Safe Surfing Practices: 8 Best Tips for Securely Using Tor Browser
When you’re looking to maintain your privacy in the digital realm, you’ll find yourself at the crossroads of cutting-edge internet technology—intrigued by Tor. But for newcomers, navigating the Tor network can appear daunting. How to use Tor safely? That’s precisely why this guide exists: to arm you with the know-how for utilizing the Tor Browser effectively and to possibly guide you through its labyrinthine paths.
Is Tor Safe To Use?
Is Tor Safe? The question of how secure is Tor browser discussed in some detail in the VeePN article. Tor represents a robust tool for ensuring online protection and anonymity, enabling users to navigate the internet without the worry of being spied on or tracked. While Tor is fundamentally secure, it isn’t without its weak points, which have been identified over the years.
Tor browser security measures:
- Concerns with Malicious Exit Nodes: There have been instances of malignant exit nodes within the Tor network; these concerns are well-documented and acknowledged within the community.
- Risk of a Compromised Network: The open-source nature of Tor nodes presents a potential risk, as demonstrated by past instances of law enforcement surveillance, including efforts by the FBI to infiltrate the network.
- Layered Encryption Vulnerabilities: Tor uses a series of encryptions for data protection, which, in comparison to the singular strong encryption of VPNs, could be relatively more vulnerable to advanced cyber attacks.
- ISP Throttling Dilemma: Due to the recognizable peer-to-peer activity of Tor, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might throttle bandwidth in response to heavy data usage, affecting overall speed.
- The Stigma of a Tainted Reputation: The association of Tor with the Dark Web often results in unwelcome scrutiny from ISPs and might lead to unfounded suspicion from government entities if used excessively.
- Inherent Slow Speeds: The architecture of Tor, involving the routing of data through a network of relays, inherently leads to slower internet speeds, which can be a source of frustration for users.
Tips for Securely Using Tor Browser
#1 Only Use HTTPS Sites
Secure browsing is underpinned by HTTPS, which leverages Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to safeguard and verify data exchanged between a browser and a website, as well as data transferred between servers. The encryption ensures that information sent over HTTPS sites is significantly more protected compared to HTTP sites. For the safety of your personal data, it’s crucial to use only HTTPS sites, regardless of whether you’re navigating in Tor or on the regular web. Always avoid entering sensitive details on HTTP sites to maintain your privacy and security.
#2 Always Enable a VPN
When looking to bolster your privacy while using the Tor browser, opting for a reliable VPN service is a top choice. In most browsers, you can simply install a free online VPN and get a comparable level of security. But you can go further and activate VPN on the device and additionally use the Tor Browser. Consequently, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is unable to track the specific sites you visit, being limited to seeing only the scrambled data passed through the VPN’s secure tunnel, which they cannot decipher.
#3 Set Your Security Level
The Tor Browser is designed with enhanced privacy in mind, featuring multiple levels of security. To modify these levels, you can click on the shield icon adjacent to the URL field and proceed to select ‘Advanced Security Settings’. Here’s a brief guide on what to expect from each security level:
Choosing Your Security Level:
- Standard: This level mirrors the typical experience of mainstream browsers.
- Safest: Maximizing your security settings, this option ensures that only the most basic website functionalities are available. While users browsing text-heavy sites like Wikipedia won’t encounter much change, more complex sites such as Buzzfeed may be somewhat accessible, but others like Imgur will be noticeably restricted.
#4 Use Private Search Engines
Major search engines, including Google and Microsoft Edge, function as aggregators of personal data. They document and distribute private details like the terms you search for and the websites you access. To safeguard your privacy, it’s advisable to opt for a search engine on the Tor network. Such private search engines prioritize anonymity, concealing your IP address, and obstructing tracking software and advertisements that could otherwise disrupt your online activity.
Nonetheless, according to Redefine Privacy, a number of these privacy-focused search engines still maintain questionable data logging practices and fall under jurisdictions that may not prioritize user privacy. While they may not be flawless, they offer a significantly higher degree of privacy compared to mainstream options like Google.
#5 Use Tor “Pluggable Transport” Bridge
Tor provides multiple bridges, like the Pluggable Transports, to enhance privacy and circumvent censorship. Pluggable Transports are designed to mask Tor-encrypted traffic, making it resemble regular HTTP or arbitrary data, thereby assisting users in evading censorship measures. To set up a Pluggable Transport bridge, simply follow these straightforward steps:
- Click on the Tor Browser’s Tor Button.
- Navigate to the Tor Network Settings.
- Check the option: “Tor is censored in my country.”
- Choose one of the available built-in bridges.
#6 Check the Other Security Settings
The Tor Browser is designed with your privacy in mind, automatically setting up permanent private browsing. As a result, each session starts afresh – no history or cookies linger once the browser is closed. For a personalized browsing experience, you can adjust the privacy settings to your preference.
#7 Try New Identities
Tor provides anonymity akin to VPN services by concealing your actual IP and privatizing your location details. The network of pathways, known as “a circuit” in Tor terminology, is what the Tor Browser employs to establish your connection to your intended online destination. Should you encounter slow website loading speeds, or desire a different IP, there’s a simple fix available. Click on the curtain-like icon adjacent to the web address, and you’ll have the option to orchestrate a new circuit, which not only assigns a fresh IP but also refreshes the webpage you’re visiting.
For an even more robust solution, consider using the “new identity” feature. Taking this route will shut down all your open windows and tabs, effectively restarting the Tor Browser. It’s comparable to opening a brand new browser session, complete with a completely new IP, especially if you’re utilizing the private browsing mode.
#8 Watch Out for Scams
Exercise caution when engaging with unfamiliar links or downloading files. Ensure the authenticity of your purchases and the credibility of the software or services you utilize.
Tor stands out as a formidable tool for online security, unrivaled by any other readily available browser when it comes to safeguarding your internet browsing activities. Couple Tor with prudent internet browsing practices, a robust antivirus program, and a reliable VPN, and you establish a secure, smooth-sailing digital experience. The potential uses for Tor are extensive.