Time For Tor? – An Open Source Anonymous Surfing Application

imageOver the years, I’ve posted more than a few articles on anonymous surfing and the applications, generally free, which makes that possible.

I’ve noted, over that time, that the majority of readers of these article have a Middle East IP – particularly Iran. Little wonder, when one considers the human rights violations committed by this regime. Remaining anonymous online in Iran, could literally be the difference between life and death.

A typical email from an Iranian reader:

Dear Bill

I live in Iran – I need to know news about my hometown, but in Iran we are faced with filtering…very hard filtering. It makes me depressed, but one of my friends introduced your website to me and told me you can help me.

If you think that the crazies who rule Iran, and Syria – just 2 of these Middle East dysfunctional societies), where Internet usage is scrutinized on an individual basis – are the only unhinged and delusional nutters Internet users have to deal with – you’re wrong.

The erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to surf the Internet without government oversight, seems to be happening at an ever increasing pace – everywhere.

In a previous article on anonymous Internet surfing tools (October, 2010), I wrote – “Thankfully, I live in a part of the world where Government censorship of my Internet activities is a non-issue; the Canadian government does not restrict my access to any part of the Internet.

I wish I could go on to say, that I live in a part of the world where the Government has NO interest in my Internet activities, But that, unfortunately, would be like wishing on a star – and, equally as effective.

While I have no faith whatsoever, that those in power will continue to use the gathered information in a restricted, and appropriate fashion – it’s not something that I dwell on. After all, there is nothing I can do about it – so, I’m forced to slot it into my comfort zone.

In the past week however, I’ve been ripped out of my comfort zone, as have most other Canadians, who have revolted against legislation proposed by the quasi-fascist Conservative Party of Canada – the current political party in power (a government elected by only 26% of eligible Canadian voters) – led by Stephen Harper, a fundamentalist Christian, and his minion Vic Toews – another fundamentalist Christian .

In 2008, Toews was divorced by his wife of 30 years, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with a younger woman – who may have been his child’s babysitter. Just one more example of the “moral right” practicing its favorite pastime – hypocrisy.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.<br />
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation would create  a mandatory surveillance regime. Simply put – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

The backlash against this perverted legislation was both immediate, and overwhelming. Canadians have made it clear – they will not allow themselves to be figuratively handcuffed. Frankly, I’ve never seen a political backlash remotely like it. The typically mild mannered and polite Canadian is angry, disgusted, and hell-bent on ensuring this abomination of a legislative bill – never sees the light of day.

Still, until Harper and his gang of throwbacks to the Cro-Magnon era, are thrown out on their asses in the next general election, you might consider adding an anonymous surfing application to your toolbox.

The use of anonymous surfing applications is not restricted to breaking through obstructive Internet barriers of course. There are more obvious reasons, you may have for anonymous surfing, including – surfing in internet cafes, public terminals in libraries, or hotel business centers.

In fact, you may want to surf anonymously on any PC where you don’t want to leave traces of your private surfing activities to ensure protection from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, rogue police services, or curious family members.

One of the most popular anonymous surfing applications  (with good reason), is TOR – a VPN (a virtual private network) that encrypts via an SSH tunnel, in order to safeguard your Internet connection and, protect your anonymity properly.

In this post I won’t review Tor, since I’ve done so a number of times previously. Instead I’ll direct you to the following.

From the site:

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.


Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members’ online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers.

Tor is suitable for installation on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, Unix, and Android.

For more information and download, visit the Tor Home Page.


Filed under Anonymous Surfing, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Personal Perspective, Surveillance

12 responses to “Time For Tor? – An Open Source Anonymous Surfing Application

  1. Excellent article, Bill! I am a liberal Democrat down here in the States and I was recently horrified at how many Democratic politicians supported SOPA and PIPA. I think it is prudent to love your country and distrust your government. Great article!

    • Hey Steve,

      I’m amazed at how often we choose not to hold politicians accountable for their actions. It’s well past the time that we reversed this trend.

