Practice anonymity with the Tor Browser. Here’s how to install Tor on a Linux desktop. Ubuntu users beware: The Tor Project recommends not installing Tor from the regular Ubuntu software repositories.

What is Tor?

In normal speech, we use the terms «Internet» and «Internet» interchangeably. But in fact, the Internet and the Internet are two different things. If websites were premises—shops, factories, entertainment centers—the Internet would be roads and highways connecting them together.

The Internet supports many services. The World Wide Web is just one of them. Other services such as email, RDP, DNS, NNTP are provided over the Internet and none of them is a website.

Overlay networks also use the Internet. The Tor network (The Onion Router) is one such overlay network. It provides anonymity and privacy for users. With Tor, if you use it effectively, no one can trace your activity back to your IP address.

The traffic that passes through the Tor network is encrypted. While this helps keep the people using it anonymous, the encryption causes network problems. The normal routing and switching elements of the Internet cannot handle Tor network traffic.

The Tor relay network, hosted and maintained by volunteers, does the switching and routing instead. Tor relays intentionally drop your connection between multiple relays, even if that routing is not required to reach your destination. This «bouncing» is another reason why Tor makes it nearly impossible to track and identify the person on the far end.

It is the strength of this anonymity that has led to the Tor network being used to host many websites that engage in criminal activities. The Tor network forms the bulk of the dark web. However, this is not all illegal activity on the Tor network. Dissidents in repressive regimes, anonymous press sources, whistleblowers, activists, and the military use Tor for legitimate reasons.

The problem is that the very thing that makes him attractive to these people is what makes him attractive to the bad guys.

Tor hidden services have addresses ending in the «.onion» suffix. They will not appear on Google and they cannot be viewed or accessed using a normal internet browser. You must use the Tor browser to visit these sites, but you can also use it to access regular sites with additional anonymity.

RELATED: How to access .onion sites (also known as Tor hidden services)

How to install the Tor Browser

Note that the Tor Project does not recommend installing pre-packaged versions of the Tor Browser from the Ubuntu repositories, saying they have not «been reliably updated» by the Ubuntu community in the past. Install it only from the official Tor Project website. The Tor Project also offers official repositories for Ubuntu and Debian, but the following instructions will work on any Linux distribution.

Go to the Tor project download page and click on the penguin.

Tor Browser Download Page

If your browser prompts you to open or save the file, select the option to save the file.

Dialog for opening or saving a file

Let’s say the file is saved in the Downloads directory.

When future versions of the Tor Browser are released, the version numbers in the file name will change. Also, part of the file name indicates the language. In this example, «en-US» means English, United States.

If you downloaded a version in another language, or are following these instructions in the future when the browser version has changed, replace the filenames and directory names you are actually working with with the filenames and directory names. used in these instructions.

Downloaded file in downloads directory

The downloaded file is a .tar.xz file. We need to unzip and unpack it so that we can use its contents.

RELATED: How to extract files from a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 file on Linux

There are several ways to do this. If you right-click a file, a context menu will appear. Select «Extract Here» from the menu.

Right click context menu

If your context menu doesn’t have an «Extract Here» option, close it and double-click the downloaded file. Your file manager can extract the contents of the file for you.

If that doesn’t work, open a terminal window in your downloads directory and use the following command. Note that the «J» in xvJf is in upper case.

  tar -xvJf tor-browser-linux64-8.5.1_ru-US.tar.xz 

tar -xvJf tor-browser-linux64-8.5.1_en-US.tar.xz in a terminal window

So one way or another, the file will be decompressed and unzipped for you. A new directory will be created in the Downloads folder.

New folder in downloads directory

Double-click the new directory to have the file manager navigate to that directory. Like Russian dolls, there is another directory inside the first one.

Internal directory in downloads directory

Run from directory or install system?

You have a choice here.

Now that you have downloaded and unzipped the Tor Browser, you can continue using it without any additional installation steps. Or you can integrate more closely with the installation at the system level.

The operation of the Tor Browser is the same in both cases, and security updates and bug fixes will find and update the browser either way.

You may prefer the Tor Browser to have as light a touch as possible on your computer. If you feel happier not having the Tor browser built into your system, that’s fine. You will be just as anonymous and protected when you use it directly from this directory as if you were using it after installing it at the system level. If this is your preferred approach, follow the instructions in Using the Tor Browser from the Tor Directory.

If you want Tor Browser to be recognized as an installed application in your desktop environment and to appear in the application menu and when searching for applications, follow the instructions in the System Level Integration section.

Using the Tor Browser from the Tor Directory

To launch the Tor Browser directly from the directory, open a terminal window at that location and enter the following command:

  ./tor-browser_en-US/Browser/start-tor-browser & 

Open a terminal window at this location.  in terminal window

Now you can skip this article in the How to set up the Tor Browser section.

System level integration

Open a terminal window at this location. To install the Tor Browser to the system folder, you need to move this directory tor-browser_en-US to catalog /opt . This is the usual location for user programs in Linux. We can do this with the following command. Please note that you need to use sudo and you will be prompted for a password.

  sudo mv tor-browser_en-US / opt 

sudo mv tor-browser_en-US /opt in terminal window

The folder will move to a new location and disappear from the file manager window. In the terminal window, change the directory so you end up in the directory /opt/tor-browser_en-US .

  cd / opt / tor-browser_en-US 

cd /opt/tor-browser_en-US in terminal window

Using ls to view the contents of this directory, we see another directory and a file with the extension «.desktop». We need to run the «.desktop» file to register the application in your workbench.

