Anonymous Browsing with TOR in Ubuntu

It’s been awhile since I read Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, an online book about how to stay anonymous on the net. On countries with dismal human right records, anonymous browsing is as vital as breathing. That, or perhaps you just want to lurk around below radar.

The book teaches several methods to keep a person anonymous on the net. The simplest one of them is to use TOR or The Onion Router. So, what is TOR and how to use it?

Quoted from TOR’s wiki:

What is TOR?

Tor is an anonymity network. It protects your privacy on the internet. Tor uses a series of three proxies – computers (or nodes) which communicate on your behalf using their own identifying information – in such a way that none of them know both your identifying information and your destination. Tor can also help people get around restrictive firewalls which censor web content.

Installing TOR

Sounds complicated? Yet its installation turns out to be quite simple. Ubuntu users don’t even need to manually download and install from TOR’s website. Simply type this command:

sudo apt-get install tor

Installing Privoxy

So everything’s set and we can start anonymous browsing? Not yet. We still need to install Privoxy, an HTTP proxy. Why bother?

Quoted from TOR’s wiki:

Using privoxy is necessary because browsers leak your DNS requests when they use a SOCKS proxy directly, which is bad for your anonymity. Privoxy also removes certain dangerous headers from your web requests, and blocks obnoxious ad sites like Doubleclick.

Install privoxy by typing:

sudo apt-get install privoxy

Next, we need to open privoxy’s config file:

gksudo gedit /etc/privoxy/config

and insert this line at the beginning of the file:

forward-socks4a / .

(don’t forget to include the dot at the end of line)

Save the modification and restart privoxy:

sudo /etc/init.d/privoxy restart

Using TOR with FireFox

To use TOR inside FireFox we need to change the browser’s proxy server configuration. Fortunately, there is Torbutton plugin that simplifies the task. Install the plugin, restart FireFox and check the bottom right of the browser window:

Click once on the “Tor Disabled” label to activate TOR inside FireFox:

That’s it. Now we need to test whether we’re already anonymous on the net. Open this address:

And if you can see a message like the one below:

then congratulation! You’re anonymous now (well, it has flaws, but at least you’re better off). Click once on “Tor Enabled” label to deactivate TOR inside FireFox.

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