Surfing anonymously is easy thanks to the Tor Browser Bundle. However, anyone using the software has to live with some limitations. If I want to use YouTube, I need an alternative to Tor. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is such an alternative. We review the best VPN providers for you.
My first steps into anonymity
My new operating system Ubuntu comes with the Firefox browser, which I immediately equip with some of the most important add-ons: Ghostery, Do Not Track Plus or NoScript are suitable for blocking tracking services. HTTPS Everywhere from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) always tries to access the HTTPS version of a website. If you want to know more about this, you will find detailed descriptions in the Privacy Manual.
But to be able to surf anonymously, so that neither my ISP nor the target site knows who is accessing what, I need more than a few browser extensions. Tor is the best-known tool for this purpose. The free open source software is used to conceal your own IP address by not sending requests directly to the target address on the network, but instead redirects them via a chain of proxy servers. Each proxy knows only its predecessor and successor, but no one knows the original sender of the request and the recipient at the same time.
With Wikipedia it is explained in more detail, here it should be mainly about the installation and operation of the Tor Browser Bundle. This contains a modified Firefox browser, the so-called TorButton and the control panel called Vidalia.
torproject. org has a download and installation guide for Windows, OS X and Linux. The one for my Linux system is simple. I will find the appropriate version of the installation file for my operating system on the project page and download it. I open the download package by right-clicking on it and open the field With archive management. In the new window I right-click on the Tor Browser folder and select Unpack. Now I can define where to put my Tor folder, after unpacking successfully I click on Close. In the Tor folder, all I have to do is double-click the file start-tor-browser and choose Run. Shortly afterwards, the control panel and the browser open. If you don’t see the following message, you have to try again.
I’ll get it on the first try. The makers of the Tor project recommend a number of add-ons to refine the browser. I only install one of them, the well-known, albeit controversial AdBlock Plus, to stop unwanted advertising.
It is also a good idea to drag the folder containing the Tor files to your desktop so that you can quickly find the program next time and use it by double-clicking Start Tor Browser. Installation on a Mac or Windows is not more complicated, it is explained here. More than a few clicks is not necessary.
Everyday life with the Tor Browser Bundle
The installation of the Tor Browser Bundle is certainly not witchcraft, but those who surf with Tor have to live with limitations. I head for www.zeit.de and realize that the page structure is slow, but barely bearable. It is possible to select a powerful server via Vidalia as the so-called exit node, i. e. the server via which you ultimately access the target page. This can increase the surfing speed. But the configuration is too complicated for beginners. The best tutorial I have found so far is that of Martin Brinkmann from ghacks. net.
It’s not only the speed that takes getting used to. The typeface also looks different than usual. This is due to the default settings of the bundle, which should not be changed because anonymity is endangered. For example, the fonts in the Tor browser are different from those in normal Firefox. The Flash plugin for Firefox is disabled – which means that Flash content can no longer be displayed. So I can’t watch YouTube or Vimeo.
Its all about speed
A list of visited websites is also not created in the Tor browser, entered form data is not saved, all cookies are deleted after the end of the Tor session. If you restart Tor, you will have to re-enter web addresses and form entries completely and will not be recognized by a website.
All this may be impractical, because it makes surfing slower and more cumbersome. But it is the price you have to pay for anonymity. In addition, there is also a certain behavior that goes along with it: If you surf with Tor and then log on to your normal e-mail account or Facebook or at your bank, you won’t tell your Internet provider what you are doing on the net – but of course, you won’t tell them what they are doing – but of course, the e-mail provider, Facebook or the bank. The anonymity is lost for the whole session, because the user reveals his current IP address at least in one place, with which he also calls up all other pages.
Tor is useful when I want to search for sensitive information on the web. If you think of pornography as an example, you have little imagination. It is not a matter of anyone reading articles about illnesses or medicines, money and holiday destinations. And when I do research for an article, I also want to have the opportunity to do so unobserved.
The encore: operating a Tor relay
To help the Tor project, developers are asking for a relay to be set up, a relay to be forwarded. This makes the system faster overall and can be used by more people. Much more than a few clicks in the Vidalia control panel is theoretically not necessary. I select relay traffic in the Tor network (no output relay). Because operating an exit node can lead to problems:”The operator of an exit node as such is not anonymous.
This may mean that if someone else makes nonsense about Goalkeeper, the police will ask you or you will be accused of having committed the crime yourself. There have also been seizures of Tor servers in Germany,”says the Ubuntu Wiki. I want to avoid that, of course, but at the same time I would like to support the project. That’s why I only turn my computer into a middle relay.
I enter my e-mail address in the general settings, but leave everything else unchanged. Under the Bandwidth Limitation tab, I select 768 kilobits per second, as I don’t have too much bandwidth at home.
Unfortunately I get error messages in the Vidalia logbook. This might be due to the router, it says in the explanations on torproject.org. It may block such redirections. I call the technical support of my provider, who doesn’t know Tor, but explains to me how to set up a so-called port forwarding. This means roughly speaking, I define a certain point at which Tor waits for the data packets of other Tor users and then forwards them. I allow others to use my bandwidth for surfing over Tor. How this is done depends on the router, so it makes little sense to follow the instructions here. If you don’t know how to copy it, you should ask your provider.
So I release the two ports that Vidalia displays under forwarding and restart the router. And in fact, this actually works, even if I only roughly understand what I have actually done. In the logbook it says that the self-test has shown that my ports are accessible from the outside. In other words, I am now part of the Tor network, albeit a tiny one.
Tails: Live Linux system guarantees maximum security
Tails stands for “The Amnesic Incognito Live System”, and this name describes the essential features of this Linux distribution based on Debian.
Tails does not go directly to the website you are requesting, but via three random intermediate stations. The Linux system uses the Tor network (The Onion Router) and its server. The site therefore does not experience your IP, but only that of the last switching node. Tracing back to your actual IP address and thus to your person will not be impossible, but it will be considerably more expensive.
First start: Burn the ISO file of the Tails distribution with the freeware Imgburn to an empty blank. Insert the burned DVD and start the PC from there. You may need to adjust the boot order in the Bios. After startup, the system is ready to go, the Internet connection is established automatically if the PC is connected to a router and the IP addresses are assigned via DHCP.
Use Tor Browser: While browsing in the browser, the data is encrypted and transmitted to a Tor server. The latter forwards it to another one, who also transmits the data – usually there are three stations. The route the data packet takes is determined by the onion proxy at random. The aim is, for example, to securely bridge an insecure local WLAN connection or to conceal your own IP address from the target server. The extension HTTPS-Everywhere is also preinstalled in the browser. This ensures that the SSL-encrypted version of a website opens automatically if it exists.