The Tor Network: Anonymity or Security


While reviewing my website traffic log, as I routinely do, I discovered several entries where a security breach was attempted. That is not really news at all these days. Many of the websites I manage have at least one attempt per week. What was interesting was where the hack originated. Using a WhoIs database, and an IP address, I identified the hosting company of the attempted hack. I then reported the violation, providing relevant logs and information. I received an almost immediate response informing me that the address is part of the Tor Network, which is part of The Tor Project. What could it be and why would I care?

After conducting some research, this is what I found. TOR, which gets its name from the original project name of “The Onion Router” is an anonymous routing system. The overview on their website,, states:

The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor’s users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Sounds good in theory.

As with all good things in the world, they have the best intentions! By allowing people, and companies, the ability to remain anonymous in the ever-increasing, all vigilant eye of “big brother”, it helps maintain an equilibrium of privacy versus government, or corporate, intrusion into private lives. A great example of that intrusion is the NSA data spying fiasco from just a few years ago. The United States government got caught snooping, and tracking, its citizens, which is both illegal, and unethical, all in the name of security.

Now, the other side of the story. With anonymity comes opportunity and the ability to exploit that freedom. If a malicious user decides to initiate an attack on a computer, server, or website, they can do it anonymously. It would be like having the power of invisibility and then robbing banks. All you can see is the after effects.

So, like all good debate material, it is both positive and negative. Do we protect ourselves from prying eyes to maintain privacy? Or, do we reject the anonymity in order to safeguard our intellectual property and put the culprits behind bars.

What do you think?

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