Tor was originally developed for the U.S. Navy to keep government communications secure. Since it's inception it has grown to be used by the military, law enforcement, journalists, activists and every day users looking to be anonymous online.
The Tor Project was built with the intention of keeping information on the Internet private and secure. Providing a simple solution to the end user, yet a sophisticated process of protecting data behind the scenes, Tor has quickly been adopted by thousands of people around the World.
The Tor Network is a large collection of relay nodes distributed around the Globe and you connect to this network using the Tor Client. Your Internet traffic is securely routed through several relays before being sent to the destination. This also serves the purpose of preventing websites from tracking you online as all they can see is the exit node of the relay network and not the origin of the traffic.
When Tor is first launched it gathers a list of available relays from a directory server.
With this list it establishes a circuit through the relay network.
Then, just for added security, it regularly creates a new circuit to further protect your traffic.
The term 'onion routing' and the inspiration for the Tor logo stem from the packet being wrapped in several encrypted layers. Your original packet can contain up to 10 layers of encryption! As the packet moves from one relay to the next, they each remove their associated layer which reveals the next destination and then they forward it on, just like peeling an onion (apparently!). The benefit here is that each node is only aware of the previous node and the next node, no single node can piece together the entire circuit through the relay network. Further to this, because all traffic sent through Tor is encrypted, your ISP can't view your online activity. Whilst you may not think this is important ISPs regularly sell your online browsing activity to marketing companies. Whilst the data is supposed to be anonymised some people don't like the idea of someone buying their browsing history.
Whilst Tor isn't a 100% solution to your online security and anonymity it goes a long way to getting you there. You can download and use Tor for free right here.
Short URL: https://scotthel.me/Tor