Your com­plete guide to the web’s best-kept se­cret Cre­ate a Tor ‘re­lay’ Add a VPN 10 hid­den sites you must visit

Web User - - Front Page -

It’s hardly a se­cret that when you go on­line, your ac­tiv­i­ties are fol­lowed – not only by Google, Face­book and Ama­zon, but by of­fi­cial sur­veil­lance teams, ‘just in case’ you’re a crim­i­nal in wait­ing. In Web User, we of­ten rec­om­mend pri­vacy add- ons and soft­ware that block at least some web track­ers, but if you re­ally want to pre­serve your anonymity, Tor is the best op­tion avail­able.

This stealthy browser keeps your web ac­tiv­i­ties safe from spam­mers and ad­ver­tis­ers, hides your per­sonal data from cor­po­ra­tions and other web users, and lets you browse with­out be­ing fol­lowed by iden­tity thieves and stalk­ers. You can send per­sonal photos with­out hav­ing them in­ter­cepted, use so­cial net­works with­out be­ing mon­i­tored, write gen­uinely anony­mous blog posts and much more.

In this pri­vacy spe­cial, we ex­plain how to make the most of Tor’s anonymity tools and en­sure you stay safe when brows­ing what’s re­ferred to – some­what mis­lead­ingly – as the Dark Web. We out­line our es­sen­tial dos and don’ts for us­ing the browser and re­veal some of the most in­ter­est­ing sites that can only be ac­cessed through Tor.

And if ven­tur­ing into the Dark Web sounds far too risky, be re­as­sured by our first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence on page 46.


Tor ( www.tor­pro­ is an anonymity net­work that hides your iden­tity as you browse the web, share con­tent and en­gage in other on­line ac­tiv­i­ties. It en­crypts any data sent from your com­puter, so that no one can see who or where you are, even when you’re logged into a web­site. Tor is an acro­nym for The Onion Router, and it was cre­ated by the US Naval Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory in the mid-nineties.


It’s all about lay­ers. The data from your com­puter is sent through a se­ries of ‘nodes’ (other com­put­ers, also known as ‘re­lays’) run by mil­lions of vol­un­teers around the world, build­ing up lay­ers of en­cryp­tion like the lay­ers of an onion. Tor gives you a dif­fer­ent IP ad­dress ev­ery time you send or re­quest data, dis­guis­ing your real one and mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble for pry­ing eyes to know where the data orig­i­nated.


The eas­i­est way to use Tor is through its ded­i­cated browser ( tor­browser432), which is avail­able for Win­dows, MACOS and Linux (it can be run from a USB stick if you don’t want to in­stall it on your com­puter). The Tor browser is based on Fire­fox, but dis­ables plug­ins that could com­pro­mise your pri­vacy and se­cu­rity. It won’t clash with other soft­ware you have in­stalled, but you may need to con­fig­ure your an­tivirus pro­gram or fire­wall to al­low it ac­cess to the in­ter­net. There’s also a Tor app for An­droid, called Or­bot ( or­bot432); and an op­er­at­ing sys­tem – Tails ( that’s pre­con­fig­ured to use Tor.


The po­lice, the mil­i­tary, med­i­cal re­searchers, hu­man-rights groups, abuse vic­tims, whistle­blow­ers, jour­nal­ists and, in­creas­ingly, any­one else who wants to keep their on­line ac­tiv­i­ties pri­vate or is con­cerned about cy­ber­spy­ing. It is very pop­u­lar among peo­ple in in­ter­net-cen­sored coun­tries such as Rus­sia and the UAE, and counts Hu­man Rights Watch among its past donors.

NSA whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den is a big fan and says: “With­out Tor, the streets of the in­ter­net be­come like the streets of a very heav­ily surveilled city. With Tor, we have pri­vate spa­ces and pri­vate lives, where we can choose who we want to as­so­ciate with and how”.


The most re­cent fig­ures ( met­rics .tor­pro­ sug­gest Tor has around 2.5 mil­lion daily users, with Face­book’s Tor-only web­site alone (see page 42) at­tract­ing more than a mil­lion vis­i­tors ev­ery month. The US has the most Tor users ( 19% of the to­tal num­ber) with the UK in sev­enth place (3.4%).


Ev­ery medium, from the printed page to a stan­dard browser, has the po­ten­tial to be dodgy, but web ser­vices do not com­mit ‘ac­tions’ – their users do. As with tech­nol­ogy such as Bit­coin – Tor’s pre­ferred cur­rency – Tor does not in­cite or con­done il­le­gal en­ter­prises. On its web­site, it recog­nises that crim­i­nal el­e­ments ex­ploit anonymity, but points out: “Crim­i­nals can al­ready do bad things... they al­ready have lots of op­tions avail­able”.

For ev­ery law­breaker, there are nu­mer­ous le­git­i­mate users, many of whom use Tor to great so­cial ben­e­fit.


Yes, com­pletely. The US Navy isn’t in the habit of cre­at­ing il­le­gal soft­ware, and there’s noth­ing du­bi­ous about want­ing to browse in pri­vate. No­body has ever been ar­rested or pros­e­cuted solely for us­ing Tor, only for what they used it to do, and Tor it­self says in its le­gal FAQ that “it is not a tool de­signed or in­tended to be used to break the law” (­gal432).


As with many on­line tools, that de­pends on what you use it for. Many peo­ple have reser­va­tions about brows­ing with Tor be­cause it pro­vides ac­cess to the so-called Dark Web, where they fear they might stum­ble across dis­turb­ing and il­le­gal con­tent. How­ever, Tor doesn’t blithely of­fer you a di­rec­tory of links so you can start ex­plor­ing Dark Web sites – you need to know the ex­act web ad­dresses, which usu­ally con­sist of a jum­ble of 16 char­ac­ters and the do­main ‘.onion’. All the same, it pays to be vig­i­lant and you should avoid open­ing sus­pi­cious files and links.

We ex­plain what to do (and what not to do) in or­der to stay safe on Tor, on page 43.

NSA whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den is one of Tor’s big­gest sup­port­ers

Tor’s mo­bile ver­sion for An­droid phones and tablets is called Or­bot

Tor’s lat­est fig­ures show that it has 2.5 mil­lion daily users world­wide

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