Tor is a network that allows you to transmit data anonymously over the Internet. Users can send emails, surf the Internet, or use Instant Messenger via the Tor network without the data being accessible by third parties.
The Tor network originated in 2000 when a researcher at the University of Cambridge began working on a secure network. It was planned to be used for institutions such as the US government or the military but a first alpha version was finally presented to the public in 2002. The name of the network is derived from its project name “The Onion Routing.”
In its initial phase between 2002 and 2004, three US institutions were involved in Tor’s development. The network was then supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Today, almost two-thirds of the project is financed by the US government and a third by private sponsors. Nearly 40 million people worldwide use the Tor network for encrypted and anonymous data transfers.
To use Tor, you first have to install the Tor Client to connect to the network. Shortly after installation, the program downloads a digitally signed collection of all available servers. “Directory servers” keep this list. When the client is started, the program selects a random route over three servers from the list. The connection between the servers is encrypted. At intervals of 10 minutes, the connection changes, three new servers are selected, and the client creates a new “tunnel” via these servers. Once the routing is established, files can eventually be sent over this connection.
Some browsers, such as DuckDuckGo, provide a pre-setting for using Tor.
Encrypted data sent via the Tor network supposedly cannot even be decrypted by intelligence services such as the NSA.
While advocates and supporters of Tor argue that the network is helping many people in dictatorships and totalitarian systems to communicate, there are also critical voices, which are questioning the anonymity of the network as it is clear that Tor is also used by criminals to escape prosecution. For example, Bot networks are controlled via Tor.