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Originally published December 7 2013

The little-known web browser that makes you invisible to the NSA

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) If you're sickened by the blatant, serial constitutional abuses of your privacy by our government, there is a product in development out there that will give you some piece of mind, at least while surfing the Web.

The web browser "Tor," part of the Tor Project, as it is called, was originally designed to protect Navy communications but is now being used by others for similar purposes. From the project's website:

Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.

Further, from the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory's Center for High Assurance Computer Systems:

The Onion Routing program is made up of projects researching, designing, building, and analyzing anonymous communications systems. The focus is on practical systems for low-latency Internet-based connections that resist traffic analysis, eavesdropping, and other attacks both by outsiders (e.g. Internet routers) and insiders (Onion Routing servers themselves). Onion Routing prevents the transport medium from knowing who is communicating with whom -- the network knows only that communication is taking place. In addition, the content of the communication is hidden from eavesdroppers up to the point where the traffic leaves the OR network.

Yeah, but how does it work?

According to the Tor Project, the browser is essentially a network of virtual tunnels that allows web surfers and groups to improve privacy security. Tor also enables software developers to create whole new communications tools that feature built-in privacy functions.

"Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy," the project's website states.

People use Tor to prevent websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services and similar sites when they are otherwise blocked by their local Internet Service Providers.

In addition, Tor's hidden services allow for the publication of websites and other services "without needing to reveal the location of the site," said the Tor Project. "Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses."

All kinds of uses for all kinds of interests

The browser is also used by journalists who want to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. And NGO's - non-governmental organizations - use Tor to permit workers to connect to their home website while they are stationed abroad, without alerting anyone they are working with that particular organization.

There are many other uses:

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. They also use it to replace traditional VPNs, which reveal the exact amount and timing of communication. Which locations have employees working late? Which locations have employees consulting job-hunting websites? Which research divisions are communicating with the company's patent lawyers?

The military and law enforcement agencies also use Tor.

A branch of the U.S. Navy uses it to gather open source intelligence; one Navy team recently used Tor while deployed in the Middle East.

Police and federal law enforcement agencies use the browser to visit or conduct surveillance against websites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

"The variety of people who use Tor is actually part of what makes it so secure. Tor hides you among the other users on the network, so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your anonymity will be protected," says the project's website.


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