Tor, a tool that enables users to browse the Internet anonymously, relies on an international network of relays to function. Those relays are provided largely by volunteers, who use software to set up routers for the system, allowing people all over the world to browse the Internet without fear of reprisal by governments or other entities that may be monitoring their Internet usage.
Tor has become more important in recent years as revelations that governments have been spying on the activity of innocent Internet users have come to light. Sadly, one of the most scandalous revelations about government spying comes from the United States, a nation that supposedly offers free, unfettered access to information. Knowing that this isn’t actually the case, it’s become imperative for users to take power into their own hands whenever they can and to help people enjoy the Internet as a source of information that is free from censorship.
There is a technological solution to this and, before that puts you off, be aware that it doesn’t require any particular technological wizardry on your part for you to help people take advantage of Tor and to make the network even better.
You can set up a Tor relay on a Windows system using a variety of different software packages that make it extremely easy to do. These include the Vidalia Relay Bundle, the Vidalia Exit Bundle and the Vidalia Bridge Bundle. If you’re already interested, you can go to the download page for these tools. Graphical instructions are given to help you set up the system and you’ll soon find that it’s probably a lot easier than you thought. At the same site, you can download a Tor browser bundle that allows you to use the network without having to do any complicated configuration.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the Free Software Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation teamed up with the Tor Project this year to challenge people to set up relays to expand the network. The results this year were impressive, with the total number of participants reaching 1635 bridges and relays, compared to a combined number of 549 for the 2011 challenge. Clearly, people are starting to see that the value of this anonymizing tool is significant in today’s surveillance heavy world.
The NSA and other organizations that spy on citizens have an interest in suppressing technologies like Tor which was, ironically enough, invented by DARPA. There has been a great deal of press attention given to the fact that Tor, because it is a tool that allows anonymity, has been used by some criminal enterprises. This doesn’t mean that Tor itself is an inherently suspicious technology. While it has been used for criminal purposes, it is far more widely used by people who live in nations where censorship and retaliation for viewing censored materials are very real threats. Perhaps one of the reasons that Tor is becoming consistently more popular is the fact that it’s becoming harder and harder to determine which nations actually meet that description. If you want to help out, check out the download link, download the software and set up a router. The instructions are comprehensive and easy to follow and the Tor Project has extensive information that can help you answer any questions you might have about what it means to be part of this network, which is becoming more valuable all the time.