Safe and anonymous Web browsing is important to a lot of people. I can understand that you may not think about security so much when you’re at home because you don’t think about people intercepting packets of information sent from your computer to a destination. However, when doing important tasks like banking or even just browsing the Internet in a more public place, you should really think about stepping up the security.
Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves.
Basically you establish an encrypted connection with a chain of Tor computers that eventually connect to your destination. So how safe is this?…
A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.
Downloading and installing Tor is not a difficult task, especially with graphical instructions like these for Windows. However, if you’re like most people you will probably just want to use it for your Web browser…and there are two great solutions for doing that!
This is a portable Web browser that can be used anywhere that you go. Unfortunately it is still based on Firefox 184.108.40.206 so you don’t get all of the nifty features that Firefox 2 has to offer, but I did read that they have plans on upgrading it to version 220.127.116.11 shortly. If privacy and security is what you’re looking for then I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this browser.
Essentially it is Just a version of Firefox that includes some extensions to make your browsing a lot safer. Here are the extensions that it includes by default:
- Adblock – Blocks ads on websites.
- Firesomething – used to rebrand the browser as Torpark.
- Flush Tor Circuit – drops your current Tor connection and creates a new one.
- Live IP Address – Shows your IP in the address bar.
- Torbutton – Easily enable or disable the use of the Tor network.
- NoScript – Blocks scripts from running on websites without your approval.
- It also comes with a bunch of language translation extensions installed.
While you could make your own version of this secure browser by installing a few extension, I do have to admit that it is nice having it already packaged for me to use.
You probably wouldn’t enjoy using the TorPack mentioned above if you’re an Opera browser fan. Don’t worry though, there is a version of Opera that utilizes the Tor network as well…and it is portable! All you have to do is download and run the included OperaTor.exe file and the browser, along with Tor, will be up and running.
It is based on Opera 9.10 so you get the latest security protection including Opera’s new anti-fraud feature. I actually prefer to use OperaTor over TorPack myself and it’s what I have sitting on my USB drive right now. So whenever I’m in a public place I whip it out and feel much more confident about the Web surfing that I do.
That’s not all you can do to try and keep yourself safe. Last year I wrote a post that listed 10 Firefox extensions you can use that offer several security benefits. Safety and security are serious matters in a world where identify theft continues to rise, so make sure you take extra measures to keep your data safe, especially when the risks are abnormally high, like in public places.