How to Install and Use the Tor Browser on Linux

Tor browser home screen on the Ubuntu desktop

Browse anonymously using the Tor Browser. Here's how to install Tor on a Linux desktop. Ubuntu users should be wary: The Tor project recommends not to install Tor from Ubuntu's regular software repositories.

What is Tor?

In informal speeches, we use the terms "Internet" and "Web" interchangeably. But in reality, the Web and the Internet are two very different things. If the websites were local – shops, factories, entertainment centers – the Internet would be the roads and highways connecting them.

Internet supports many services. The World Wide Web is just one of them. Other services like email, RDP, DNS, NNTP are delivered on the Internet, and none of them is a website.

Overlapping networks also use the Internet. The tor (The onion router) the network is one of these superimposed networks. It provides anonymity and confidentiality to users. With Tor, if you use it effectively, no one will be able to trace your activity to your IP address.

Traffic passing over the Tor network is encrypted. While this helps preserve the anonymity of the people who use it, encryption is a network problem. The usual routing and switching elements of the Internet can not work with Tor network traffic.

A Tor relay network, hosted and managed by volunteers, performs switching and routing instead. Tor relays intentionally return your connection between multiple relays, even though this route is not necessary to reach your destination. This "rebound" is another reason why Tor makes it virtually impossible to back-track and identify the person at the far end.

It is the strength of this anonymity that has led the Tor network to host numerous websites engaging in criminal activity. The Tor network is a big part of the dark canvas. However, all illegal activities on the Tor network are not illegal. Dissidents of repressive regimes, anonymous press sources, whistleblowers, activists and the military all use Tor for legitimate reasons.

The problem is precisely what makes it an attractive proposition for these people, but also an attractive proposition for the bad guys.

Tor hidden services have addresses ending with the suffix ".onion". They do not appear on Google and can not be viewed or viewed with the help of a normal Internet browser. You must use the Tor browser to visit these sites, but you can also use it to access normal websites with additional anonymity.

RELATED: How to access .onion sites (also called Tor hidden services)

How to install the Tor Browser

Note that the Tor project advises against the installation of pre-packaged versions Tor browser from Ubuntu repositories, stating that they "have not been reliably updated" by the Ubuntu community in the past. Install it only from the official Tor project website. The Tor project also offers official deposits for Ubuntu and Debian, but the following instructions in the manual will work on any Linux distribution.

Navigate to Tor project download page and click on the penguin.

Tor browser download page

If your browser offers to open or save the file, choose the option to save the file.

Open or save a file

Suppose the file is saved in the Downloads directory.

When future versions of the Tor browser are released, the version numbers of the file name will change. In addition, part of the file name indicates the language. In this example, "en-US" means English, US.

If you downloaded a different language version or follow these instructions later, at a time when the browser version was changed, replace the file names and directory names that you are actually working with. used in these instructions.

Downloaded file in the download directory

The downloaded file is a .tar.xz file. We have to decompress and decompress it to be able to use its contents.

RELATED: How to extract files from a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 file on Linux

There are many ways to do it. If you right-click on the file, a pop-up menu will appear. Select "Extract here" from the menu.

Right click context menu

If your context menu does not have the "Extract Here" option, close it and double-click on the downloaded file. Your file manager can extract the contents of the file for you.

If that does not work, open a terminal window in your Downloads directory and use the following command. Note that the "J" in xvJf is uppercase.

tar -xvJf tor-browser-linux64-8.5.1_en-US.tar.xz

tar -xvJf tor-browser-linux64-8.5.1_en-US.tar.xz in a terminal window

So, one way or another, the file will be uncompressed and not archived for you. A new directory will be created in the Downloads folder.

New folder in the downloads directory

Double-click the new directory to change the file manager in this directory. Like Russian dolls, there is another directory in the first.

Internal directory in the Downloads directory

Run from the directory or do a system installation?

You have the choice here.

Now that you have downloaded and extracted the Tor browser, you can continue to use it without any further installation steps. Or you can perform a closer level of integration with a system level installation.

The operation of the Tor browser is the same in both cases, and the security updates and bug fixes will find and update the browser anyway.

You may prefer that the Tor browser be as light as possible on your computer. If you feel happier without integrating the Tor browser into your system, it's perfect. You will be just as anonymous and protected when you use it directly from this directory, as you will after a system-level installation. If this is your preferred approach, follow the instructions in the section titled Using the Tor Browser from the Tor Directory.

If you want the Tor browser to be recognized as an application installed by your desktop environment and to appear in menus and application searches, follow the instructions in the System Level Integration section.

Using the Tor Browser from the Tor Directory

To start the Tor browser directly from the directory, open a terminal window at this location and issue the following command:

./tor-browser_en-US/Browser/start-tor-browser &

Open a terminal window here. in a terminal window

You can now skip this article in the section titled How to configure the Tor Browser.

System level integration

Open a terminal window here. To install the Tor browser in a system folder, you must move this directory, tor-browser_en-US, to the / opt directory. This is the usual location for programs installed by Linux users. We can do it with the following command. Note that you must use sudo and your password will be required.

sudo mv tor-browser_en-US / opt

sudo mv tor-browser_en-US / opt in a terminal window

The folder will be moved to the new location and will disappear from the file manager window. In the terminal window, change the directory so that you are in the / opt / tor-browser_en-US directory.

cd / opt / tor-browser_en-US

cd / opt / tor-browser_en-US in a terminal window

Using ls to list the contents of this directory, we see another directory and a file with a ".desktop" extension. We need to run the ".desktop" file to save the application in your desktop environment.

ls
./start-tor-browser.desktop –register-app

cd / opt / tor-browser_en-US in a terminal window

How to launch the Tor Browser

The installation sequence described above has been tested on the current Linux distributions Ubuntu, Fedora and Manjaro. By pressing the Super key (between Ctrl and Alt keys on the left) and typing "tor", the Tor browser icon is displayed in all cases.

tor icon at ubuntu

Click on the icon to launch the Tor browser.

