Tor has grown to become the staple of most internet-savvy people. For individuals that have never gotten a taste of the Tor experience, it is highly likely that they have not wandered away from the comfort of using the public web for social media and email services.
Interestingly, a category of people exists who keep abreast with the latest news but have not yet encountered the intriguing world of web anonymity.
Tor goes a long way in expanding the scope of human understanding by according netizens the chance to venture into the unexplored deep web, and it keeps evolving.
This aspect has been critical in ensuring that the software maintains relevant to the ever-changing web environment.
Tor developers have continually added features to the platform as a measure of advancing user experience.
Just recently, The Tor Project announced vital releases that would defend the software’s reputation as one of the safest browsers on earth.
They include a stable version of the 7.5 series and the first alpha edition of the 8.0 series. These new editions give promises of advanced features and fixes, and a plethora of improvements regarding the Tor Browser.
Let’s begin by highlighting the desirable aspects of the new 7.5 series:
The stable 7.5 series boasts of improved features that set it apart from its predecessor, the 7.0 series.
Apart from the typical Firefox security improvements, the Tor Browser team focused on user experience to advise them on features to be added.
The Tor user interface was reportedly redesigned to enhance the launcher’s appeal.
The developers have revealed that their decisions were mainly informed by the outcomes of a recent academic paper produced by a group of researchers.
According to the team, this information went a long way in focusing their scope on providing Tor users with a high-quality product. The publication was concise in recommending a thorough redesign of the Tor Launcher that would extend essential changes to the browser.
The first update is the refurbished Tor Welcome Screen. The Welcome Screen has been refined to advance the interests of simplicity to Tor users.
Apart from the addition of a Tor logo to the launcher, users can now easily configure the browser. This improvement is seen as a fresh feature for new visitors of Tor.
The Welcome Screen of the 7.0 series was criticized for containing an entanglement of information that would send users into confusion concerning the appropriate steps they would use for configuration.
It was found out that some users would waste an excess of half an hour trying to figure out their means of maneuvering through Tor. The Tor team has done well in redefining the screen’s user-friendliness and the general appearance of the Tor Launcher.
The Tor team has also identified a customized censorship circumvention navigation as the other element that comes with the stable release of the 7.5 series.
According to Tor, this feature is critical in allowing users to bypass restrictive network protocols.
This means that they would now be able to successfully connect to Tor regardless of the possible presence of network censorship that would seek to curtail their access.
Still, Tor has managed to modify the UI text as an augmentation of efforts to penetrate censorship barriers.
Users would now easily comprehend the purposes of bridges that would be used to connect to Tor. This also extends to information on how they may be able to configure their application.
Furthermore, the drop-down menu accommodates a directive on the appropriate network bridges to use in the context of locations.
Countries with ultra-censorship mechanisms have been countered with highly effective bridges to ensure the free access to information by Tor users.
Another update concerns the Tor Launcher’s proxy settings. The Tor team has acknowledged the significance of an elaborate configuration wizard to its users.
Additionally, it realized the high potential for user confusion regarding individuals that are a little less experienced on matters concerning the proxies.
The team opted to have it in the main configuration screen, including the addition of a guiding prompt that would help users configure easily.
The 7.5 update has also increased the intuitive nature of Tor Launcher’s security slider. This means that the feature is more responsive and objective in approach, not forgetting the fact that the slider has provided the standard, safer and safest options.
The standard mode allows the browser to provide all Tor features. The safer mode is more discrete and disengages the most harmful aspects of web pages owned by non-HTTPS websites.
The safest mode, on the other hand, erases all manner of doubt concerning online security. It bans all elements that typify attack vectors. Tor has, however, admitted that the downside to this feature is that it may indiscriminately shut harmless web pages.
The Tor Browser team used this update to strengthen the technology behind the program. They conclusively tackled problems that afflicted Linux and barred users from printing to file.
Additionally, the First Alpha Edition of the 8.0 Series provided good news for Tor users. Critical security updates to Firefox were key to this release. The first alpha edition is the starting point of the 8.0 series. The update is unique by a new MAR signing key addition.
Tor believes that the signing key would be integral in fulfilling the team’s wish of rotating signing keys per annum. Additionally, it has improved video decoding performance by an impressive scale when compared to previous issues stemming from the video formatting problems experienced by Tor clients on content receipt.
In the build perspective, it is important to realize that the alpha release of the 8.0 series has brought a Debian version application. Concerning this, all bundles are in this application—a factor that is quite the opposite of the previous bundles established on Ubuntu Precise.
What Do These Updates Say About The Tor Project?
The Tor team has been “spending sleepless nights” to create herculean high-security features but does it translate to a safe browsing experience for the proponents of online anonymity? After all, Tor has been implicated in reports concerning takeovers of Tor servers by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and interests of the U.S. Cyber Command to invest in hacking Tor.
Some experts have come up in arms to defend Tor and reiterate on its admission of being one of the safest online platforms for users.
Expectedly, other pundits have contributed to the subject by warning users against the temptation to “trust Tor with all their hearts.”
Still, online privacy experts recommend Tor as an ideal tool for safely accessing the darknet and deep web. According to them, Tor has carved a niche for itself as a standard for online anonymity.
However, there are concerns on the intersection between privacy and anonymity. Experts observe that Tor has mainly focused on anonymity while giving little emphasis to the interests of online privacy.
In the same breath, experts make it clear that privacy is, figuratively, not the synonym of anonymity. An understanding of the recent Tor update highlights this concern since the improvements are only tailored to help users disguise their access to the Tor network.
On the other hand, Josh Pitts, a researcher for Leviathan Security, illuminates the underlying problems of using Tor. According to him, users’ private information is bound to leak when these persons fail to configure their browsers correctly. Third party add-ons have been blamed for this possibility.
Nonetheless, in all fairness, the updates generated by the Tor team highlight the dedication of the Tor Project in reinforcing their commitment to ensuring continuous improvement and maintenance of the software.
Is Tor Worth Its Salt?
To respond to this question, one must comprehend the merits and demerits of using Tor to delve into the endless realm of internet browsing.
Tor has continually served its purpose well, and most users credit the Tor team with providing them opportunity to hide behind their keyboards. In simple terms, this is the world of internet anonymity.
This kind of anonymity has allowed people to exercise their freedoms in countries suffering the blow of authoritarian regimes.
Tor users can now browse websites that have been restricted in their areas of residence. Additionally, the inception of the Tor Project has instigated the creation of Virtual Private Networks that would revolutionize the world of telecommunications technology.
However, Tor has its specific downsides. This begins with, as mentioned earlier, its vulnerability to be compromised by law enforcement agencies in the crackdown of criminal activities.
International law enforcement authorities have planned and executed operations that target fugitive darknet market vendors, thus exposing other users to possible harm.
In different circles, The Onion Router typically affects the flow of network traffic, therefore making internet browsing to be an awfully slow experience.
In the end, Tor users will have to harmonize the advantages and disadvantages of the software to realize the benefits of online anonymity.
Similarly, its developers will be forced to continually create updates if they stand a chance to prove opponents wrong.
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