Ever since Snowden revealed that the NSA spies on Internet users, everybody has become more concerned about their online privacy. That is good news for the developers of Tor because it has increased the popularity of this software suite that allows people to surf the Web anonymously.
Tor is basically a network of computers and a software suite that includes a browser. During the last few months, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who use Tor. It is not exactly clear what caused the spike in this recent user interest. NSA concern may be one factor, but there must be other factors as well.
The sky-rocketing popularity of Tor has also caught the attention of spy agencies that are trying hard to track users. Tor is not the only software that is being targeted by NSA and its allies. Other encrypted email and proxy services are also being watched.
Can Tor Provide Total Anonymity?
Is it completely anonymous or are you unnecessarily drawing attention by using it? These are difficult questions to answer. Tor is undoubtedly the easiest and quickest way to surf the web anonymously. However, it has its drawbacks.
It is used by all sorts of people, including political dissidents and journalists who want to protect their security and privacy. An average Tor user has hardly any reason to worry. Tracking someone who uses Tor is very difficult. Even the US Navy has used it for intelligence operations. If it is good for the navy, it has to be good for you as well.
Limitations of Tor
One of the biggest drawbacks of Tor is its performance. Since the software routes your traffic through at least three relays, it can get held up easily. This becomes quite a problem when you try to watch a video clip online. The service becomes slower when there are several users on its network. Tor is aware of these issues and maintains a troubleshooting guide.
Using Tor gets really tricky when spy agencies step in. The government spies are aware of Tor’s capacity to conceal the identity of users. NSA reportedly identifies all people who use anonymity software tools like Tor as foreigners by default.
There are some other risks as well. Users hosting exit relays may draw the attention of law enforcement authorities. They may also get copyright takedown notices.
If you are running an exit relay, you also run the risk of having your computer confiscated by enforcement authorities. In addition, a determined hacker will probably be able to figure out your true identity. While this is difficult, it is not impossible.
Tor may have some drawbacks, but it is still the easiest way to surf the web anonymously. However, the ever-growing popularity of this software may change the way authorities treat it. In any case, having some alternatives is a wise idea.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best possible alternative to Tor. It encrypts your connection and protects your privacy and security. A VPN will route your connection through one of their encrypted servers and hide your true IP address. This will prevent your ISP or law enforcement authorities from tracking your online activities.
VPNs work very well, but they are not available for free (at least not the good ones). While there are numerous VPNs, Private Internet Access and HideMyAss are two of the most popular VPN services. You can use a VPN and stay anonymous from your government, ISP, and hackers.