination, is encrypted, and cannot be analyzed. However, the last Node in the chain can log and view traffic through it, if the person running it is unscrupulous, so for that reason it can't be said that Tor is 100% anonymous.

There are a few different ways to use Tor, so we'll explain to you the basic ones. First off, you need to decide which program you'll want to use along side of Tor itself:

  • Polipo cache's pages and does a few other more technical things that for the purpose of this tutorial I won't explain, so that you don't feel confused or overwhelmed, (if anyone else wants to go into technical details on what Polipo does, comments are welcome) suffice it to say, you don't really need to know that stuff in order to use Tor. Polipo is for that reason, said to be faster while using Tor, and often it is, but not always, and it's also said to be the less secure option of the two as far as your privacy is concered. It will giv eyou a new IP address when surfing, however it is said to also leak alot of your real information along the way.
  • The other option is using Privoxy instead of Polipo. Privoxy doesn't cache your web pages, but it's much more secure as far as leaking any of your real information. Since it does no caching, it can be painfully (brutally, ripping out hair) slow most of the time.

So it boils down to do you want speed, or security. Polipo for speed, Privoxy for security. Regardless of yoru choice, Tor is generally still just too slow to use 100% of your time on the internet, so you'll really only want to use it when wanting to remain private for a short time.

Tor is also much too slow, and for some other reasons, it's highly discouraged to use it for something like Torrent downloading.

You can download Tor from this page: Clicky

Be sure to read our beginner's tutorials on how to actually USE Tor and get ya all set up! Just choose one (or all) of the links below. Smile

I Averaged: 2.8 | 5 votes

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Smartmom's picture
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Re: What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

I use to use TOR a few years back but haven't in a while. Your right it is nice but yes slow. The one think I liked about TOR is sites that generally a proxy don't see TOR's so you can get more out of it. Nice thread Smile

JD's picture
Re: What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

If I was to use the less secure but faster Polipo alongside TOR but only visited sites where I was providing basic information (Email address) when using Polipo, can Polipo gain access to other personal information that I have contained on my PC and share it with others.
I think I would only wish to use Polipo/Tor to search certain web sites that do not require all of my personal info.
When visiting web sites that I do need to provide personal details I would prefer to use original protected sites!
Does this question make sense as I have just began to research the use of Tor.

Cheers JD

Artertads's picture
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Re: What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

Hi JD Smile

Polipo doesn't actually access any info on your computer, it's more of a proxy server that transfers data that you purposely send through it. Kind of like if you were standing on my left, handed me a box, then I wrapped the box and passed it on to a person on my left. I can only wrap whatever you've given to me, I can't start frisking you and pulling your pants off you (if you didn't give them to me yourself Tongue ).

jldarwin's picture
Re: What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

Thanks Artertad's--Great answer.

jldarwin's picture
Re: What Is TOR? And How Do I Use It? Tutorial For Beginners

I have just began looking into Tor and considering using it with the faster Polipo. I would only visit sites with Polipo that only need my basic personal info (Email add etc), is it therefore possible that Polipo gain access to all of my personal info stored on my PC and share all of my personal details with others.

I would only use the Tor/Polipo site for visiting sites that only require the basic info but when visiting sites that require further personal details I would continue to use the treadiditional method of visiting those sites.

Regards JD

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