      Good to get your views on this issue.



  2. re justifiably suspicious over Google’s privacy policies but the reality is your ISP knows everywhere you go online. I’m glad to see Canadians stand up to this threat against our liberty, maybe, just possibly the general public is starting to understand the importance of an open and free (as in freedom) internet.

    • Hi Mark,

      The reaction against this proposed legislation has shocked me. I truly believed, that we had been conditioned to accept whatever government put on the plate. Was I wrong!

      The opposition has been ferocious – so much so, that even long time Conservative supporters have joined in the uproar.

      The government has, for the time being, withdrawn this nonsense, and instead, plans to “study” its implications. I suspect it will die – at least in its present form.

      I’ll steal one from the neighbors – “Don’t Tread On Me” – seems appropriate.



  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    After your post regarding what was happening in Canada in the last week, I’ve been surfing anonymously much more than normal. Usually I only surf anonymously when visiting sites I’ve never been too. Now I find myself incognito even with sites I trust. Your article gave me plenty of food for thought.
    Glad to hear your Government has put this on hold. As we know, people power rules.

    • Hey Mal,

      You and I have talked about this many times – “we don’t know what we don’t know“. Meaning – in this type of scenario, we have no way of knowing if illegal tracking is already taking place. Governments are not noted for full disclosure. So yeah, full-on anonymous surfing sounds like a plan – good move.

      The idiot behind this obscenity is now claiming that he didn’t know about the warrant-less searches. This incredible admission, has now led to a massive call for his resignation – either for lying or, his ineptitude. As if that’s likely to happen. Slimeballs like this jerk are Teflon coated.



  4. Bob Slyker

    Hey Bill,

    There had been a “rumor” going around some time ago about Tor: The U.S. FBI had a backdoor “put in” (post Patriot Act) for them?. Source code; checked? Maybe I’m getting a little “deep into the weeds” I mean…
    See! …everything can be made to sound suspicious… Ha, ha!

    It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction (i.e.Tyranny)



    • Hey Bob,

      Gotta love rumors. 🙂

      The strength in “free” open source applications (contrary to popular belief, not all open source is free), is – everyone gets to play with the code. So, hiding a backdoor in Tor is a non-starter – too many people are looking at the code. But, it makes a good story, nevertheless.

      “And this, too, shall pass away.” Definitely words to live by.



      • No to be an ass about this but “everyone gets to play with the code … too many people are looking at the code. ” is such nonsense.


        Most of the people I know who are using Ubuntu or some other open source software have no ability (or desire) to understand the code. They just want the functionality that the software offers. Having said that, I too am a user of a lot of open source software.

        • Hey Khürt,

          Fair comment. This from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software, illustrates our different viewpoints.

          Many open-source advocates argue that open-source software is inherently safer because any person can view, edit, and change code. But closed-source software — and some research – suggests that individuals that aren’t paid to scrub code have no incentive to do the boring, monotonous work.

          Nevertheless, you’ll find I’m in complete agreement with your last paragraph.



          • Bill, I apologize if my tone was angry or argumentative.

            Open source software is great — I used to be the principal for an open source consulting company — and has it’s place along all the closed source (proprietary) software I use. But to argue that it’s inherently more secure because the code can be peer reviewed just strikes me as security theatre as much as arguing that since no one can see proprietary source code they can’t exploit it’s weaknesses.

            I could just as easily argue that since proprietary commercial software tends to have a much larger user base — hundreds of millions of users — the bugs and security issues will be found sooner and corrected sooner because it affects more people from a financial and productivity standpoint.

            I don’t agree with either position.

            • Hi Khürt,

              Your previous comment was neither angry, nor argumentative – it was most appropriate, and important.

              It was, in fact, an excellent example as to how differing points of view often contain relative degrees of truth, on the one hand. And, on the other hand, how a comment can open up a topic for consideration – so that all those who are interested, have an opportunity to think about the issue.

              Important? You bet.