The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows you to connect for free and improve your privacy and security on the Internet. Individuals and organizations can also share information over the Tor network with ".onion hidden services" without compromising their privacy. Because Tor traffic is difficult to block and trace, Tor is an effective censorship circumvention tool.
Tor works by routing your internet traffic through those volunteer-operated servers, instead of making a direct connection to the site you're trying to visit. This obfuscates where the traffic is coming from, and no server in the connection path is able to see the full path of where the traffic is coming from and going to, meaning even the servers you are using to connect cannot break your anonymity.
Connecting to Tor¶
Before connecting to Tor, please ensure you've read our overview on what Tor is and how to connect to it safely. We often recommend connecting to Tor through a trusted VPN provider, but you have to do so properly to avoid decreasing your anonymity.
There are a variety of ways to connect to the Tor network from your device, the most commonly used being the Tor Browser, a fork of Firefox designed for anonymous browsing for desktop computers and Android.
Some of these apps are better than others, and again making a determination comes down to your threat model. If you are a casual Tor user who is not worried about your ISP collecting evidence against you, using apps like Orbot or mobile browser apps to access the Tor network is probably fine. Increasing the number of people who use Tor on an everyday basis helps reduce the bad stigma of Tor, and lowers the quality of "lists of Tor users" that ISPs and governments may compile.
If more complete anonymity is paramount to your situation, you should only be using the desktop Tor Browser client, ideally in a Whonix + Qubes configuration. Mobile browsers are less common on Tor (and more fingerprintable as a result), and other configurations are not as rigorously tested against deanonymization.
Tor Browser is the choice if you need anonymity, as it provides you with access to the Tor network and bridges, and it includes default settings and extensions that are automatically configured by the default security levels: Standard, Safer and Safest.
You should never install any additional extensions on Tor Browser or edit
about:config settings, including the ones we suggest for Firefox. Browser extensions and non-standard settings make you stand out from others on the Tor network, thus making your browser easier to fingerprint.
The Tor Browser is designed to prevent fingerprinting, or identifying you based on your browser configuration. Therefore, it is imperative that you do not modify the browser beyond the default security levels.
In addition to installing Tor Browser on your computer directly, there are also operating systems designed specifically to connect to the Tor network such as Whonix on Qubes OS, which provide even greater security and protections than the standard Tor Browser alone.
Orbot is a free Tor VPN for smartphones which routes traffic from any app on your device through the Tor network.
We previously recommended enabling the Isolate Destination Address preference in Orbot settings. While this setting can theoretically improve privacy by enforcing the use of a different circuit for each IP address you connect to, it doesn't provide a practical advantage for most applications (especially web browsing), can come with a significant performance penalty, and increases the load on the Tor network. We no longer recommend adjusting this setting from its default value unless you know you need to.1
Tips for Android
Orbot can proxy individual apps if they support SOCKS or HTTP proxying. It can also proxy all your network connections using VpnService and can be used with the VPN killswitch in Settings → Network & internet → VPN → → Block connections without VPN.
All versions are signed using the same signature so they should be compatible with each other.
Onion Browser is an open-source browser that lets you browse the web anonymously over the Tor network on iOS devices and is endorsed by the Tor Project.
Relays and Bridges¶
Snowflake allows you to donate bandwidth to the Tor Project by operating a "Snowflake proxy" within your browser.
People who are censored can use Snowflake proxies to connect to the Tor network. Snowflake is a great way to contribute to the network even if you don't have the technical know-how to run a Tor relay or bridge.
You can enable Snowflake in your browser by opening it in another tab and turning the switch on. You can leave it running in the background while you browse to contribute your connection. We don't recommend installing Snowflake as a browser extension; adding third-party extensions can increase your attack surface.
Snowflake does not increase your privacy in any way, nor is it used to connect to the Tor network within your personal browser. However, if your internet connection is uncensored, you should consider running it to help people in censored networks achieve better privacy themselves. There is no need to worry about which websites people are accessing through your proxy—their visible browsing IP address will match their Tor exit node, not yours.
Running a Snowflake proxy is low-risk, even moreso than running a Tor relay or bridge which are already not particularly risky endeavours. However, it does still proxy traffic through your network which can be impactful in some ways, especially if your network is bandwidth-limited. Make sure you understand how Snowflake works before deciding whether to run a proxy.
Share this website and spread privacy knowledge
Copy this text to easily share Privacy Guides with your friends and family on any social network!