about/en/overview.wml
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 #include "head.wmi" TITLE="Tor Project: Overview" CHARSET="UTF-8"
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   <div id="breadcrumbs">
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     <a href="<page index>">Home &raquo; </a>
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     <a href="<page about/overview>">About &raquo; </a>
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   </div>
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     <h2>Tor: Overview</h2>
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     <div class="sidebar-left">
       <h3>Topics</h3>
       <ul>
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         <li><a href="<page about/overview>#overview">Overview</a></li>
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         <li><a href="<page about/overview>#whyweneedtor">Why we need Tor</a></li>
         <li><a href="<page about/overview>#thesolution">The Solution</a></li>
         <li><a href="<page about/overview>#stayinganonymous">Staying anonymous</a></li>
         <li><a href="<page about/overview>#thefutureoftor">The future of Tor</a></li>
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     <hr>
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     <a name="overview"></a>
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     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#overview">Overview</a></h3>
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     <p>
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     The Tor network is a group of <a href="<page
     getinvolved/volunteer>">volunteer</a>-operated servers that allows people
     to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor's users employ
     this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than
     making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and
     individuals to share information over public networks without compromising
     their privacy. Along the same line, Tor is an effective censorship
     circumvention tool, allowing its users to reach otherwise blocked
     destinations or content.  Tor can also be used as a building block for
     software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy
     features.
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     </p>
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     <p>
     Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family
     members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the
     like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers.  Tor's <a
     href="<page docs/hidden-services>">hidden services</a>
     let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal
     the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive
     communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors,
     or people with illnesses.
     </p>
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     <p>
     Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and
     dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their
     workers to connect to their home website while they're in a foreign
     country, without notifying everybody nearby that they're working with
     that organization.
     </p>
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     <p>
     Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members'
     online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier
     Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for
     maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way
     to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement
     patterns from eavesdroppers. They also use it to replace traditional
     VPNs, which reveal the exact amount and timing of communication. Which
     locations have employees working late? Which locations have employees
     consulting job-hunting websites? Which research divisions are communicating
     with the company's patent lawyers?
     </p>
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     <p>
     A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence
     gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle
     East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling
     web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs,
     and for security during sting operations.
     </p>
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     <p>
     The variety of people who use Tor is actually <a
     href="http://freehaven.net/doc/fc03/econymics.pdf">part of what makes
     it so secure</a>.  Tor hides you among <a href="<page about/torusers>">the
     other users on the network</a>,
     so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your
     anonymity will be protected.
     </p>
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     <a name="whyweneedtor"></a>
     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#whyweneedtor">Why we need Tor</a></h3>
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     <p>
     Using Tor protects you against a common form of Internet surveillance
     known as "traffic analysis."  Traffic analysis can be used to infer
     who is talking to whom over a public network.  Knowing the source
     and destination of your Internet traffic allows others to track your
     behavior and interests.  This can impact your checkbook if, for example,
     an e-commerce site uses price discrimination based on your country or
     institution of origin.  It can even threaten your job and physical safety
     by revealing who and where you are. For example, if you're travelling
     abroad and you connect to your employer's computers to check or send mail,
     you can inadvertently reveal your national origin and professional
     affiliation to anyone observing the network, even if the connection
     is encrypted.
     </p>
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     <p>
     How does traffic analysis work?  Internet data packets have two parts:
     a data payload and a header used for routing.  The data payload is
     whatever is being sent, whether that's an email message, a web page, or an
     audio file.  Even if you encrypt the data payload of your communications,
     traffic analysis still reveals a great deal about what you're doing and,
     possibly, what you're saying.  That's because it focuses on the header,
     which discloses source, destination, size, timing, and so on.
     </p>
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     <p>
     A basic problem for the privacy minded is that the recipient of your
     communications can see that you sent it by looking at headers.  So can
     authorized intermediaries like Internet service providers, and sometimes
     unauthorized intermediaries as well.  A very simple form of traffic
     analysis might involve sitting somewhere between sender and recipient on
     the network, looking at headers.
