Ever wondered how to remain anonymous or circumvent internet censorship while dealing with sensitive issues online? Electronic Frontier Foundation, patrons of online civil liberties, today launched the Tor Challenge, a project aimed at protecting the anonymity of internet users. Tor is a volunteer system that consists of servers spread across the globe, and a downloadable software that enables access to the network.
When you use the Tor software for your online communications and transcations, your IP address remains hidden. Tor relays, also referred to as routes or nodes, are the receivers, carriers and deliverers of data in the network. Data which travels from the source to the receiver traverse numerous relays scattered across the network without revealing its original source or target, to any individual relay at any point of time. In simpler words no relay will be a pointer to the greater scheme of things, even if it is compromised.
This seemingly simple working model of Tor guarantees what encrypted networks and data can't. The very common form of Internet surveillance known as Traffic Analysis cannot be tackled with encryption since the internet data packets have two parts, of which only the data is part remains concealed. The header part, which contains critical information like source, target, size and timing of the transmission, can be accessed by a third party. It is near impossible to send data without revealing, atleast some, crucial information about sender to the recipients, intermediaries like Internet Service Providers or unauthorized agents.
Tor help you live risk-free by dispersing the data across the relays in its network which is somewhat akin to the case of an individual trying to lose somebody who tailgates by taking multiple lanes to reach the destination. Even a sophisticated spy-agent will not be able to locate the sender or recipient or content, by accessing a relay because that relay would know only know only those relays from where it received and passed on the data. And it is a practical impossibility to hack each and every relay in the network to trace the entire path with just speculations about the kind of data one might be able to access at the end.
This principle points to the most apparent detail: The more relays in Tor network, the more chances of you staying anonymous. Tor challenge executed by EFF is just about that. Are you willing to run a relay to protect the internet privacy of you as well as other users? (Tor software for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux can be downloaded from the EFF website free of cost).
Yet another area where Tor scores, is its ability to connect you anonymously to other services online. For example, you would be able to set up a publishing platform, or post items in one such platform without worrying about censorship or anonymity. That is the hosts as well as the users of a site can be kept anonymous with Tor network. Connecting to a whistle-blower, overcoming the censors (as that of China's) and voicing sensitive opinions on issues of national interests without getting caught are some of the rather rewarding deals that Tor offer.
When Tor guarantees secrecy, it is upto the users to act smart by not providing real names and locations to register or sign up for an online service using Tor. Tor hasn't been into any legal cases yet, but EFF doesn't promise that it will never be.
In an era where transparency and hard-hitting internet laws rule, Tor could be your saviour.