Tor “The Onion Router” History, Dark Web and Cybercrime

Tor, an acronym for The Onion Router, is an invaluable software solution that enables anonymous communication over the internet. Developed by The Tor Project, Inc., a nonprofit initiative, Tor was conceived in response to the growing concerns about internet security, surveillance, and tracking during the 1990s.

Recognizing the need to create internet connections that could protect users’ identities and conversations from network monitoring, the team behind Tor devised an innovative concept called “onion routing.” This involved routing internet traffic through multiple servers while encrypting it at each step, effectively concealing the origin and destination of the communication.

Initially, Tor gained traction among activists and tech-savvy individuals seeking enhanced privacy. However, its complexity limited its accessibility to the broader internet user base. To address this issue, the Tor Project introduced the user-friendly “Tor Browser,” which made Tor more approachable to everyday users and activists alike. With Tor and Tor Browser, individuals could browse the internet privately, explore freely, and defend themselves against tracking, surveillance, and censorship. It opened up opportunities to circumvent restrictions imposed by oppressive regimes and empowered individuals to exercise their right to information freely.

As awareness regarding tracking, surveillance, and censorship grew, so did the demand for tools that safeguard internet freedom. Today, Tor operates a vast network comprising thousands of relays managed by volunteers and boasts millions of users worldwide. The diverse nature of this network is integral to ensuring the security and privacy of Tor users.

The primary mission of The Tor Project is to champion human rights and freedoms by developing and deploying free and open-source anonymity and privacy technologies. Their goal is to ensure that these tools are universally accessible and used while fostering a deeper understanding of their scientific and societal implications.

While Tor was created to facilitate private and anonymous internet activities, it has also been exploited by cybercriminals as a shield for illegal activities. In its legitimate application, individuals can use Tor to protect themselves from website tracking, access content blocked by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or bypass restrictive government regulations on internet usage.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the convenience and relative anonymity offered by Tor have also attracted individuals with malicious intent. Recent studies have revealed that a portion of the websites hosted on Tor’s hidden services are associated with suspicious or illicit activities, including the sale of black market drugs, illegal firearms, and extreme pornography. Additionally, hackers frequently employ Tor to carry out cyber-attacks, leveraging its anonymity for their nefarious endeavors.

Despite these challenges, The Tor Project remains dedicated to its core mission of fostering privacy and freedom online. Efforts are continuously made to strike a balance between protecting user privacy and mitigating the misuse of Tor for criminal activities. The Tor Project actively collaborates with law enforcement agencies to address illegal activities occurring within the Tor network.

Tor, with its onion routing technology and user-friendly Tor Browser, has emerged as a powerful tool for safeguarding online privacy and combatting censorship. By providing individuals with the means to navigate the internet anonymously, Tor empowers users to exercise their rights to privacy and access information freely. However, the misuse of Tor by cybercriminals underscores the need for ongoing efforts to educate users, promote responsible use, and collaborate with law enforcement agencies to maintain a secure and ethical online ecosystem. Through continued innovation and vigilance, The Tor Project strives to create a more privacy-conscious and free internet for all.


Ivan Das