What is Tor?

Tor is an open source (free) software whose main focus is to provide anonymous (unknown) communication through the internet. The ‘Tor‘ name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name “The Onion Router“.

Tor generally refers to the network’s top-level domain suffix (.onion) and the traffic anonymization technique of Onion routingTor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than thousands relays (actually servers) to protect user’s lp address from being tracked.This relaying procedure makes Tor network anonymous from anyone conducting network surveillance (an organization which involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet) or traffic analysis.

The Tor project intents to protect the personal privacy of its users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential (restricted) communication without being monitored.

What is Onion Routing?

Onion routing is a special type of routing through a computer network (internet) in which the destination and the starting point of a network both are anonymous. Basically, onion routing is a technique for anonymous communication over a computer network.

Tor uses onion routing technique to protect its user’s identity from being exposed. In an onion routing network, messages are encapsulated in many layers (depends on networking nodes) of encryption (encoded), analogous to layers of an onion.

Onion routing is implemented by encryption in the application layer of a communication protocol stack.

Here we see protocol stack and corresponding layer list:

Protocol Layer
HTTP Application (onion routing works in this protocol)
TCP Transport
IP Internet/Network
Ethernet Data Link/Link
IEEE 802.3u Physical


How does Tor Network work?

Tor basically encrypts the data including the next node destination IP address multiple times (depending on how secret the data is) and sends it through a virtual circuit (thought as dedicated physical layer link between the source and destination) made with sequential, random-selection of Tor relays (servers).

tor bouncing network

Each random relay decrypts a layer of encryption to know the next relay in the virtual circuit to pass the remaining encrypted data through it. The final relay (known as exit node) decrypts the innermost layer of encryption and sends the original data to its destination (website’s server requested to visit).

It is almost impossible to reveal the source IP address because each relay on the virtual circuit only knows the previous and forward relay’s  IP addresses.

You have to remember that Tor is not meant to completely solve the issue of anonymity on the web. But instead to reduce the possibility for sites to trace actions and activity done by its user.

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