Anytime you browse the internet, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), government agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ, and most of the websites you visit are tracking everything you do.
This data is often used to generate profiles of individuals preferences, purchasing behavior, travel, habits, etc, then packaged and sold to marketing companies, political advertisers, and other bidders. Politically, internet surveillance is used to suppress resistance movements, identify dissidents, and encourage self-censorship.
Most technological infrastructure globally is controlled by corporations and the government. That means that online security will always be risky. We don’t recommend using the internet for any particularly dangerous purposes. This is not a guide for advanced users, underground activists, or anyone with a high-level threat model.
However, using this method can be useful for any organizer concerned with security and privacy. If you are still considering whether to go underground or stay aboveground, you should take steps to remain anonymous.
What is Tor?
Tor is a volunteer-run service that provides both privacy and anonymity online by masking who you are and where you are connecting. The service also protects you from the Tor network itself—you can have good assurance that you’ll remain anonymous to other Tor users.
For people who might need occasional anonymity and privacy when accessing websites, Tor Browser provides a quick and easy way to use the Tor network.
The Tor Browser works just like a regular web browser. Web browsers are programs you use to view web sites. Examples include Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Unlike other web browsers, though, the Tor Browser sends your communications through Tor, making it harder for people who are monitoring you to know exactly what you’re doing online, and harder for people monitoring the sites you use to know where you’re connecting from.
Keep in mind that only activities you do inside of Tor Browser itself will be anonymized. Having Tor Browser installed on your computer does not make things you do on the same computer using other software (such as your regular web browser) anonymous.
How to Install Tor
- Visit https://torproject.org
- Download the appropriate software for your operating system
- Follow the instructions to install the software
How to Use Tor
The first time Tor Browser starts, you’ll get a window that allows you to modify some settings if necessary. You might have to come back and change some configuration settings, but go ahead and try to connect to the Tor network by clicking the Connect button.
A new window will open with an orange bar that illustrates Tor Browser connecting to the Tor network.
The first time Tor Browser starts, it might take a long time; but be patient, within a minute or two Tor Browser will open and congratulate you.
You will be greeted by a welcome screen.
Some features of a normal web browser can make you vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Other features have previously had bugs in them that revealed users’ identities. Turning the security slider to a high setting disables these features. This will make you safer from well-funded adversaries who can interfere with your Internet connection or use new unknown bugs in these features. Unfortunately, turning off these features can make some websites unusable. The default low setting is fine for everyday privacy protection, but you can set it to high if you are worried about sophisticated attackers, or if you don’t mind if some websites do not display correctly.
Finally, browsing with Tor is different in some ways from the normal browsing experience. We recommended reading these tips for properly browsing with the Tor Browser and retaining your anonymity.
Advanced Option: TAILS
A more advanced security option is to use TAILS. TAILS is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a USB stick or a DVD.
It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:
- use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;
all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;
- leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;
- use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.
You can learn more about using TAILS on their website: https://tails.boum.org/