Titus Stahl

Tor Browser 4.5

The Tor Project has released version 4.5 of their browser package recently. For those who do not know what Tor is: It is a network which allows you to browse the Internet relatively anonymously. By routing your connection over a series of intermediaries and by encrypting it in a way such that each intermediary sees only the previous and the next station on the way but cannot identify the source and the eventual destination, it largely prevents your ISP, your government and maybe even the larger intelligence services from spying on you. Of course, there are loads of technical difficulties involved, such as ensuring that the websites you visit don’t identify you with their Google and Facebook buttons.

The latest version has made great progress in making the Tor browser easier to use and more secure. From the release announcement:

On the security front, the most exciting news is the new Security Slider. The Security Slider provides user-friendly vulnerability surface reduction – as the security level is increased, browser features that were shown to have a high historical vulnerability count in the iSec Partners hardening study are progressively disabled. This feature is available from the Tor onion menu’s “Privacy and Security Settings” choice.

On the privacy front, the 4.5 series improves on our pre-existing first party isolation implementation to prevent third party tracking. First party isolation provides the property that third party advertisements, like buttons, and “mashup” content that is included on one site will only know about your activity on that site, and will not be able to match it to your activity while you are on any other site. In other words, with first party isolation, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ can’t track you around the entire web using their infamous like buttons.

A special tip for GNU/Linux users:

  1. Unpack the downloaded .xz file
  2. Move the contents to where you’d like them to be
  3. call ./start-tor-browser.desktop --register-app in that directory
  4. The Browser will now be integrated into the applications menu of your favorite desktop environment