  ./start-tor-browser.desktop --register-app 

cd /opt/tor-browser_en-US in terminal window

How to launch the Tor Browser

The above installation sequence has been tested on current Ubuntu, Fedora and Manjaro Linux distributions. Pressing the Super key (the one between the Ctrl and Alt keys in the left hand) and pressing the «tor» key brought up the Tor Browser icon in all cases.

tor icon in ubuntu

Clicking on the icon launches the Tor browser.

How to Set Up the Tor Browser

The first time you launch the Tor Browser, a dialog box opens.

If you’re accessing the Internet through a proxy server, or if you’re in a country that tries to censor the use of tools like Tor, you should click the Configure button.

If none of them apply to you, click the «Connect» button.

Configuration Dialog Box

By clicking the Configure button, you can set up a proxy server or set up a «bridge» to allow you to use Tor in countries where its use is restricted.

Censorship and proxy flags

First, we will look at options for censorship.

Check the «Tor is censored in my country» box. A set of three options will appear.

These options provide different ways to configure the «bridge». Bridges are alternative entry points to the Tor network. They are not listed publicly. Using a bridge makes it much harder for your ISP to detect that you are using Tor.

The first option allows you to select the built-in bridge. Click the «Select Built-in Bridge» radio button and select one of the bridges from the «Select Bridge» drop-down menu.

bridge configuration options

The second option is to request an alternative bridge.

Click the «Request a bridge from» button and click the «Request a new bridge» button.

request a new bridge

When you click the «Request New Bridge» button, you will be asked to enter a captcha to prove you are human.

captcha dialog box

The third option is when you already have information about a bridge that you trust and have used before, and you want to use that bridge again.

Click the «Give a Bridge I Know» button and enter the details of the bridge you want to use.

provide bridge i know option

When you have configured your bridge with one of these options, click the «Connect» button to launch the Tor Browser.

connect button to launch the Tor browser

Proxy settings

If you are connecting to the Internet through a proxy server, you will need to provide the proxy server details to the Tor Browser.

Click the «I’m using a proxy to connect to the Internet» button. A new set of options will appear.

proxy settings

If you have set up your own proxy, you will know the connection details for it. If you are on a corporate network or someone else has set up a proxy server, you will need to obtain connection information from them.

You will need to specify the IP address or network name of the device acting as the proxy and which port to use. If the proxy server requires authentication, you must also provide a username and password.

Click the «Select Proxy Type» button to select a proxy type from the drop-down menu, then fill in the rest of the fields.

proxy type dropdown menu

Once you’ve set up your proxy, click the «Connect» button to launch the Tor Browser.

connect button to launch the Tor browser

How to use Tor Browser

You will see a progress bar when the connection to the Tor network is established.

Tor browser connection progress bar

You will soon see the main window of the Tor Browser.

Tor Browser Main Window

If it looks a lot like Firefox, it’s because it’s Firefox configured and configured to run on the Tor network.

But be careful. Just because you’re familiar with Firefox, don’t change any configuration options. And don’t install any addons. Doing any of these actions will affect the Tor Browser’s ability to mask your identity. And if you do, then it’s hardly worth using the Tor browser.

You can put any website address in the address bar and Tor Browser will happily navigate to that website. But using the Tor browser for general web browsing will give you a worse experience compared to the standard browser.

Because your connection is forwarded over the Tor relay network, your connection will be slower. And to preserve your anonymity, some parts of the websites may not work properly. Flash and other technologies, even some fonts, will not work or display normally.

The Tor Browser is best for when you value anonymity over user experience and when you need to visit a «.onion» website.

How to Access an Onion Site in Linux

Some websites are present on the net web and are present on the Tor network. For example, the search engine Duck Duck Go does this. The Tor browser allows you to quickly connect to the Duck Duck Go «.onion» site.

Click on the link «New to Tor Browser?» In the top left corner of the browser window.

New in Tor Browser?  link

Now click on the «Onion Services» link, then click on the «Visit Onion» button.

visit bow link

You will be taken to the «.onion» website of Duck Duck Go.

Duck duck go .onion website

Click on the green onion logo in the site information field and you will see your connection path to the «.onion» site you are currently viewing.

green onion logo in Tor browser address bar

The route your connection has taken is called its «loop». In this example, the route starts in the UK and passes through France to the US and then through another set of unnamed relays before finally arriving at Duck Duck Go.» onion «.

relay circuit for .onion routing

Click on the shield icon in the upper right corner of the browser toolbar to see the current security level.

security level for the current connection

If you want to change the security level, click the Advanced Security Options button.

You can set the security level to Standard, Secure, or Most Secure. Each increase in security further reduces the number of website features that will continue to function correctly.

Tor Browser Security Settings

You can browse the Internet and find lists of other «.onion» sites, but this is a dangerous practice. Many of them will post material that is considered illegal, will make you want to whiten your eyes, or both.

Your best bet is to find out if the sites you already use and trust have «. onion» on the Tor network. You can then use these sites with anonymity.

Fair and legit sites that value privacy and security and make it the core of their offerings are more likely to provide a «.onion» site so they can be accessed using the Tor browser.

ProtonMail, for example, claims to have been built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind. They have a «.onion» site allowing users to connect to them with added privacy. Of course, this link will not work in a normal browser window.

And even more anonymity

If even the Tor Browser doesn’t provide enough anonymity and privacy for you, another project that uses Tor at its core may be suitable for you.

Tails is an operating system that you can run from a USB stick, SD card, or even a DVD. You can carry it around and use it from (almost) any computer. You don’t need to install anything and you won’t leave any digital footprints.

be careful out there

Be careful, be careful, be careful and be safe.

When you veer from the transparent web into the shadows, you should always think before you click.

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