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Is Tor Browser Safe: How to Use Tor Browser Safely?

Last Updated on 12th April, 2023
Is Tor Browser Safe to Use

Best Practices for Secure Browsing When Using Tor Browser

Tor Browser provides anonymity and privacy online by masking users’ locations and identities. As threats to privacy grow, Tor Browser is a useful solution for those who want to browse the web securely without being tracked. Tor routes traffic through volunteer relays around the world, obscuring IP addresses and preventing monitoring.

To use Tor safely, users must understand how it works, only use it legally, be aware of its limits, hide their IP address, use strong passwords, avoid saved info, and watch for suspicious behavior. By comprehending Tor’s capabilities and limitations, and taking precautions, users can employ Tor effectively to browse privately despite increasing surveillance.

What is a Tor Browser?

Tor Browser is a free and open-source browser that anonymously routes users’ internet traffic through a distributed network of volunteer relays to conceal their identity and location. Based on Mozilla Firefox, Tor masks users’ IP addresses and encrypts/bounces their data across multiple relays, obscuring the origin and trail of information. By obscuring users’ network location through this decentralized system, Tor provides anonymous access to the open internet and shields users from surveillance, censorship, and tracking of their browsing activity, IP address, location, device, and personal details.

Getting Started: Tor Browser Download and Install

To begin using Tor Browser safely, you need to download tor browser latest version from the official Tor Project website at https://www.torproject.org/download/. It’s crucial to only download the browser from the official source to avoid installing malicious versions of the software.

  • Visit the official Tor Project website.
  • Choose the appropriate version of Tor Browser for your operating system (Windows, macOS, or Linux).
  • Download the installation file.
  • Install Tor Browser by following the on-screen instructions.

Once Tor Browser is installed, you can start it from your desktop or applications menu like any other browser.

Basic Usage and Configuration of Tor Browser

After installing Tor Browser, open it and follow these recommendations for basic usage and configuration:

  • Keep Tor Browser updated: Regularly check for updates to ensure you’re using the most secure version available. Tor Browser will typically notify you when updates are available.
  • Use the default security settings: Tor Browser’s default security settings will provide a good balance between security and ease of use. Avoid changing these settings unless you’re an advanced user.
  • Don’t use Tor Browser for regular browsing: To maintain your privacy, use Tor Browser only for activities that require anonymity. For everyday browsing, use a separate browser like Firefox or Chrome.

How Does Tor Work?

Tor or The Onion Router is software for enabling anonymous communication. It works by encrypting your traffic and routing it through multiple servers run by volunteers around the world. This hides your true IP address and location. Tor bounces your internet traffic through several layers of encrypting servers called nodes to mask the origin of your internet usage. The nodes peel away a layer of encryption, revealing only the next node to send the data to. This prevents any single node from knowing both your identity and what site you’re accessing.

Enhancing Your Safety While Using Tor Browser

To further enhance your safety while using Tor Browser, consider these additional steps:

  • Use HTTPS websites: Whenever possible, visit websites that use HTTPS to encrypt your connection. This adds an extra layer of security to your browsing experience.
  • Disable JavaScript: Disabling JavaScript can help prevent some types of browser fingerprinting and certain attacks. You can do this by clicking the shield icon in the address bar, then selecting ‘Advanced Security Settings’ and choosing ‘Safest’.
  • Don’t install browser extensions: Extensions can introduce vulnerabilities and compromise your privacy. Stick to the default Tor Browser setup without adding any extensions.

How to Access Hidden Services (.onion sites) Using Tor Browser

The Tor Browser enables access to hidden services, websites with .onion domain names that can only be reached through the Tor network. To visit these sites, simply enter the .onion address in the address bar, just like any other website.

Visiting .onion sites does come with risks to be aware of. Some may contain illegal or malicious content or try to exploit vulnerabilities in the browser. Users should exercise caution when navigating .onion websites, as with any unknown or untrusted part of the internet. While the Tor network aims to provide anonymity, it does not guarantee the content or actors within will be legitimate and harmless. Entering .onion addresses and browsing these hidden services should be done at your own risk.

