What is Tor. TOR = The Onion Routing Project and was originally started as a U.S. Navy project to protect Naval and governmental communications. Today TOR is used by people from virtually all walks of life, from government, businesspeople, law enforcement, activists and even “normal” people. TOR is available for Linux, Windows, BSD, Android and even Unix.
TOR can be thought of a network that affords people the opportunity to increase security and privacy while using the internet, and provides a solid foundation of applications to allow individuals to share information over the public internet safely.
TOR is used to protect individuals from being tracked by websites and services or provide uncensored news and to allow people to use the web as intended, even when blocked by an ISP or regional government. TOR is often used for communication of socially sensitive information and communication, such as anonymous groups the like of Alcoholics Anonymous but with true anonymity.
TOR is used as a means of communication between those that have the desire to hide their identity, like a journalists snitch or secret source and government agents that need to contact their handlers or agency without alerting those under investigation of their existence.
There are branches of the government that have even taken to using TOR to monitor websites for nefarious or otherwise illegal use and content.
TOR is, in essence, for anybody that wants to maintain some anonymity while using the internet.
TOR protects us by not affording the opportunity to be followed by those that are practicing traffic analysis. Traffic Analysis is the act of determining who is talking to whom online, be it simply surfing a website or establishing a chat connection. Knowing an originating Internet Protocol (IP)¹ address and a destination address can identify what we intend to do while on the internet. Keeping records of this can define a pattern as to how we surf the internet and even be used for personality profiling, marketing, risk assessment, and many other intrusive reasons.
Worse than just profiling your web surfing habits, knowing where you are going and coming from can allow for interception of traffic. Communication can be a simple conversation or even credit card numbers and other financial information, this is one of the best reasons to protect yourself. Projecting where you are going to surf to can give the opportunity for some would be criminal to intercept you and redirect you to a malicious site.
TOR is a great solution to solve your privacy issues. TOR builds a network of encrypted connections that act as something of a go-between instead of a direct connection to your destination. Imagine you were being followed and you wanted to lose the person following you. You would not head directly to your destination and you would take lots of twists and turns, maybe even sweep your footprints out of the dirt. This is what TOR does for you, and it is done automatically.
Not only does TOR take a very indirect route to the destination, the route selected is random and is routed differently every 10 minutes.
After all of this, TOR works to an extent. TOR helps protect transmitted information but if you transmit sensitive information then you are only as protected as the information you send. If you send information that leads to you then you can be traced, be smart in what you send and keep in mind that your computer transmits information automatically. There is additional ways to help prevent this information.
Further reading should be about Hidden Service Protocol.
¹Internet Protocol Address: is an address for a computer or device over a network.