Letter Re: TOR and the Onion Networks

The Onion Routing (TOR or Tor) project is one of the best ways to stay anonymous on the web. The project was initially funded by the Navy, but over a few years evolved into a non-profit organization. The goal of the TOR project is twofold: to allow for the anonymous browsing of the internet, and to allow people to connect to the .onion network.

This is a basic illustration of how it works is this. Lets say every internet site you visit is a store front in a basic town. You go in and out of stores in the daylight. People around you, who know how to look, can follow you around. They can see what you are viewing and track your movements. Navigating through Tor is like browsing the web in a dark warehouse. People can see you entering and leaving the warehouse, but what you do in there is untraceable. It is used in many nations where there is no such thing as being anonymous online, such as mainland China.

When I say untraceable I am not really telling the truth. The NSA, Chinese Government, and such have the technology. However, 99.99 percent of people should not have to worry about being tracked by them. If you are, then you have much bigger problems to worry about.

The reason that you can’t be traced is that Tor encrypts every action you make on the web. It is then sent to different routers, which each peel off a layer of the encryption (thus the onion reference). The end result is that no router knows the starting and ending path of the information, or what the information actually is. This is why the Tor system is so powerful.

So that is the first function of the Tor project. What is the other, you ask? Well, my prepping friends, let us take a journey into the under web.

I once saw a statistic that is actually pretty amazing: Only roughly three percent of the Internet is viewable by Google. Remember all those hundreds of millions of search results you get when you search for something? That’s three percent. The rest is know as the deep web or the under web. A large majority of it is boring. For example, anything that requires a password to view or edit is part of the under web. Therefore, your Facebook profile is part of the deep web. A lot of it is also corporate files and such. Much of it is really underwhelming.

There are, however, certain web sites that can only be viewable when using Tor. These are called .onion sites. These are mostly unmoderated and super anonymous pages.

Have you ever heard of those hidden online places where hackers exchange stolen personal identity date? Child porn? Hire assassins? Buy drugs? Communicate sensitive data (governments, Wikileaks, Anonymous (the Hacktivist’s), Lulzsec, et cetera)? Most of these happen on the .onion networks. That’s why the authorities can’t deal with it. Tracking down one person on the .onion network is like trying to search for Osama, much less tracking down the millions upon millions that use it. Many terrorist cells use these networks to communicate. If you want something totally illegal or want to do something totally unethical then you can find it in onionland.

So I am sure you are asking yourself, “How on Earth can this be of any use to me?” Many people use the .onion network to connect to each other. They have ultra secure email, instant messaging, and site hosting. You can create a site on the .onion, and the only people who will ever know it exists are the people you give the address to. One day the .onion, with all its flaws, may be the only way people can safely spread information. This is why China and the citizens having revolutions in MENA use the onionland. There are also many sites that have things you may find in The Anarchist’s Cookbook, and other information that might be of value to preppers. [JWR Adds: Be forewarned that despite multiple editing iterations, The Anarchist’s Cookbook still includes faulty directions for making nitroglycerine that are extremely dangerous, even if followed word-for-word.]

There is no greater threat to tyranny than the uncontrollable spread of information.

Now, has this intrigued you enough to start using Tor? Good! You can download all you need at the Tor project web site. How do you get access into the onion network? A good place to start is core.onion. From there you can access the hidden wiki, tor directory, and talk.masked. I am not going to tell you how to get there though, because if you can’t find it you probably shouldn’t be there.

Tips for Browsing in Onionland:
Because of the threats of viruses and other nasty things, I would suggest updating your firewall and virus scanner.
To further negate the risk of infection I would suggest downloading a Linux distribution of your choice (my favorite is Ubuntu, and you can dual-boot by downloading Wubi)
Always assume you are less secure than you really are. When in doubt, don’t click on the link.

There is a whole other world down there. It is the wild west of the internet. Even if you never go there, you should know how. One day it may be the only way of getting information in and out of this country. Regards, – N.J.