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I'm new to the whole security/privacy thing but I'd like to start doing whatever I can. Tor seems to be pretty popular, I found this tutorial on Tor and the it says that by simply using Tor the FBI will probably look at me like a criminal.

How much truth is there to that? Will I be put on a list if I download Tor? Is it dangerous to use Tor?

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  • 4
    Getting put on a list for legitimate activity across hostile networks is not something YOU should ever fear. If it is done, it is a gross violation of a smattering of basic rights that the americans et al have chosen to ignore for whatever reason. Stasi was held accountable back in the day for the stupid things they did, and so will these creeps. Use tor all you want - just not for torrents/illegal stuff please.
    – user400344
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:32
  • You're on a bazillion lists already. Writing "Tor" in a Stack Exchange question probably put you on several. Feb 23, 2017 at 2:07
  • The level of danger varies greatly depending on what country you use it in. Feb 23, 2017 at 2:10

5 Answers 5

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It is difficult to say what nationstate intelligence agencies will do with people who use tor, since they don't generally reveal their procedures. However, there are approximately 2 million connected users at any given time, which is a fairly large pool. Many of us use tor for everyday, uninteresting traffic partially so that the use of tor doesn't become an interesting "signal".

Now, even if you get put on some sort of list, theoretically that doesn't matter unless you're breaking the law. There's a lot more that can be said here, but that particular subject is not on topic for the information security stack exchange.

One thing that's important to know is that tor by itself does not provide full anonymity (and it introduces a man-in-the-middle, which can be a security attack). You should always use tor in connection with https when possible. See also Is it safe to download internet files over tor?

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I don't normally wear a tinfoil hat, and I don't put too much stock in blogs that do.

That being said, Tor's usefulness depends on what your Internet traffic is typically for. Tor's advantages aren't useful for 99% of Internet users. Most people use the Internet to browse to websites that involve logging into a web application. This negates the anonymity that Tor provides you.

If you want to search the web anonymously, attempt to access websites that aren't available in your region (again, no logging in), or traverse hostile networks; then Tor will provide you anonymity.

For day-to-day security it's better to lock down your browser with extensions/browser applications like HTTPS Everywhere, Ghost, and No-script. Keep your browser up-to-date for the more recent security fixes.

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    It's for traversing hostile networks with a fair degree of anonymity. The whole 'backbone-routers-all-backdoored' and traffic analysis debacle isn't a concern for citizens protected by a bucketload of laws.
    – user400344
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:37
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Depends on what you want to do with Tor. Tor, to its credit, does give you some anonymity. Since you visited that link you provided, I will not delve into the inner workings of Tor (You would have gotten information from that link).

However, there are a few things (in fact many) I would like to share with you with regards to Tor.

1. Silk road incident

Ever since Tor was somewhat thrown into the limelight in the Silk Road incident in 2015, the anonymising web browser Tor has often been associated with dark web drug dealers and criminals.

However, there are people with legitimate reasons and good intent using Tor for the purpose of anonymising their presence on the web.

2. Rule 41 proposed amendment

An amendment was proposed to Rule 41 in 2016. Quoting a paragraph in Rule 41:

provides authority to issue a warrant to use remote access within or outside that district when the district in which the media or information is located is not known because of the use of technology such as anonymizing software.

What this means is this section would grant a judge the ability to issue a warrant to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data when “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed.”

Additionally, this update expands the judge's jurisdiction, covering any computer user in the world who is using technology to anonymise their location. People both in and out of the United States should be concerned about this proposal.

The Tor Project does have their point of view regarding the proposed change on their blog.

For your reference: FBI's quiet plan to begin mass hacking

3. NSA and Tor Nodes

If the exit node is owned by the NSA or compromised, it can be tweaked to modify the traffic to deanonymise you or have your traffic sent in the clear.

An interesting article for your reference: How the NSA (Or Anyone Else) Can Crack Tor's Anonymity

4. Tor under limelight

Coming back to Tor being in the limelight, one would suppose Tor is being monitored by the NSA, FBI, and the likes, not to mention malware and exploits attempting to target users using Tor.

References:

That being said, it again depends on your intent in using Tor. If you have nothing to hide, the FBI looking at you like a criminal shouldn't stop you from using it. Using the Tor service is not going to make you a criminal.

I would use a VPN service if I wanted to have some form of anonymity. You make your judgement call.

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Yes

Basically, it can potentially put you in a list of candidates for being a criminal, and you get "into the machinery" by accident. In a very dystopian world view, which enables this view point, you would be better off not using any electronic device (or, indeed, anything that records anything, including paper) at all.

For myself, I would view the probability of anything happening (without you doing anything illegal) extremely small, but this will depend on your level of paranoia. I do not believe that there are any statistics about this.

No

Tor will be fine if as many people as possible use it for nonsensical everday browsing (Wikipedia etc.). When it is as ubiquitous as HTTPS is today (which was not always the case), then it will make no sense for any agency to make a list of Tor users.

In some way, it is already ubiquitous. It is so easily available, that everbody can install and use it as a matter of fact. So if you get taken in by men with boots, then you can very plausibly claim that you just used it because you read in a newspaper about it and thought it sounded cool.

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Well, just for using Tor or whatever else privacy tool does not making you criminal in any sane way. Your actions are making you criminal - everywhere, including Internet. If you're not doing anything bad - breathe free, nothing to worry about. If you think that not-using Tor will stop the "three-letter" agency from interveining into your privacy illegally - you're missing the point, it will not. But using Tor, in particular, makes this illegal activities from government organs a way tougher task. So you can safely use Tor!

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