Best Tips for Staying Safe While Using Tor Browser

Here are some general tips to help you stay safe while using Tor Browser:

  • Avoid using your real identity: Don’t log into personal accounts or share any information that could be linked back to you.
  • Use a VPN: While Tor Browser provides a high level of anonymity, using a VPN can add an extra layer of protection by hiding your Tor usage from your ISP.
  • Don’t download or open files: Downloading or opening files through Tor Browser can expose your real IP address or introduce malware. If you must download a file, consider using a separate, dedicated computer that’s not connected to your personal accounts.
  • Be cautious about links: Be careful when clicking on links, especially those found on .onion sites. They could lead to malicious websites or phishing attempts.

By following these guidelines and precautions, you can safely use Tor Browser to protect your privacy and access the hidden corners of the internet.

How to Use Tor With a VPN

Using a VPN with Tor provides an extra layer of security and anonymity. Here’s how to configure Tor to work with a VPN:

  • Get a VPN subscription like NordVPN and download the VPN service’s app to your device.
  • Connect to a VPN server, preferably in a privacy-friendly location like Switzerland or Panama.
  • Launch the Tor Browser Bundle and connect to the Tor network. This will mask your VPN IP address and encrypt your traffic.
  • Make sure all internet traffic from your device is routed through the VPN. Some VPN apps have an option like “Force all traffic through VPN“. Enable that.
  • Double check that your VPN’s DNS servers are disabled on Tor to prevent any DNS leaks of your IP. You can specify NoDNSLeak to use Tor’s built-in DNS servers.
  • Surf the web as you like, and your traffic will be anonymized through multiple layers of encryption and IP masking.

For ideal anonymity, use a trustworthy VPN that accepts anonymous payment methods and doesn’t keep logs. I also recommend using VPN servers that are not in your own country.

Best VPNs to Stay Safe on Tor Browser

  • NordVPN: The Best VPN for Tor Browser Users
  • Surfshark VPN: The Ultimate Tor Browser Privacy Solution
  • ExpressVPN: The Trusted Tor Browser VPN for Protection and Anonymity

NordVPN: The Best VPN for Tor Browser Users

NordVPN Home Page

NordVPN is generally considered one of the best VPN services to use with Tor for several reasons:

  • Privacy and anonymity focused. NordVPN was built from the ground up with a focus on privacy, security, and anonymity. They do not log any user activity or metadata. This helps preserve the anonymity that Tor provides.
  • High encryption. NordVPN uses 2048-bit RSA encryption for the VPN tunnel and AES-256-CBC cipher for data encryption. This provides strong encryption of all your internet traffic and monitoring your online identity.
  • Dedicated IP addresses. NordVPN’s premium plans provide dedicated IP addresses which conceal your true IP address and improve anonymity. This makes it harder for spies to track you when using Tor.
  • No bandwidth caps. NordVPN does not impose any bandwidth limits so you can torrent, stream and browse as much as you want without throttling. This allows you to take full advantage of Tor’s ability to bypass censorship and access the entire internet.
  • Automatic kill switch. The kill switch prevents your data from leaking if the VPN connection drops. This protects your anonymity even if there is a short VPN outage or disruption.
  • Easy to use. NordVPN has intuitive apps for all major platforms including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. Using the VPN is very straightforward, so it seamlessly enhances the Tor experience.
  • Based in a privacy-friendly country. NordVPN is based in Panama, a country known for strong privacy laws and not requiring logging of user activity. Some see this as safer than VPNs based in the US or other surveillance-heavy nations.

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Surfshark VPN: The Ultimate Tor Browser Privacy Solution

Surfshark VPN Home Page

Surfshark VPN does claim to have good support for Tor integration and allows an unlimited number of connected devices. Some of the key points about Surfshark VPN and Tor:

  • Surfshark provides a dedicated Tor server option that masks your traffic through the Tor anonymity network. This helps hide your online activity and location.
  • There are no bandwidth caps or data limits when using the Tor server option. You can use as much data as you want through the Tor network.
  • The Tor server option supports P2P file sharing activities which some VPNs block. Surfshark allows file sharing to continue anonymously through Tor.
  • Surfshark supports unlimited simultaneous connections to their VPN service including when using the Tor exit server. This allows using the VPN and Tor across as many of your devices as you need.
  • The Tor network adds an extra layer of privacy encryption on top of the VPN tunnel. This double encryption with Tor makes it harder for outsiders to see your online activity.
  • Surfshark also provides a dedicated IPv6 Tor exit node for using the Tor network with modern websites that prefer or even require IPv6 addresses. Not all VPNs and Tor services currently support IPv6.

