The Tor (“The Onion Router”) Project has again made headlines following the Christmas Day hacks on the Xbox Live and PlayStation networks. Credit for these attacks were claimed by the hacker group Lizard Squad, who has since laid claims to infiltrating The Tor Project.
What is The Tor Project?
If you’ve never heard of The Tor Project, you’re not alone. The Tor Project was originally a large network of servers worldwide, which was developed by the US Navy to protect US government communications. It has since evolved into a non-profit organization with the purpose of exploring and developing internet privacy tools. Many users access the network for free by downloading a Tor browser to surf the internet.
Users who use the Tor network to browse the internet are kept anonymous as the network bounces user’s traffic through several volunteer-hosted nodes/encrypted relays (a minimum of three). If one group of users signs up and takes control of a significant percentage of those relays, it poses a potential security risk that they could eavesdrop on private information shared through the network.
Why Would Someone Use Tor or Want To Browse the Internet Anonymously?
Sadly, Tor has been used to hide internet activity such as child pornography and illegal drug rings (see “Silk Road” and “Operation Onymous”). For the average internet user, however, the security risks of using Tor currently outweigh the benefits. Hiding your searches on YouTube for cat videos is pretty much pointless.
Businesses, however, who have legitimate need to browse the internet anonymously should consider using the more secure option of a VPN (Virtual Private Network). There is a fee for the service, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
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