How many of you have bet given a second thought about what you use to surf the inter webs? Windows computers come with Microsoft Edge, unless you are using an outdated version of Windows, then you may have Internet Explorer. Apple computers come with Safari, and Google/Android/Chromebook come with Chrome. Regardless of which company you go with, using the stock web browser is a no-no. Here are a couple of browsers that I use, and they are all Mozilla/Firefix based.
Firefox is my primary browser for all things inter webs, but I don’t just download it and start using it. After some research, I decided to make some changes to the custom settings within Firefox to limit data being collected about me and my surfing habits. I won’t go into that with this post, but I will do another write up soon that details how I customize it for my particular needs. However, for you, if you’re using any other browser other than Firefox, then please look into making the switch over. It’s another small step that will help you take back your privacy. Here is a list reasons for using Firefox:
- They only collect what is needed for their product to function
- Delete anything not needed
- Privacy is included with data security
- They are open about the company, products, and what they do
- The source code is open sourced
- Natively block trackers for you
- Custom add-ons to separate your online life
There are many other reasons why I would recommend Firefox, but I will save that for another post on browser customization for privacy.
Firefox is available for mobile devices, but Firefox Focus is an extreme privacy focused browser for your iOS or Android operating system. Firefox Focus isn’t just a privacy browser, but is also a privacy app which integrates itself into your mobile device. If you don’t want to use another browser on your mobile device, then just download this to add privacy for your web surfing. For iOS, you can set it be integrated with Safari to block online trackers automatically. For Android, you can customize the browser with additional extensions to block ads, Facebook tracking, and much more.
The Tor project has seemed to bring about a lot of controversy over the years. The Tor browser is an anonymity focused web browser that runs on a separate, private network on top of the current internet. The Tor browser is often used by many people requiring anonymity around the world, and the concept was developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory in 1995 to create a way to communicate across the internet without anyone knowing who you’re talking to by using the concept of Onion Routing. Basically, how it works is to route internet traffic through multiple servers and encrypt it each step of the way. Almost like peeling through many layers of onion to get to the center.
Tor (The Onion Router) was named by two MIT graduates in early the 2000’s who wanted to distinguish their work from other similar endeavors, and by 2003 they had about a dozen volunteer nodes to help route traffic. Today, the Tor network has thousands of volunteer nodes all over the world to help its millions of users remain anonymous, and the employees and volunteers at the Tor Project work very hard to keep it that way. Edward Snowden used Tor for his whistleblowing actions and the content of his documents upheld the fact that Tor could not be cracked. If you’re interested in taking the extreme privacy route, here are some reasons to use Tor:
- The tool of choice for journalist, dissidents of hostile governements, people in danger, religious freedoms in oppressive countries, and for those who require privacy
- Blocks all trackers
- All traffic is encrypted while on the network
- You can’t be fingerprinted by your system or browsing habits
- Open source with a huge user and volunteer base
Unfortunately, the Tor network was setup with very good intentions to help those who required privacy for various reasons, but like all good tools it brings the scum with it. The Tor browser is a sore point for law enforcement because it makes catching criminals extremely difficult. Within the Tor network users can create what’s known as onion sites, which have an anonymous address with a .onion domain extension. Basically, you can setup a web server anywhere in the world, attach it to the Tor network, and it’s nearly impossible to find it. It has been done, but has taken great effort and multinational cooperation by law enforcement. Here are a few reasons why you need to be careful using the Tor Browser/network:
- Underground websites and communities hosting vile content and services (think child pornographers, rapist, assassins, human trafficking, drugs, weapons, hacking)
- Some websites block the Tor network
- Your ISP may block or scrutinize it
- There’s a lot of liability should something bad come across companies networks
- People may ask what you’re hiding or that you harbor secrets
With that being said, if you desire extreme privacy and you just want to surf the internet anonymously, then you won’t have anything to worry about. Just stay away from the dark portions of the web, and don’t go poking where you don’t belong.
Who knows…maybe Sensual Nudist will have a Tor site one day…one project at a time. 🙂