The Tor Network: Tools for private and secure browsing

The Tails Distribution

Used as described, Tor will generally allow for anonymous browsing. However, Tor is tightly focused on its stated purpose and does not audit the system it is installed on. Should the system have privacy or security weaknesses, Tor will not protect you from them. For this reason, if you want a greater guarantee of privacy or security, consider using the Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) distribution, one of the Tor's projects major sub-projects, and the only one endorsed by Edward Snowden. As the full name suggests, Tails allows you to browse anonymously and without storing any permanent information.

Tails is a distribution designed to run the Tor Browser from an exterior drive. Because Tails is a separate operating system that is secure in itself, it is unaffected by vulnerabilities of any installed operating system. Once shut down, it also leaves no trace. Moreover, because it is portable, Tails can be used on any computer simply by adjusting the BIOS to boot from an exterior drive. In addition, Tail's detailed documentation is an ideal place to learn privacy and security issues.


As you can tell from the design of the Tor network, the relay nodes are a precious commodity that are at the heart of the system. The more relay nodes you have available for forwarding traffic, the lower the system load and thus the faster the traffic. More nodes also makes the system more resilient to outage and makes it harder to compromise.

You can operate the Tor Browser without being part of the relay system. However, the Tor network is always looking for volunteer relay operators. The Tor project has a web page with resources for relay operators. You'll need some basic system administration skills to run a relay, as well as sufficient bandwidth. According to the Tor project, a non-exit relay should be able to handle at least 7,000 concurrent connections, which is too much for most consumer-grade routers. According to the Tor website, "Fast exit relays (>=100 Mbit/s) usually have to handle a lot more concurrent connections (>100k)."

Hidden Services

The Tor network allows Tor clients and relays to offer hidden services that are visible only through Tor. In other words, you can run your own web server, SSH server, or other service without revealing your IP address. Tor hidden services have the pseudo top-level domain .onion.

The dark web is actually a collection of web servers using Tor's hidden service feature. Dissidents in repressive countries use hidden web servers to operate blogs and information sources free of government surveillance. See the Tor project website for more on configuring and launching a hidden service.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • TorK

    If you're worried about eavesdroppers, connect to the Tor network with KDE's handy TorK configuration tool.

  • Overlay Networks

    An overlay network will help you block unwanted eavesdroppers on the Internet. We show you some of the leading open source options.

  • SelekTOR

    If you want to exploit protection through the anonymous Tor router fully, you need to delve deep into the underlying technologies. The SelekTOR front end saves you much of that effort.

  • Tor and Privoxy

    Internet users typically reveal their IP addresses, and this lets companies compile a profile of your Internet activities. Tor and Privoxy can help protect your privacy.

  • P2P Networks

    Many users associate the term P2P with BitTorrent and the (not always legal) exchange of files. But peer-to-peer networks offer an option for anonymously offering websites and other services. We examine five popular alternatives for P2P networking.

comments powered by Disqus