Privatized Internet Through Tor

April 18, 2013 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

As secure as you think you might be while browsing the internet, you are still able to be tracked. When you visit a website, talk over Skype, use an instant messenger, or stream music from Spotify, whatever services you’re connecting to are able to see who you are through your IP address. Your IP address is basically an address back to your network, where you can be traced back to. If Facebook or Spotify can see who you are, that doesn’t really matter. Right?

Say you’re living in China and want to go to Facebook and interact with your friends. Nope, cannot do. China blocks Facebook with their firewall; no one in the country is able to access the site. What about if you are a journalist in Iran that wants to expose some big news but don’t want it to be tracked back to you? How would you privatize who you are? One of the best ways to do that is to use a program called Tor. Tor is a proxy service that routes your internet traffic through six different computers on the Tor network. So, when you make a request to http://www.facebook.com, your connection to Facebook is encrypted, sent through three random computers on the Tor network, unencrypted at the exit node (the third computer), and sent to Facebook. When Facebook sends back the page you request, it is encrypted and sent back to you through three other random computers on the Tor network. This way your traffic is  totally encrypted and your source IP is hidden (except when you connect to the first Tor node and when the request makes it all the way back to you from the sixth node).

Tor

There are plenty of good and bad reasons as to why you would want to stay anonymous on the internet. If you’re a journalist in an unstable country that has an overpowering government, you would probably want to stay hidden. But the Tor network is highly used by hackers to keep themselves hidden as well. The Tor network is a double-edged sword in that fact.

Because of the nature of the Tor network, they need a huge amount of support from the community. The organization that makes Tor doesn’t run all the nodes on the network–they are run by people running software on their computers, who want to help out. A list of these computers are in an address book on the Tor site so the clients know who to connect to when routing traffic. There are also computers called Bridges, which bridge the Tor network onto the actual internet. The address list for Bridges is more privatized because of the nature of what they do. If someone in an oppressive country like Iran is found to be running a Bridge, they could face trouble from their government since they are allowing users to hide themselves and stay in secret. Because of this, the amount of Bridges is highly dropping and the Tor community is desperately asking for help to get more up and running.

Well, with that I’ll be ending my last blog posting here on the site. I’m going to be graduating in a few weeks and I must admit, I’m excited but it’s a bittersweet feeling. I had a great time writing for you guys this semester and last, I hope I was able to get some people more interested in information technology. Good luck on finals you guys, and hope you have a fantastic summer!

(Oh by the way, don’t forget to take the quiz!)

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