A tor browser is a software that encrypts web traffic and sends it through a series of servers before reaching the destination website. Tor, which stands for “The onion router,” is often used to access what’s known as the dark web — unindexed content that can contain pirated material or illegal substances. Tor also allows users to bypass censorship and communicate with others without revealing their identity.
The Tor network has more than 7,000 relay servers, which are run by volunteers. The first relay server encrypts the network request and then passes it to another randomly chosen relay server. This second server decrypts enough of the packet to know where to forward it, but not its contents or full circuit. The third relay strips the final layer of encryption and sends the packet to its destination. Each relay decrypts only what’s necessary to complete the circuit, so it doesn’t have any information that could reveal a user’s location or identify them.
As with any security tool, Tor can be misused. Cybercriminals and fraudsters often use Tor to cover their tracks, but it can also be useful for activists living under authoritarian regimes, journalists, and other law-abiding citizens who prioritize privacy.
There are several ways to use Tor, including as a standalone browser or in conjunction with other privacy-focused apps and services. A popular option is to pair Tor with a VPN, such as PIA, which has 29,650 servers in 84 countries and has a verified no-logs policy that’s held up in court. what is a tor browser