A very concise book, Practical Anonymity: Hiding in Plain Sight Online by Peter Loshin, focused on the Tor Project for anonymity. It is a fairly fast and intense read at 141 pages.
As per the PRISM program revelation in June 2013, there are ongoing efforts as part of national security to collect and store data in collaboration with the nine biggest internet service providers. Hence concerns about privacy protection are parallely gathering steam.
It’s with a hint of sarcasm that Peter comments on how the technology and processes which cannot ensure the privacy of ex CIA Director David Petraeus’ private emails has little chance of protecting ordinary users.
The subject of the book is quote -“how to connect to the Internet with the confidence that someone listening in to your connection won’t be able to figure out what you are doing (or at least make it very difficult).”
The book explains the multiple ways of identification viz. device IP address, browser cookies, system profiling. The general overview of Tor project given in this book mentions a sophisticated network proxy being configured via Tor project.
The limitations of the Tor project are also discussed in this book to clear any doubts about implementation of absolute anonymity by users of Tor. The interesting feature about Tor highlighted by Loshin is there is no backdoor for monitoring and detecting Tor traffic ensuring a higher degree of anonymity.
Tor browser bundle is the desktop OS (operating system) software offering the user tools for anonymous internet access. The book also offers a description of Vidalia,the control panel equivalent for the Tor browser bundle. Features of Vidalia include viewing the network bandwidth, using a new Tor identity, and viewing the Tor network amongs others.
One more way of using Tor project is by using the Tails linux distribution. This is a linux distribution focused on privacy and affiliated with the Tor project. Loshin walks us through the installation of this OS and the features provided therein.
There are some advanced topics in this book on Tor relays, Bridges, and Obfsproxy in situations of widespread network monitoring. These topics are useful for the advanced user.
There is a interesting chapter on “E-mail security and anonymity practices”. Websites claiming to protect email anonymity by various mechanisms are taken site by site. Arguments are presented on how anonymity is actually not protected due to a valid e-mail or final destination email-id being required for registration .
Throughout the short book, Peter has kept the focus on implementable steps from a user’s perspective. Some of the topics involve discussions with a hint of sarcasm such as the comparison between wrong and illegal. However given the diverse target audience, definitely some readers will find even these discussions fitting their own situation for utilizing the anonymity provided by Tor project.
One of the concerns for a lay reader looking for anonymity is the basic technical knowledge required to carry out the steps for anonymous internet usage to customize the Tor components in a sufficiently monitored environment. This may require the dependence on an additional trusted expert to guarantee a better degree of anonymity.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0124104045]