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ExpressVPN: The Trusted Tor Browser VPN for Protection and Anonymity

NordVPN Home Page

ExpressVPN does advertise itself as a fast VPN service that can provide fast access to Tor as well, but I do not have any way to guarantee that it is unequivocally the “fastest” VPN for Tor in an objective sense. Some key points about ExpressVPN and Tor usage:

  • ExpressVPN offers servers in many countries that can be used to access Tor entry nodes for anonymous browsing. They claim a network of 3,000+ servers in 94 countries.
  • Fast connection speeds are important for Tor usage to achieve good anonymity and performance. ExpressVPN uses proprietary encryption techniques and optimized protocols to minimize latency and maximize bandwidth.
  • ExpressVPN has apps for most major operating systems, mobile devices, routers, and other platforms. So, it can work across a wide range of devices to route Tor traffic through their VPN.
  • When using ExpressVPN with Tor, your online traffic is first encrypted by the VPN and then further obfuscated by going through the Tor network. This “double encryption” is claimed to help boost anonymity.
  • There are some reports online from users that have tested ExpressVPN for Tor access and found strong performance with negligible impacts on speed. However, real-world performance will vary in different network environments and usage scenarios.
  • 30-day Free trial options are available to test out ExpressVPN yourself before fully committing to it as the best VPN for Tor or fastest option. Performance will depend on your own internet speed, location, and other factors.

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Is Tor Browser Safe?

Tor is designed to hide your identity and location, but it cannot protect the actual content of your communications. Tor only protects your anonymity, not the actual data you send or receive over the Tor network. However, some risks still exist:

  • Exit node eavesdropping: The last node can see your traffic and potentially snoop on your communication. Use end-to-end encryption to prevent this.
  • Malicious Tor nodes: There is a risk of hacked or malicious Tor nodes on the network tracking users or manipulating traffic. However, the Tor network is quite large, so the risk is relatively small.
  • Zero-day exploits: Unknown vulnerabilities in Tor software could potentially be used to deanonymize users. But the Tor project works hard to patch any discovered vulnerabilities.
  • User error: Mistakes like not checking for https, disabling scripts, cookies, and more can lead to your identity or actions being revealed. You need to take precautions to properly stay anonymous.
  • Traffic correlation: Repeatedly using Tor for the same activity as logging into the same account could allow that usage to be linked back to you over time. Vary your usage for the best anonymity.

So, while not 100% safe, if used properly and carefully, Tor does provide a fairly high degree of online anonymity.

How to Uninstall Tor Browser?

To uninstall Tor Browser:

  • Close Tor Browser.
  • Locate the Tor Browser installation folder. By default, Tor Browser is installed in the “Tor Browser” folder. This is typically found on your desktop.
  • Delete the “Tor Browser” folder. You can delete it by right-clicking on the folder and selecting “Delete” or moving it to the Recycle Bin (depending on your operating system).
  • Alternatively, uninstall Tor Browser using your operating system’s built-in uninstaller tool.

Uninstall Tor Browser for Windows:

Open the Control Panel, then “Programs and Features” and click “Uninstall” next to “Tor Browser” to remove it.

Uninstall Tor Browser for macOS:

Drag the Tor Browser app to the Trash or use a third-party uninstaller like AppCleaner to uninstall Tor Browser.

  • Remove any Tor Browser shortcuts or bookmarks you created.
  • Uninstalling Tor Browser will not delete your browsing history or files downloaded using it. Use Tor Browser’s “New Identity” feature to create a new Tor circuit and delete your current data.

Note: Uninstalling Tor Browser will not affect any other software or files on your computer. It will only remove the Tor Browser application and its components.

Final Words on Is Tor Browser Safe

When used properly, the Tor Browser can deliver strong anonymity and privacy on the internet. However, it requires diligence to prevent IP leaks, avoid tracking, use secure passwords, disable privacy-harming plugins, and be wary of exit nodes. By following best practices like these, individuals can feel confident browsing with Tor and protect their sensitive information, location, and online activities. With the right safety techniques in place, the Tor Browser serves as a powerful tool for safer browsing and thwarting surveillance.

About the Author

Riha Mervana – A Professional Content Writer

Riha Mervana is a professional content writer at SearchVPN.org, with extensive experience crafting engaging and informative content. She has established herself as an expert in the VPN industry, creating content that educates readers on the importance of online privacy and security.