Definition[edit | edit source]

Tor (The Onion Router) is

free software for enabling anonymous communication. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer network consisting of more than 7,000 relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. (The name derives from the original software project name, The Onion Router.)[1]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Tor was originally sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a method for communicating online anonymously. Tor became an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) project in late 2004, and the EFF supported Tor financially until November 2005. The Tor software is now developed by the Tor Project, a research/education, non-profit organization that receives a diverse base of financial support.

"Tor 'refers both to the software that you install on your computer to run Tor and the network of computers that manages Tor connections.'[2] Tor's users connect to websites 'through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.'[3] Users route their web traffic through other users' computers such that the traffic cannot be traced to the original user. Tor essentially establishes layers (like layers of an onion) and routes traffic through those layers to conceal users identities.[4] To get from layer to layer, Tor has established 'relays' on computers around the world through which information passes. Information is encrypted between relays, and 'all Tor traffic passes through at least three relays before it reaches its destination.'[5] The final relay is called the 'exit relay,' and the IP address of this relay is viewed as the source of the Tor traffic. When using Tor software, users' IP addresses remain hidden. As such, it appears that the connection to any given website 'is coming from the IP address of a Tor exit relay, which can be anywhere in the world.'[6]"[7]

Tor client software routes Internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers, hiding user's information and eluding any activities of monitoring. This makes the dark Web very appropriate for cybercriminals, who are constantly trying to hide their tracks.[8]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware, at 6 n.3.
  2. Adam Clark Estes, "Tor: The Anonymous Internet, and If It's Right for You," Gizmodo (Aug. 30, 2013).
  3. Tor Project, "Tor: Overview" (full-text).
  4. Adam Clark Estes, "Tor: The Anonymous Internet, and If It's Right for You," Gizmodo (Aug. 30, 2013).
  5. Electronic Frontier Foundation, What is a Tor Relay? (full-text).
  6. Id. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, '[a]n exit relay is the final relay that Tor traffic passes through before it reaches its destination. Exit relays advertise their presence to the entire Tor network, so they can be used by any Tor users. Because Tor traffic exits through these relays, the IP address of the exit relay is interpreted as the source of the traffic.'
  7. Dark Web (CRS Report), at 4.
  8. The Impact of the Dark Web on Internet Governance and Cyber Security, at 4.

See also[edit | edit source]

External resources[edit | edit source]

  • "Tor and the Silk Road takedown" (full-text).
  • "Tor Project: Anonymous Online" (full-text).
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