Security: How safe is TOR?

When you think about internet security, your first thought should be your own computer's software such as firewall and anti-malware. But what if you want to visit a site with anonymity? Often people will turn to TOR, which is an abbreviation for The Onion Network. TOR is like an onion, in that it has many layers. What ends up happening when you use TOR, is that you connect, and then use multiple IPs to move around the net. Several times when you goto different sites, your IP will change to a new IP. Safe, right? TOR in itself is an open source project, which in turn means that anyone can view the code, manipulate it, or just use it, at no cost. This is where one of the problems arises.

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Back when World of Warcraft was first released, there was an Open Source Bot project. This allowed multiple devs to change the code, tweak it, personalize it, and generally make it a more advanced software. One problem. Since it was open source, Blizzard could also view the code, and adjust their security software to fire off what's called a Ban Wave. The same in a sense can happen to TOR.

According to secret National Security Agency files, disclosed by Edward Snowden, the agency successfully identified TOR users and were able to attack vulnerable software on their machines. One technique targeted the Firefox browser often used with TOR which gave the agency full control over targets’ computers, including access to files, any and all keystrokes, as well as all Internet activity which includes history and included passwords. The leaked files detail proof-of-concept attacks, including some relying on the large-scale Internet surveillance systems used by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ via Internet cable taps. However, the secret NSA files suggest that the fundamental security of the anonymity service remains intact. 

Despite the importance of the network to dissidents and human rights groups, the NSA and GCHQ have devoted their efforts to attacking Tor. They claim that the service is also used by people engaged in terrorism, trade of child abuse images, and virtual drug dealing. Foremost among many people's and human rights groups are concerns on whether the agency has acted against users in the United States when attacking the network. The possible issue is that one of the functions of the anonymity service is to hide the country of all of its users, which in turn means that any such attack could be hitting members of TOR’s American user base. 

The-Onion-Router-TORA less complex attack against the network was also disclosed in July 2013, with its details leading to speculation that it had been built by the FBI or another American agency. While at the time the FBI refused to admit it was behind the attack, it subsequently claimed in a hearing in an Irish court that the agency did operate malware to target an alleged host of pictures of child abuse, with the attack also hitting the TOR network.

If you are using TOR to hide your banking, gaming, or other secure service, we have to highly suggest you consider a different means at this time. Instead we suggest turning to a Virtual Private Network such as CyberGhost or HideMyAss! While neither of these are meant to provide anonymity to  some less then legal activities, we do know that they can be more safe then their TOR network counterpart at this time. For those who seek more anonymity, there are always proxies, but those can be less secure then the aforementioned VPN service, because you might not know what unscrupulous person is hosting the proxy network.

TIP: CyberGhost allows you to use their service for 2 hour trials. If you're looking for a more secure and anonymous service, consider just using the trial.

So at this point, I have to warn all you would be piratez, who use PirateBrowser to access The Pirate Bay. They say that about 5% of all the traffic to the site, is now using this broswer. You just learned that utilizing a Firefox vulnerability, that the NSA can view ALL your files, when you use TOR.  The Pirate Browser is a custom build of Firefox. What does all this mean? While you think you're safe using the Pirate Browser which in turn uses TOR... you're not. Trust me when I tell you that either CyberGhost or HideMyAss! are better protections for you. Get a subscription to either of them, and stop worrying about your safety and security.


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