     </p>
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     <p>
     But there are also more powerful kinds of traffic analysis.  Some
     attackers spy on multiple parts of the Internet and use sophisticated
     statistical techniques to track the communications patterns of many
     different organizations and individuals.  Encryption does not help against
     these attackers, since it only hides the content of Internet traffic, not
     the headers.
     </p>
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     <a name="thesolution"></a>
     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#thesolution">The solution: a distributed, anonymous network</a></h3>
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     <img src="$(IMGROOT)/htw1.png" alt="How Tor works">
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     <p>
     Tor helps to reduce the risks of both simple and sophisticated traffic
     analysis by distributing your transactions over several places on the
     Internet, so no single point can link you to your destination.  The idea
     is similar to using a twisty, hard-to-follow route in order to throw off
     somebody who is tailing you &mdash; and then periodically erasing your
     footprints.  Instead of taking a direct route from source to
     destination, data packets on the Tor network take a random pathway
     through several relays that cover your tracks so no observer at any
     single point can tell where the data came from or where it's going.
     </p>
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     <p>
     To create a private network pathway with Tor, the user's software or
     client incrementally builds a circuit of encrypted connections through
     relays on the network.  The circuit is extended one hop at a time, and
     each relay along the way knows only which relay gave it data and which
     relay it is giving data to.  No individual relay ever knows the
     complete path that a data packet has taken.  The client negotiates a
     separate set of encryption keys for each hop along the circuit to ensure
     that each hop can't trace these connections as they pass through.
     </p>
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     <p><img alt="Tor circuit step two"  src="$(IMGROOT)/htw2.png"></p>
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     <p>
     Once a circuit has been established, many kinds of data can be exchanged
     and several different sorts of software applications can be deployed
     over the Tor network.  Because each relay sees no more than one hop in
     the circuit, neither an eavesdropper nor a compromised relay can use
     traffic analysis to link the connection's source and destination.  Tor
     only works for TCP streams and can be used by any application with SOCKS
     support.
     </p>
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     <p>
     For efficiency, the Tor software uses the same circuit for connections
     that happen within the same ten minutes or so.  Later requests are given a
     new circuit, to keep people from linking your earlier actions to the new
     ones.
     </p>
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     <p><img alt="Tor circuit step three" src="$(IMGROOT)/htw3.png"></p>
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     <a name="stayinganonymous"></a>
     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#stayinganonymous">Staying anonymous</a></h3>
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     <p>
     Tor can't solve all anonymity problems.  It focuses only on
     protecting the transport of data.  You need to use protocol-specific
     support software if you don't want the sites you visit to see your
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     identifying information. For example, you can use <a href="<page
     projects/torbrowser>">Tor Browser</a>
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     while browsing the web to withhold some information about your computer's
     configuration.
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     </p>
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     <p>
     Also, to protect your anonymity, be smart.  Don't provide your name
     or other revealing information in web forms.  Be aware that, like all
     anonymizing networks that are fast enough for web browsing, Tor does not
     provide protection against end-to-end timing attacks: If your attacker
     can watch the traffic coming out of your computer, and also the traffic
     arriving at your chosen destination, he can use statistical analysis to
     discover that they are part of the same circuit.
     </p>
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     <a name="thefutureoftor"></a>
     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#thefutureoftor">The future of Tor</a></h3>
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     <p>
     Providing a usable anonymizing network on the Internet today is an
     ongoing challenge. We want software that meets users' needs. We also
     want to keep the network up and running in a way that handles as many
     users as possible. Security and usability don't have to be at odds:
     As Tor's usability increases, it will attract more users, which will
     increase the possible sources and destinations of each communication,
     thus increasing security for everyone.
     We're making progress, but we need your help.  Please consider
     <a href="<page docs/tor-doc-relay>">running a relay</a>
     or <a href="<page getinvolved/volunteer>">volunteering</a> as a
     <a href="<page docs/documentation>#Developers">developer</a>.
     </p>
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     <p>
     Ongoing trends in law, policy, and technology threaten anonymity as never
     before, undermining our ability to speak and read freely online. These
     trends also undermine national security and critical infrastructure by
     making communication among individuals, organizations, corporations,
     and governments more vulnerable to analysis. Each new user and relay
     provides additional diversity, enhancing Tor's ability to put control
     over your security and privacy back into your hands.
     </p>
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