Tor – The Onion Router

Social media keeps us all firmly wrapped in its arms and life is as usual on the net oblivious to the many “virtual eyes”. Customer data is another new gold and grabbing it is the necessity of the day.

“Deep web” or the “Dark net” is the place where there is no Internet surveillance. The “Deep web” was earlier only associated with criminal activities but that may be changing with a new set of extremely privacy conscious individuals who also seek anonymity while surfing. This is possible with browsers like Tor, Freenet, I2P and Tails. In addition, ‘The Deep web’ is not indexed by search engines and hence does not turn up in search results. We will discuss ‘Tor – The Onion Router’ in this post.

What is Tor and ‘the Deep web’?

‘Tor’, ‘The Onion Router’ is a set of volunteer servers that is designed to keep traffic analysis private and untraceable. It was first developed by United States Naval Research employees and further developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1997. It is free software that is available for Windows, Linux/Unix, Mac and Android operating systems. The Tor software was originally written in the ‘C’ programming language and has 340,000 lines of source code. (Tor (anonymity network))

Most conversations outside the “Deep web” can be tracked and spied upon. But by using browsers like ‘Tor’, the location of users is concealed and conversations are private. This is the reason that ‘Tor’ is sometimes used for legal and illegal purposes.

There is no accurate estimate of how deep the “The Deep web” actually is but is expected to be 500 times the size of the surface web. According to some statistics, there are 500,000 to 1 million individuals from India browsing the deep web every day. (More Indians are logging on anonymously using browsers like Tor, Freenet, I2P and Tails )

Once inside the ‘Deep web’, websites comes with different URLs that end with a suffix ‘.onion’.

How does Tor work?

Data that is passed through the Internet is divided and these are known as ‘packets’. An individual’s digital footprint can easily be ascertained by looking at the ‘packets’. All packets have a ‘payload’ and a ‘header’. While the ‘payloads’ can be encrypted the ‘headers’ are not and these contain information about where this packet originated, where is it headed, its size and timing and so on. Various traffic analysis tools and network monitoring tools exist to sniff traffic and study user habits. Authorized and unauthorized persons can read the traffic between the sender and receiver by looking at the packet headers.  TOR1


In a Tor network communication from the source to the destination follows a circuitous path to avoid tracking. Each node in the relay only knows the next node it has to reach and does not know the entire path. Further, every path in the relay is encrypted, except for the last path to the destination. Once the path has been traversed, the previous path in the relay in carefully erased.

This in short is how ‘Tor’ works.


‘Tor’ is not the perfect solution for 100% anonymity but certain careful measures (like not providing names, credit card numbers) while browsing the web will provide greater success in achieving the same.

More Indians are logging on anonymously using browsers like Tor, Freenet, I2P and Tails . (n.d.). Retrieved from
Tor (anonymity network). (n.d.). Retrieved from

About Pavan Gumaste

Pavan Rao is a programmer / Developer by Profession and Cloud Computing Professional by choice with in-depth knowledge in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform. He helps the organisation figure out what to build, ensure successful delivery, and incorporate user learning to improve the strategy and product further.

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