Nowadays, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep confidentiality, anonymity, and privacy online. Governments, hackers, and even our beloved Google are coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways to track user data.
Even with its shortcomings, the Tor network is an excellent tool for maintaining anonymity when working on the World Wide Web. But it does not give a one hundred percent guarantee. What is Tor Network? Let’s discover it with Changelly.
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Tor Network Explained
TOR is a technology that allows users to hide a person’s identity on the Internet. TOR stands for The Onion Router.
TOR was originally a US military project. Then it was opened for sponsors, and now it is called the Tor Project. The main idea of this network is to ensure anonymity and security in a network where most participants do not trust each other. The essence of this network is that the data passes through several computers, is encrypted, their IP address changes and you get a secure data channel.
A by-product of this technology is darknet or the Internet inside the Internet. These are sites that cannot be accessed from the normal Internet through a regular browser. Search engines do not see them and it is impossible to establish their real owners. It turns out the Internet without rules and restrictions.
Tor Network History
As we’ve already mentioned, the development of Tor began in 1995 at the request of the US government at the High-Performance Computing Systems Center of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) as part of the Free Haven project in conjunction with the Department of Defense Advanced Research and Development (DARPA). The source code was distributed as free software.
In the early 2000s, the project was called The Onion Routing (Tor). In October 2002, a router network was deployed, which by the end of 2003 included more than ten network nodes in the United States and one in Germany.
Since 2004, the financial and informational support to the project has been provided by the human rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In 2006, the Tor Project, a nonprofit organization, was created to develop the Tor network in the United States.
In 2008, the Tor browser appeared.
The main sponsors of the project are the Department of State and the US National Science Foundation. Another source of funding is the collection of donations, including in cryptocurrencies.
How Does Tor Work
The principle of work at TOR is the same as in films about hackers: it connects in turn to the website or service you need through several servers. Typically, three servers are involved in a chain: input, intermediate, and output.
Before the request or data goes to the network, a special program on the user’s computer encrypts them so that each server can decrypt only its part. It looks like this: the source data is taken and encrypted for the input node, then what happened is encrypted for the intermediate node, and now it is still encrypted for the output node.
The first node is the input node, through which the user enters the TOR network. Usually, they are selected from those servers that have proven their reliability. Another requirement for an input node is a stable and fast connection. The input node receives the onion from the ciphers, decrypts the first layer, and finds there the address to which this packet should be transferred further. It does not see anything else, because the data inside is encrypted twice.
The second node is an intermediate one. It does the same as the first one: removes its cipher layer, finds out where to send them, and sends secret data to the output node. Intermediate servers are the easiest to maintain because they simply decrypt and transmit data. They do not know where they originally came from and where they will go at the very end.
The last node in the chain is the output, it is the most important of all. The fact is that it removes the last layer of encryption and sends your data in pure form to the desired address. It is the address that will be visible to the site to which the request is being sent. Law enforcement agencies will come to them when they investigate crimes committed through TOR.
A request is sent from the output node to the desired site, a response is received from there, and the whole chain moves in the opposite direction also with triple encryption.
Tor Browser already contains all the settings that are needed to connect to the network, but for complete privacy, you will need to turn on some of the extensions yourself, for example, NoScript. It disables all scripts through which you can find out your real address.
Tor Network Problems
Despite triple encryption, TOR has several vulnerabilities to be aware of.
Wiretap on the output node. Through the output node, traffic goes to the network in its pure form, so some unscrupulous owners of such nodes can read something there. For example, the username and password of the online store, mail, or the text of the correspondence, if the messenger does not encrypt messages. SSL encryption also does not save by itself. There are already programs that decrypt it.
To protect against such leaks, use sites that support the HTTPS protocol: it encrypts all data and protects it from listening. Use instant messengers and email clients with built-in encryption. This will also help protect your messages.
Global observation. If you watch long enough for those who are sitting on the same channel and do not change the chain of nodes, then you can calculate its real IP address. In laboratory conditions, this takes about two hours, but this has not yet happened in real life (at least the general public is not aware of this).
Main Goal of Tor Network
The project team is engaged in its promotion, encouraging the use of Tor to protect the rights to free access to information and privacy.
The Tor Project administration is opposed to cybercrime: its representatives, together with the United States Agency for International Development, the Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Trend Micro, and the Bitcoin Foundation are part of the cybercrime working group.
Tor is supported by many online security and privacy activists, including former NSA employee Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.