How Safe Is Tor?
How Safe Is Tor?
In recent years, Tor has become far more popular and a lot more people know what it is. This is partly due to its influence on popular culture and recent political whistleblowing that was only made possible through the help of Tor.
Tor is most commonly associated with the dark web or the darknet, as it’s the only way that users can access websites on the global Tor network. Tor also shares many privacy and security features with some of the VPN services reviewed on our main page.
Tor is a company that is dedicated to protecting the privacy of internet users by preventing third-party tracking, cookies, and data caching that typically allow your online activities to be tracked and monitored.
On one hand, this is incredibly appealing (especially in today’s overly-censored and monitored society). Tor has become the browser of choice for corporate whistleblowers, political refugees and dissidents, and citizens who are oppressed by a government that censors their internet connection.
On the other hand, many of the same features that make Tor so appealing to good-hearted individuals also make Tor appealing to criminals and hackers who want to use the dark web for malicious purposes.
So, in today’s article, we’re going to give you a basic overview of what Tor is and what makes it so special. Then, we’ll explain how safe (or unsafe) Tor is, depending on how you’re using it. Lastly, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions regarding the Tor browser, so that you can decide whether or not it’s a good choice for you.
The Tor Browser: Your Gateway To The Dark Web
As we mentioned above, Tor is the only browser that allows people to access the dark web. The dark web is the “dark” part of the internet and is a part of the deep web, which many people estimate to be far larger than the “normal internet” (or clearnet).
The deep web consists of pages that aren’t indexed by search engines and can’t be found with traditional browsers. The dark web is a small subset of deep web sites that use “.onion” protocol for connection, and can only be accessed by the Tor browser (hence why the Tor browser’s logo is an onion).
Can You Use Tor For The Clearnet?
Despite the fact that Tor is most commonly used to surf the dark web, the Tor browser can also be used to browse the clearnet as well. You can use the Tor browser to visit Google, your favorite social media platforms, and any other “regular” website that you’re used to visiting using your everyday web browser like Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, or Firefox.
The main allure of using Tor (for surfing both the clearnet and the dark web) is that it improves your anonymity. While using the Tor browser, websites can’t put cookies or cache memory in your browser, which means that they can’t track you, see where you’re located, or advertise to you.
Sure, you can achieve all of this by using a VPN like Surfshark or PureVPN, but Tor is a 100% free service (unlike most VPN services which require users to pay a small monthly fee). That being said, Tor doesn’t offer quite as many security benefits as a full-fledged VPN.
Is Tor Safe To Use?
For the most part, Tor is completely safe to use. As a standalone program, it’s just a browser; nothing more. This means that Tor is just as “safe” to use as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or other browsers.
However, the main reason why Tor gets a bad rap is that it’s often used to access illegal websites, network with hackers, and perform other devious acts. It’s one of those situations where the platform itself is perfectly safe; it’s what you do with it that determines how safe or unsafe it is.
Tor Safety Concerns
The biggest safety concerns when using the Tor browser are, of course, the websites you visit (specifically the dark websites you may come across). The dark web is home to many illegal and diabolical sites showcasing everything from the exploitation of children to violent criminal acts. The dark web is also home to many illegal marketplaces where drugs, guns, hackers, and hitmen can be hired and purchased.
The dark web is also a kind of “hangout spot” for hackers around the world. It’s the one place where they can network with each other and communicate securely. Many of these hackers also love nothing more than preying on innocent people who visit the dark web not knowing what they’re getting themselves into.
So, that being said, here are some of the most common safety concerns when using the Tor browser to access the dark web.
1. Exposing Your Network To Attacks: If you’re accessing the dark web, you should always use a VPN service. If you’re not using a VPN to access the dark web, then hackers can trace you back to your home address using your IP address and can embed viruses on your network as you exit sites (known as exit node attacks).
This is a huge concern if you’re accessing the dark web on your company or school’s network. Just imagine if a hacker was able to get access to your company’s internet network and steal valuable company data… it’d be the end of your job, to say the least.
2. Being Involved With Illegal Activities: Let’s just say that you “stumble” across some illegal websites on the dark web while browsing with Tor… Now, let’s just say that an FBI agent was monitoring the dark website to see who was coming and going. Before you know it, you or the owner of your network could be pinpointed as being involved in illegal activities.
Does Tor Protect Your Device From Viruses?
No, Tor does not protect your device from viruses. While it will protect you from cookies, GPS tracking, and annoying ads, you’ll still need to have an active anti-virus program to protect your device from malware.
Can You Be Tracked While Using Tor?
Generally speaking, it’s a lot more difficult for sites to track you while you’re using the Tor browser. However, it’s not impossible. While the average website may not bother tracking you, hackers or law enforcement agencies who have access to the right software can see your IP address as you leave a website through the exit node.
If you want to remain completely anonymous while using the Tor browser, then you’ll need to have a high-quality VPN turned on while you’re browsing the dark web.
Will You Get Put On A Watchlist For Using Tor?
Usually, you won’t get put on a watchlist just for using Tor. However, if you use Tor to access sites offering illegal services, then you can most certainly be put on a government watchlist. This is because terrorists, human traffickers, and major drug dealers often use these same sites to conduct business.
If you’re using a VPN while accessing Tor, then nobody (not even your internet service provider) will be able to see you’re using Tor. This is another good reason why you should always be connected to a VPN while using the Tor browser or accessing the dark web.
The main appeal of using the Tor browser is for those wishing to access the dark web. If that’s your main purpose, then there are definitely some major security concerns. Before accessing the dark web, you should have a high-quality VPN activated and ensure that your computer’s anti-malware software is completely updated.
If you’re looking to achieve the anonymity offered by the Tor browser, then really don’t even need Tor. You can achieve the same level of anonymity by using a high-quality VPN while connected to your standard web browser.