How to configure the Tor Browser

When the Tor browser is first launched, a dialog box appears.

If you access the Internet via a proxy or if you are in a country that is trying to censor the use of tools such as Tor, you must click on the "Configure" button.

If none of these cases concerns you, click on the "Connect" button.

Configuration dialog window

Click on the "Configure" button to set a proxy or to configure a "bridge" to allow you to use Tor in countries where its use is restricted.

Censorship and proxy checkboxes

We will first examine the censorship options.

Check the box "Tor is censored in my country". A set of three options will appear.

These options offer you different ways to configure a "bridge". Bridges are alternative entry points in the Tor network. They are not publicly listed. The use of a bridge makes it much more difficult for your ISP to detect that you are using Tor.

The first option allows you to select an integrated bridge. Click on the "Select Integrated Bridge" radio button and choose one of the decks from the "Select a Bridge" drop-down menu.

bridge configuration options

The second option is to request an alternative bridge.

Click on the "Request Torproject.com Bridge" radio button and click on the "Request a New Bridge" button.

ask for a new bridge

When you click on the button "Request a new bridge", you will be asked to complete a Captcha to prove that you are a human.

captcha dialog box

The third option concerns cases where you already have the details of a bridge that you trust and have used before and want to use that bridge again.

Click on the "Provide a bridge I know" radio button and enter the details of the bridge you want to use.

provide a bridge, I know option

When you have configured your bridge using one of these options, click the "Connect" button to launch the Tor browser.

login button to launch the browser Tor

Configure a proxy

If you connect to the Internet through a proxy, you must provide proxy details to the Tor browser.

Click the radio button "I use a proxy to connect to the Internet." A new set of options will appear.

proxy options

If you have set up your own proxy, you will know the connection details. If you are on a corporate network or if someone else has configured the proxy, you will need to get the details of the connection.

You will need to provide the IP address or network name of the proxy device and the port to use. If the proxy requires authentication, you must also provide a user name and password.

Click the "Select a proxy type" button to select the proxy type from the drop-down menu, then complete the other fields.

drop-down menu of proxy type

When you have configured your proxy, click the "Connect" button to launch the Tor browser.

login button to launch the browser Tor

How to use the Tor Browser

You will see a progress bar when the connection to the Tor network is established.

Tor browser connection progress bar

Soon you will see the main browser window Tor.

Tor Browser Main Window

If it looks a lot like Firefox, it's because it's Firefox, modified and configured to work on the Tor network.

But be careful. Because you know Firefox well, do not change any configuration settings. And do not install any add-ons. Performing one or the other of these actions will affect the ability of the Tor Browser to hide your identity. And if you do that, there is virtually no point in using the Tor browser in the first place.

You can put any website address in the address bar, and the Tor Browser will be happy to navigate to this website. But using the Tor browser to browse the web in general will give you a lower user experience than a standard browser.

Since your connection is sent back to the Tor relay network, your connection will be slower. And to preserve your anonymity, some parts of the websites may not work properly. Flash and other technologies, even some fonts, will no longer work or display as usual.

The Tor Browser is best for occasions when you prefer anonymity over the user experience and to visit a ".onion" website.

How to access an onion site under Linux

Some websites are present on the net and on the Tor network. The search engine Duck Duck Go does this, for example. The Tor Browser allows you to quickly connect to the ".onion" site of Duck Duck Go.

Click on the link "New on the browser Tor?" In the upper left corner of the browser window.

New on the browser Tor? link

Now click on the "Onion Services" link, then on the "Visit an Onion" button.

visit an onion link

You will be directed to the ".onion" site of Duck Go Duck.

Duck duck go site .onion

Click on the green onion logo in the information field on the site and you will see the route taken by your connection to the ".onion" site that you are currently viewing.

green onion logo in Tor browser's address bar

The route taken by your connection is called its "circuit". In this example, the route starts in the UK, and runs through France to the United States, then passes through another set of anonymous relays before finally reaching Duck Duck Go. onion ".

relay circuit for routing .onion

Click on the shield icon at the top right of the browser toolbar to see your current security level.

security level for the current connection

If you want to change your security level, click the "Advanced Security Settings" button.

You can set the security level to Standard, Safer, or Safest. Each increase in security further reduces the number of website features that will continue to work properly.

Tor browser security settings

You can browse the Internet and find lists of other ".onion" sites, but it is a dangerous practice. Many of them will host material considered illegal, will leave you wanting to whiten your eyes, or both.

A better approach is to determine if the sites you already use and trust you have ". onion "on the Tor network. You can then use these sites anonymously.

Honest and legal sites that attach importance to confidentiality and security and that make it a pillar of their customers' offer are likely to provide a ".onion" site in order to be contacted using the Tor Browser.

ProtonMail, for example, claims to have been designed from scratch, in the interests of security and privacy. they have a site ".onion" to allow their users to connect with more privacy. Of course, this link will not work in a normal browser window.

And even more anonymity

If even the Tor browser does not give you enough anonymity and privacy, another project using Tor at the heart of your system might be what you need.

The tail is a live operating system that you can run from a USB flash drive, an SD card, or even a DVD. You can take it with you and use it from (almost) any computer. You do not need to install, and you will not leave any digital imprints.

Be careful there

Be careful, be careful, be careful and be careful.

When you leave the Web and go into the shadows, you must always think before you click.

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