Interested in learning more about how Tor Browser works and whether it’s a worthy alternative to regular browsers? This article goes through all the pros and cons of the anonymous browser of the Tor Network.

How Does Tor Browser Work?

The Tor Browser sends all traffic data through the Tor Network. Some also call it the anonymity network. It does so by connecting to a server with a list of Tor nodes and bouncing the connection through three different proxies.

There’s an entry node, a middle relay, and an exit node that are selected at random. The connection between these different nodes is encrypted, and the IP addresses aren’t public. It makes the whole process safe and anonymous.

The Advantages of Using the Tor Browser

It’s Entirely Free

The Tor Browser is easy to download and install and doesn’t cost a penny to boot. Volunteers created and run the Tor Project, so donations are welcome. Moreover, the code is open-source, which means anyone can review it. It ensures that the code stays secure, and no one can use it for any hidden exploitative money-making purposes.

Tor is the Only Way to Access Onion Sites

Some people call onion sites the dark web, which is true to a degree. You cannot access these sites by any means other than via Tor and the Tor Browser. Of course, few people are inclined to visit onion sites. But contrary to popular belief, these sites are not used for illegal practices only. There are many journalists, dissidents, and those who want the freedom of speech who use .onion sites as well.

It’s More Secure than Regular Browsers

Thanks to the way it routes traffic as well as various other security-centered features such as NoScript, HTTPS Everywhere, and encrypted data, Tor is a secure browser. Most of the time, a lot safer than regular browsers, which log massive amounts of data and sell that data to the highest bidders. Not to mention scammers and hackers prowling popular browsing platforms for openings to exploit.

Developers have made great strides to increase users’ safety and anonymity while using Tor. Though ISPs and governments still have ways of tracking Tor users. For example, both the FBI and CIA monitor Tor and have had crackdowns on people conducting illegal activities.

The Downsides of Using Tor

Expect a Slower Connection (Compared to Regular Browsers)

The Tor bounces your connection off of different nodes. This system causes the connection to travel farther and longer than usual. Nodes can be far away from each other as well. Thus, the connection often runs through different countries before reaching its final destination. And it can take some time. So, compared to regular browsers, Tor provides a slower experience.

Exit Nodes Don’t Encrypt Traffic

Tor’s system works well for hiding an IP address, but it doesn’t “hide” any of the data sent through. Once data exits the last node, it would be easy to extract it. Thus, it’s possible that anyone watching the exit node could be able to steal any information they want.

That is why it’s critical to use additional encryption for privacy. Many VPN services add some much-needed assurance that can beef up the network security by encrypting it. Some VPNs also have features to send your connection via the Tor network without even using the Tor Browser. This way, you hit two birds with one stone: your traffic goes through Tor, and it is encrypted at all times.

Some Scripts are Blocked, Disabling Certain Online Features

Anonymity does come with a few sacrifices — mainly in the form of convenience. Slower loading speeds is one thing, but some websites won’t work at all. There are websites (and popular ones too) that block Tor. They might load partially or not at all, and the error messages won’t always make the reasons clear.

On top of that, the Tor Browser blocks certain scripts too. That includes many Javascript and tracking scripts also. Blocked scripts will stop some websites from working, but it is possible to whitelist scripts as needed. Of course, your connection may become less secure, so you should always blacklist them again after you finish the browsing session.

Conclusion

The world is now entering its fourth decade with the net in full swing, and everyone’s relying on it more than ever before. Right now, people are checking their emails, shopping online, paying bills, and yes, looking at memes. The latter example excluded, doing important things on the internet is a risky business. There’s always some scum lurking around the virtual corner waiting for their chance to steal valuable info or track your browsing.

There are many ways to protect your browsing sessions, but one thing is for sure — browsers play a big part in overall security. That’s why privacy-focused browsers like Tor Browser are making a big splash in security-minded circles.

Should you start using Tor too? That’s for you to decide. This list of pros and cons can help you make up your mind.
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