Tor and the New World Order of Mass Surveillance
With the increasing crackdowns that we’re witnessing across the world, internet users are becoming more concerned about their privacy and security.
There’s the ongoing “State of Emergency” in Turkey, the social media crackdown in Russia, the cyber crime bills in Brazil, and of course, most recently, the passing of UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the Snooper’s Charter.
The Snooper’s Charter is known as the strongest surveillance power given to any state. In fact, Edward Snowden has called it “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”
We’ve mentioned before how damaging the new bill can be for UK citizens and those around the world, but just to recap, the new bill includes:
- approval for UK intelligence agencies to collect and intercept all communications
- the requirement that UK ISPs store all internet records for one year and make these available to intelligence agencies with no warrant needed
- permission for intelligence agencies and police to freely hack computers and devices
- a legal requirement for ISPs to help intercept data, and hack and decrypt user information
With these types of powers, it’s a wonder that the bill was allowed to pass at all. However, with the increase in terrorist activity this summer in UK, Europe and around the world, the bill came at just the right time.
In order to protect themselves against the new world order of mass surveillance, many internet users are turning to Tor.
What is Tor?
Tor (The Onion Router) is a way for internet users to increase their anonymity online (theoretically and philosophically, someone can always track you across the internet, with enough time and resources).
Tor was originally called The Onion Router because of the technique it uses to conceal user’s information.
Tor perhaps surprisingly receives most of its funding from the US government—and in fact it was created by this same government. In 1995, the US Office of Naval Research began work on Tor, and in 2003 it was open-sourced. In 2006, the NSA began analyzing Tor to determine how to identify its users. Even then, various bodies in the US government have provided financial support in order to help spread democracy in authoritarian governments. According to filings, the US government has provided anywhere between 68% – 96% of all of Tor’s funding.
Tor allows for users to have their communications relayed across various nodes in separate locations. This way, the user’s traffic is bounced around at random and it is difficult to determine where the original traffic came from.
In the non-Tor method, computer A connects to server B, such that A->B. However, with Tor, computer A’s information is encrypted and then goes into a series of nodes to eventually get to server B. It would essentially be A->D->X->Z->T->B, making it difficult for server B, or anyone watching, to know where the traffic originated from.
This helps increase anonymity when users browse the internet, and can help protect them against mass government surveillance.
For even greater security, users can combine the power of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks such as NordVPN) with Tor. VPNs work by sending a user’s encrypted communications to a server of their choice (whereas with Tor there is no selection possibility) before heading off to the destination server. The destination server assumes the traffic came from the intermediate VPN server rather than the original computer.
When you pair the power of a VPN with Tor, such as with NordVPN’s Tor Over VPN, you get a high level of security.
Keep Yourself Private
This type of protection is particularly important in the current privacy and security climate we are living in. As our smartphones and IoT devices are more geared to getting our personal data, and our governments are more and more interested in knowing everything about everyone’s movements, it’s becoming more difficult to remain private.
The New World Order is one of constant surveillance, perpetuated both by businesses and governments, many times working in tandem, and it is only up to the individual to protect his privacy.
Therefore, as always, it’s important to remain vigilant and use the best tools available to increase your privacy in an increasingly less-private world.