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Anonymous web browsing

Privacy on the internet is an important issue these days with an increasing amount of surveillance on your web activities. Your ISP may record the websites you visit, files you download and so on. Adverts on websites track your browsing history across the web, online stores analyse your shopping habits, web browser add-ons, toolbars and extensions monitor the sites you visit and report back to their owners and so on. Privacy is almost non-existent and sometimes your online history is actually sold on to marketers or other interested parties.

For a variety of reasons you might want to hide your online presence and not let others be aware of where you live, which websites you visit, who you chat to, what goods you buy and even who you are. Freedom of speech is not universal unfortunately, and in some parts of the world you might not have access to parts of the web. This isn't the only reason why you might want privacy and you may simply want to protect your children and prevent others from knowing where they are. You might want to keep communications private for business reasons, and so on.

If you really want to be anonymous on the internet and prevent anyone from tracking you or identifying you, one solution is to use Tor.

Tor is free software that enables you to browse the web anonymously. Normally when a web browser connects to a web server it does so over the shortest (more or less) route. Packets of information are sent from one router to another and passed back and forth between the web browser and web server. When Tor is used, the packets of information are modified so if someone analyses them they can't tell where they came from and your identity is hidden. They can't tell where the packets are going to because complicated a very complicated route is used that goes through many routers and computers that confuse anyone watching.

TorIf you want to use the web anonymously, go to the Tor website and click the Download button. It should correctly detect the operating system and offer the appropriate download, but if it doesn't for some reason, just choose the Linux downloads section.

The Tor software is a compressed archive and it opens in Archive Manager or something similar when it is double clicked. Just extract the contents to wherever you want to put the software on the disk drive.

No installation is required and you just open the folder and run start-tor-browser. This can be done from the Terminal or by double clicking it.

It starts something called Vidalia Control Panel and this is a graphical front end to the software that connects to the Tor network. Once a connection has been established it opens a web browser called Aurora. This is, in fact, simply the name for the developer release of Firefox.

Aurora will open a web page that detects whether Tor is active and tells you if it is working properly. Provided it says everything is OK you can go ahead and browse the web with Aurora.


One thing you need to be aware of is that only Aurora uses the Tor network and it doesn't change anything else. Start another web browser like Chrome and it will use the standard (non-private) internet. However, it is possible to configure other software to use Tor. In Aurora, go to Edit, Preferences and click Settings under Connection. This shows the settings that are required and you can configure any other web browser, such as Chrome, with the same settings. Once this has been done, Chrome or whatever browser you are using, will use Tor and you will be protected from spying.