Tor Browser is a browser developed by a non-profit association founded in 2006. It is the only browser that offers native support for the Tor network and allows access to Onion sites without installing extensions.
Tor Browser: Tips for Browsing Anonymously and Safely
This platform routes the user’s browsing traffic to make it anonymous. In the same way, it is an uncensored network, so it is possible to find content of dubious reputation or, directly, illegal.
With the Tor network, you can browse standard and well-known sites, such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, with greater privacy. But it also offers access to portals located on the Deep Web and the Dark Web, represented by the onion domain or extension. They are known as onion services and offer these advantages:
- The location and IP of these sites is hidden. That makes it difficult for the administration to censor it.
- Traffic between the user and the Onion service is encrypted. The encryption is end-to-end, which makes the HTTPS protocol unnecessary.
- .onion addresses do not have a standard domain. Rather, they are generated automatically, which makes it easy to identify them while also exempting them from buying a regulated domain.
The Tor network is updated from time to time to implement improvements. For example, in its latest version the speed of the platform was substantially improved. This is, historically, one of its weak points.
How to anonymously browse the Tor network
With the highlights of the Tor network on the table, it’s time to talk about its privacy-focused browser. In this section, we give you the best tips for configuring Tor Browser to make it more secure and private.
Getting Started in Tor Browser
If you have just downloaded Tor Browser and installed it on your computer, go to the start menu to launch it. For our part, we have used the version for Windows, although everything we tell you about is very similar on other platforms, including Android.
The first message you’ll receive in Tor Browser is an invitation to route browser traffic through the Tor network. There it is explained that this infrastructure of anonymity is maintained thanks to thousands of volunteers all over the world. If you check the Always Connect automatically box, this message will not appear again.
Connecting through the Tor network takes a few seconds. The obsession with privacy is such that when you do so, the browser suggests you change your language settings, thus making things more difficult for trackers.
With the Tor network-enabled, the browser will turn purple and offer to locate websites on DuckDuckGo. However, keep in mind that through this network you will be able to access any website, including the almighty Google search engine.
As you will see, when leveraging the Tor network, everything works as expected. Interestingly, DuckDuckGo believes that our optimal region is Germany. There is no doubt that Tor Browser is doing something right when it comes to privacy. All the tests we did later, accessing Google, without going any further, returned results in this language.
Tor Browser’s interface is very similar to Firefox’s. It is not a coincidence, much less a plagiarism. The project has taken advantage of the open nature of Firefox to create a parallel browser, which in English is known as a fork. So if you have already used the Mozilla browser, using Tor Browser will be childish.
Generate a new identity in Tor Browser
Internet trackers generate a digital identity based on our browsing and other behavior patterns. If what you want is to improve your privacy and security, Tor Browser helps you by generating new identities from time to time. As?
- Open the main menu.
- Click New Identity.
- All sites will be closed and browsing will start again.
Actually, not only are the tabs closed, but the browser is completely restarted. This is reported by the following notice:
Alternatively, it is possible to use the broom button or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + U to generate a new digital identity.
Improve privacy in Tor Browser
So far we have explained how to take the first steps with Tor Browser and revealed a little trick that will help you restore your identity when browsing. However, in this section, we dig into your browser’s settings to show you how to make it more private and secure.
- Select a search engine in its Onion version. The browser’s default search engine is DuckDuckGo. If it doesn’t seem private enough to you, its Onion version is available. Do it from Preferences > Search. The results will be the same, but your anonymity will increase.
- Prioritize onion services. If there is an Onion equivalent to a web page, Tor Browser is able to load it if you check the Always option under Onion Services in the Privacy & Security section.
- Cookie management in Tor Browser. As with all browsers, cookies are tracking elements that it’s good to remove if your goal is more privacy. You can do it from Privacy & Security, under the Cookies and site data statement.
- Launch permanent private browsing mode. If you do, the browser will always load in an incognito mode, which does not record anything you do. Also, this setting deletes cookies and site data every time you close your browser.
- Modify the degree of security. The balance between the functionality of the sites and privacy is difficult to achieve. For the best anonymity, you should ideally block most dynamic elements and cookies. Of course, that will cause many websites to stop working correctly. The levels of security offered by Tor Browser help you find the perfect balance. The Standard grade is perfect for sites to load without errors. On the other hand, the most secure of all (that is its name, as you can see in the image below) supports the static content of the sites. It is true that it is more secure, but it may prevent you from viewing the images on a website or logging into it. In any case, you decide!
Tor Browser’s settings panel looks a lot like Firefox’s. However, in the latter, we do not find the Tor section, which allows you to manage the connection through the anonymous network. Take a look at the parameters that are included there to further increase your security and privacy.
Locate Onion Sites
We close this section by talking about Onion sites or onion services. All of them are located in an area of the Internet called the Deep Web, that is the deep web. This is content that has not been indexed in traditional search engines, such as Google or Bing.
Within the Deep Web is located the Dark Web, an area considered “dark” that takes advantage of anonymity to carry out illegal activities.
Locating websites in that deep part of the Internet is not as easy as entering keywords into Google. Onion services are located as follows:
- Search engine. There are some specialized search engines that allow you to locate Onion links. For example, one of them is Ahmia.
- Direct links. You can find Onion links on technology pages and on social networks.
Remember that it is only possible to access an onion link with a browser that is compatible with the Tor network. And the best candidate is none other than Tor Browser.
Alternatives to Tor Browser
Tor Browser is one of the most interesting options when it comes to browsing with privacy. Still, in our view, their philosophy of extreme anonymity could undermine your productivity.
Among other things, it does not allow synchronizing bookmarks or passwords on other devices, it forgets all the history and, depending on the degree of security, the websites do not load correctly. So, is there a more balanced alternative in this regard? Here are three suggestions:
- Brave. Privacy-focused Chromium browser with tracker and ad blocker. It allows synchronizing content between devices connected by an end-to-end encrypted chain.
- Firefox. It is a project of the Mozilla Foundation. It is a champion of privacy and offers content blockers or trackers.
- FreeWolf. A Firefox fork that blocks all elements that put the user’s privacy at risk. It does not include telemetry and comes with uBlock Origin enabled by default.
All these browsers prioritize privacy on the Internet, although without giving up practical features such as synchronization between devices or the recording of browsing history. Using them in conjunction with a VPN is the best way to increase your anonymity online.