Is Tor a Safe Browser?
By Christine Margret 5 minutes
When it comes to protecting online anonymity, then Tor is considered one of the safest ways. But, is tor browser actually safe to use? This is what we will try to explain in this review. We will take a detailed look at the uses and benefits of Tor. Also, you will come to know how safe is tor and is tor legal or not.
Here’s a brief overview of what is tor and how to use tor. Basically, tor refers to the onion router, it’s an open-source software program that enables users to browse the internet anonymously.
How Safe Is Tor?
Tor is not the most secure browser but, it’s a powerful tool that strongly maintains users’ anonymity, however, it is not a 100% secure browser and has some vulnerabilities.
When you browse through tor, your internet traffic starts routing via Tor’s network. It means your traffic passes through several randomly picked relays before finally leaving the Tor’s network.
It is not possible to actually detect which computer has requested the traffic. The system you’re using may initiate the connection, otherwise, it may act as the relay and will move the traffic to the next Tor node.
Most of the traffic comes eventually from the Tor network. Let’s assume, you’re using Tor to connect to Google. Your traffic will pass through various Tor relays, but in the end, your traffic will transfer from the Tor network and then hit Google’s server.
The last relay, where your traffic leaves the tor network and connects to the destination is called exit relay or tor exit node. This exit relay is traceable and can be monitored by the government.
However, if you’re browsing an encrypted HTTPS website, then exit relay can see that you’re connecting to it. But, if you’re accessing an unencrypted website then exit relay will monitor your online activity. It will also keep a record of all the web pages you search along with the messages you send.
Online users should be careful about the consent of accepting an exit node/relay. There are equal chances that the government runs these exit nodes to monitor traffic, and may trace cybercriminals through it.
How to use Tor safely?
Install the Tor browser on your device, keep in mind that Tor browser is an advanced version of Firefox and other software that helps to connect you with the Tor network.
To ensure maximum security, make sure to visit highly encrypted HTTPS websites because while using Tor.
Moreover, you can also use a VPN with Tor. Tor is more secure with a VPN because VPN makes sure to mask your IP and online activities before it enters the first node. This way, your ISP will not detect your access to the Tor browser and the entry node itself cannot see your actual IP address. Read our detailed discussion on TOR vs VPN for a more detailed look at is tor safer than VPN.
Is Tor safe for normal browsing?
Major Vulnerabilities of Tor
All in all, Tor browser can be considered safe in general, but it also has some downsides and vulnerabilities. Here are the detailed vulnerabilities that you can expect when using Tor:
Tor’s exit node is traceable
As mentioned above exit relay or exit node is the last tor node. After traveling through the Tor exit node, your traffic finally reaches the open internet. This exit node is decrypted and traceable. It can reveal data to the node which may be a government proxy.
Tor reduces overall bandwidth speed
When you browse through Tor, your overall bandwidth speed reduces. It happens because traffic is not directly reaching its destination. It takes various routes that ultimately delays the process.
Tor is a target for the NSA
Tor, due to its impeccable anonymity claims, has been a target for higher authorities like NSA and government. Therefore, if you’re using it for any suspected online activities then you will be on a higher risk because these authorities keep a special check on tor users.
Various sites actively block tor users
Tor has been considered as the browser of suspicious activities. The browser has lost its image because of its access to the dark web and various websites block users who browse through Tor.
Is Tor illegal?
Yes, Tor is completely legal to use. However, think twice before using Tor for illegal activity as the entry node can detect your IP address and the exit node can see your destinations.
The Tor browser is a good alternative to Firefox or Chrome browser. But a 100% security is still not something that you can expect with Tor. Using a VPN with Tor can ensure anonymity online, but doing any illegal activity with Tor can put you at risk.