Privacy and Anonymity with the TOR network


Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

-Edward Snowden

Every day we take the internet for granted. If we want to look up something, we just do a google search and access anything we want to look at. But search engines like google, yahoo, bing etc capture information about our location, our browser version, our activity history, and much more. Every day we are being monitored and our data is fed into a system that is used to show us only that part of the internet that we want to see. Sites like show us the amount of digital footprint but is that enough? The internet is a fundamental right and no one should have the authority to censor us or monitor our online activities. The idea is to reduce the amount of digital footprint as much as possible. One of the best methods to maintain privacy and anonymity is to make use of the Tor Network through onion routing to escape surveillance and at the same time gain access to deeper layers of the internet, popularly known as the dark web or darknet as we know it. After all, it is our right to benefit from the internet and not our government or giant’s lke google’s job from deciding what information we should have access to.

What is Onion Routing?

Onion routing is a technique for anonymous communication over the internet. Messages are encapsulated in layers of encryption analogous to the layers of an onion. As the encrypted data is transmitted through a series of onion routers, each of which peel’s from a single layer uncovering the data’s next destination. When the final layer is decrypted, the message arrives at its destination. The sender remains anonymous because each intermediary knows only the location of the immediately preceding and following nodes. While onion routing provides a high level of security and anonymity, there are methods to break the anonymity of this technique, such as timing analysis.

Accessing the Tor Network through Tor Browser

The Tor Browser is one of the best ways to access the Tor Network. Tor Browser uses HTTPS instead of HTTP, as such our traffic remains encrypted all throughout the route. Only the exit node which is used to access our target website remains unencrypted. You can download Tor from here. Install it and run. A word of caution, we should never maximize our Tor Browser for security purposes. Just expanding the window size is enough.

By clicking on the lock icon on the URL field we can see that our traffic hops through three nodes. We see that our exit node is located in Germany before accessing our target website.

Security Configurations before accessing the Tor Network

There are a number of configurations that need to be made for maximum privacy and anonymity. We start by going to options>privacy and settings and set history to never remember history.

Next, we click all the checkboxes in deceptive content and dangerous software protection.

We also block accessibility services by clicking all the checkboxes.

There are other security configurations that can be made but these should be enough for the time being.

Discovering hidden onion services using Tor

We navigate to the search field in our Tor Browser and search for the DuckDuckGo search engine. We can go to but that would route our traffic outside the Tor Network. Instead, we go to https://duckduckgogg42xjoc72x3sjasowoarfbgcmvfimaftt6twagswzczad.onion/; which is the onion version for duckduckgo.

That way we stay within the Tor Network and our traffic is never routed out. We can get the onion version of duckduckgo by simply typing the duckduckgo onion link in the search field.

There are other search engines that provide only onion services.

One such search engine is Ahmia – http://juhanurmihxlp77nkq76byazcldy2hlmovfu2epvl5ankdibsot4csyd.onion

There are other onion search engines apart from these two. Here is a list of search engines for you to test out and see.

Discovering hidden onion services using listings

There are various websites that contain URL listings of various onion links. One such is The Hidden Wiki, which is the alter ego of Wikipedia. The Hidden Wiki is like a treasure trove of onion links for different sites. However, beware that not all links work and not all links are legal. Stay away from anything which says drugs or pornography. Some illegal websites are even monitored by the police.

To visit The Hidden Wiki simply use http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Furthermore, there are some subreddits like these, and this is where we can solve our queries apart from finding some useful onion URLs and services. Other methods include getting onion URLs from forums or friends. Criminals who use the darknet to do illegal activities usually have a secret onion URL that is only known to specific people. You won’t get them indexed nor find them anywhere. That’s how deep the dark web is.

The darknet is a double-edged sword with its own share of pros and cons. That doesn’t mean people like you and me can’t use it. As long as you stay away from illegal stuff and don’t fool around much, you will be perfectly fine. So happy surfing.

Until next time!

Masood Rahman,
MBA ITBM, 2021-23