Why Should You Use the Tor Browser?

anonymous guy at desk

One of the readers here recently asked about using Brave Browser to access Tor rather than the Tor Browser itself, because it was “faster.” While you can do this, using Tor with Brave is not the same as using the original Tor Browser.

Brave, as mentioned on How to Use Tor with Brave Browser, is a fork of Chromium, the open source version of Chrome. Brave runs several Tor relays, and they’ve set up the Brave Browser to connect to Tor via these relays. Even so, some .onion sites (notably Darknet Live) can detect the fact that you’re using Brave instead of the official Tor Browser, and won’t allow access to their site through it.

The site WTF is my IP?!?!?? gives an example of this: it will show what headers your browser is sending (if you click on “What fucking headers are my browser sending?”), and therefore identifies the type of browser and other identifying information.

WTF is my IP?!?!??

The same goes for Tor proxies like Tor2web.io, which are even worse, really. They may allow you to access onion sites from the clearnet, but this is a very bad idea, because they lack the anonymity of using Tor by itself, and can even be malicious in some cases. There are also “imitation” Tor Browsers like Onion Search Browser, which may be able to access onion sites, but also contain ads and are terrible with anonymity. This one gets the official “Secrets of the Dark thumbs down.”

The reader in question who asked about all this was someone who really could benefit from using Tor, as they seemed to live somewhere in which “free speech” wasn’t guaranteed, and speaking out could get them in a whole lot of trouble. These are the types of people for whom Tor, and technology like it, such as I2P, is most important! Even if Tor is censored in your area, you can use options like Tor bridges to connect to it.

For example, on Turkey Blocks, they give real-time updates about internet services that are blocked in Turkey. With Tor, it’s possible that users might be able to access the blocked sites or services. NetBlocks also shares similar stories about censorship in countries other than Turkey, such as Myanmar, Russia, and Pakistan.

Someone who lives in such a country would be best off using the real Tor Browser on whichever platform they need. The Tor Project has options for Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android, which covers most of the major operating systems. The Linux version tends to work on most Unix-like systems too. It gets frequent security updates as well, which is another reason to use it.

The best “alternative,” which is not really in the same category, is something like Tails, which is a portable Linux operating system that also uses Tor. If you are working with sensitive information and are someone who meets the criteria above, Tails would also be a good tool to have.

In any case, the point is that with Tor, it isn’t good to use shortcuts like Tor2Web, because they compromise your anonymity and just defeat the purpose of Tor. It’s best to just use it like it was originally intended, and put up with a little bit of internet slowness. The consequences of using something that claims to work like Tor, but really doesn’t, could be disastrous.

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