TOR, short for “The Onion Router,” is free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication on the Internet. It was developed in the mid-1990s by the United States Naval Research Laboratory with the purpose of protecting U.S. intelligence communications online.

Mostly, the Tor browser is used to access the Tor network. However, there are also other solutions, such as a special Firefox setting.

Here’s how Tor works:

  1. Routing Internet Traffic Through a Worldwide Network: Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays. This process disguises a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis.
  2. Layered Encryption (Like an Onion): Tor encrypts the data, including the destination IP address, multiple times and sends it through a circuit of randomly selected Tor relays. Each relay decrypts a layer of encryption to reveal only the next relay in the circuit, preventing any single relay from knowing the complete path.
  3. Anonymity and Privacy: This method of routing and encryption aims to provide anonymity to both users and websites. Users can access the web anonymously, and their location and browsing habits are not easily traceable. It’s also used to access websites anonymously, especially in countries where Internet access is censored or restricted.
  4. Dark Web Access: Tor is often associated with the dark web, a part of the web not indexed by search engines and accessible only through specific software like Tor. The dark web is known for hosting a variety of illegal and illicit activities, but it’s also used for legitimate purposes, like by journalists and whistleblowers who need anonymity.

Tor is legal in most countries and is often used for legitimate privacy protection purposes, but it can also be used for illegal activities, which has led to some controversy surrounding its use.