What Is "TOR", And Do I Need It?

I'll answer the second question first - in most cases, no; if you are a political dissident trying to make your case heard online while remaining anonymous, then probably yes.

TOR provides a method of "hiding your tracks" as you use the Internet; a sort of "stealth mode". This is distinct from browsing in "incognito" or "private" mode in a web browser. Most individual computing devices can be traced or even physically located because of their IP address, but when TOR is used it becomes very difficult for anyone to actually determine this information. As such, TOR is used by the aformentioned dissidents and others trying to speak their mind without repercussions. It may also used by nefarious types, of course. 

The acronym "TOR" stands for "The Onion Router", a reference to the "layers" of traffic that hide your progress across the Internet - like the layers of an onion. TOR seems less infallible these days though, following some malware scares a year or so ago which exposed some users unexpectedly, and the more recent realization that the US government has been funding TOR quite a bit. With the recent Snowden revelations, that must have TOR users feeling a bit uncomfortable.

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