Practical Anonymity: Hiding in Plain Sight Online
Author: Peter Loshin
With the recent surveillance scandals tied to the NSA, you can no longer be deemed paranoid or believe yourself to be overreacting if you want to find a way of keeping your online presence anonymous.
This book will tell you many things you wanted to know about Tor, the most popular anonymity network out there, and will teach you how to use it.
About the author
Pete Loshin writes and consults about Internet protocols and open source network technologies. Formerly on staff at BYTE Magazine, Information Security Magazine and other publications, his work appears in trade publications and websites including Computerworld, PC Magazine, Internet.com, and CNN.
Inside the book
The “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” argument has been trotted out time and time again by many surveillance supporters in the US government apparatus (and probably by other governments’ officials, as well), but living in this imperfect real world of ours and repeatedly seeing evidence to the contrary should convince even the most naive among us.
If you decided that you’ve had enough of it and the time has definitely come to keep your Internet use to yourself, you have probably considered using The Onion Network (Tor). You might be a little overwhelmed by the information offered online, so you might want to turn to a practical book that offers information and advice about privacy and anonymity.
The author collaboration with a number of core members of The Tor Project assures that the information shared in the book is accurate, so I won’t be focusing on that. The main thing here is: is the book comprehensible and the information in it easy to implement for someone who isn’t a tech wiz?
Well, the first chapter succinctly explains difficulties tied to online anonymity, introduces The Tor Project, explains how the network works, why it’s a good idea to use it and who often does (and why), and also helpfully points out what Tor can’t do. This chapter also prepares the reader for the next ones by explaining, in short, what is the Tor Browser Bundle and what is Tails.
The next two chapters address more in depth the topic of these two tools, how to set them up and use them for the various things you might need, and how to troubleshoot when they refuse to work.
Chapter four explains about Tor relays, bridges and Obfsproxy, and how to use Tor when you know that an adversary is filtering all Tor network traffic, and chapter five addresses the topic of Tor Hidden Services (what they are usually used for and how to set them up.
Finally, the last chapter will teach you something about email security and anonymity practices, and will, among other things, show you how to set up anonymous email. One of the three appendixes that follow should be read both before the rest of the book and after – I’m talking about the “Validating Tor Software” addendum here.
This is a short book, and the author obviously didn’t set up to share everything there is to know about Tor and its use. But can it, as declared, allow you to go “from zero to anonymous” as fast as possible? The answer is yes and no.
If you know next to nothing about computers, this book will be unintelligible. I can see most of my family and friends who use computers and the Internet in the usual ways (email, browsing, Facebook) being stomped by 95 percent of the contents.
On the other hand, if you are already knowledgeable about how the Internet works “under the hood”, you know your way around the computer and modern software, what the system command line is, and a little about Linux, you’re good to go and will absorb the offered information and instructions without difficulty.
I loved the book, found it beautifully succinct and logically organized, and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an organic way to learn about Tor.