It would be an uphill battle to keep your online data and identity safe and private. But with the anonymity network Tor, you have a pretty decent line of defense from prying eyes in your Android phone.
But while Tor is great for desktop users, since they can simply install a Tor browser or plugin, it’s a bit more complicated on Android. The difficulty lies in getting all the data your device sends out pushed through the Tor network, which anonymizes by sending data through various servers around the world.
The Tor Project has released Tor Browser 8.5. And this is the first stable release for Android. In a nutshell this means you can now download the Tor Browser from Google Play and start browsing the internet anonymously. Or visit the deep and dark web.
If you are not yet up to speed regarding what Tor is then it is worth educating yourself before blindly diving into using The Onion Router. Therefore, why not read our article that explains what Tor is.
Why to Use Tor?
Tor is a network and a software package that helps you anonymously use the Internet. Specifically Tor hides the source and destination of your Internet traffic, this prevents anyone from knowing both who you are and what you are looking at (though they may know one or the other). Tor also hides the destination of your traffic, which can circumvent some forms of censorship. Tor has been in development for many years and is very stable and mature. It is regarded as one of the best privacy tools currently in existence and it does not cost you anything. Anonymity is Tor’s bread and butter, and as such it is probably impossible to ever get a comprehensive view of its userbase.
Install the Tor Browser on Android from Now on
Tor Browser 8.5 brings with it several improvements and bug fixes. But the headline here is that Tor Browser 8.5 is the first stable release for Android. Which means you can download the Tor Browser for Android from Google Play as well as from The Tor Project.
The Tor Browser for Android isn’t perfect. There are a list of bugs and missing features The Tor Project is working to overcome. However, Tor Browser 8.5 is considered the first stable release, which means it’s ready to be used by the general public.
We have got big news.
After months of work, Tor Browser is now stable on Android.
— The Tor Project (@torproject) May 21, 2019
The Tor Project launched Tor Browser for Android in alpha in September 2018. At the time the organization listed its ability to “block trackers,” “defend against surveillance,” “resist fingerprinting,” offer “multi-layered encryption,” and enable users to “browse freely”.
In case you are wondering, no, there is no official Tor Browser for iOS, and no plans to release one. The Tor Project claims this is “due to restrictions by Apple”. However, it recommends iOS users keen to browse anonymously use the Onion Browser instead.
Use Tor Before Visiting the Deep Web
It is important to remember that while using Tor makes it more difficult for authorities to track you, it doesn’t guarantee your anonymity and security. Tor also doesn’t change the legality of certain behaviors, so breaking the law is still breaking the law.
While the primary purpose of the Tor Browser is to enable people to browse the internet without being tracked, it also allows you to access the deep web.
Requirements for Tor to Use in Android
Before installing the three apps needed to get Tor up and running on your Android device, you need to first make sure it is rooted. Additionally, because the required apps are not found on the Google Play Store, you will need to make sure you enabled app installation from Unknown sources.
How to Get the Full Tor Experience for Android
Once you have root access, you will be able to download and install OrWall, Orbot, and Orweb to get the full Tor experience on your phone.
1. Install OrWall
Developed by Swiss privacy activist Cédric Jeanneret, OrWall is essentially a firewall for your Android that will force all of your apps (or just the ones you select) to use the Tor network to transmit all of their data. If an app is unable to use the Tor network to access the internet, then that data connection will be blocked.
After installing the APK, complete the set up wizard and reboot your Android to activate the background process. When you are back up, you can open the Apps section of OrWall to begin selecting which apps you would like to have use the Tor network.
2. Install Orbot
In its simplest form, Orbot, by the great people over at the Guardian Project, is the connector between your device and the Tor network. It facilitates the passage of data from your apps to the Tor network, but it can only do so with apps that support data being sent through a proxy. Because of that limitation, it’s necessary to have both Orbot and OrWall installed on your device, since OrWall will help with apps which do not have proxy support.
The first time you open the app, you will have to complete the set-up wizard, but afterwards, all you have to do is long-press the Power button in the center to activate Orbot. If at any time you want to change your Tor Identity to a different IP address, you can swipe across the main screen, which will come in handy if you don’t want to stray on the same IP address for too long.
3. Install Orweb
Last up we have the companion browser the developers over at the the Guardian Project created for Orbot, called Orweb. While Orbot creates the connection to Tor, Orweb is what actually lets you use it to surf the web.
Since your data will be bouncing around through the vast labyrinth of international Tor servers, it will feel like your connection has slowed down, but that this the price you must pay for anonymity. As an added bonus, Orweb can also bypass most network restrictions so you can finally get in some quality Reddit browsing even through your office’s firewall.
There is no setup required to begin using Orweb—just open the app and wait for the homepage to display a “success” message letting you know that it has been connected to the Tor network.
The Guardian Project has also been working on an improved version of Orweb named Orfox, which adds features like tabbed browsing and a way to properly request mobile versions of websites. However, Orfox is still in its early stages and not supported on Lollipop devices, but if you are still on KitKat, be sure to give it a try.
The Bottom Line
With these three apps, you will be able to keep most of your data secure. But if the dozens of security breaches and NSA scandals over the past few months have told us anything is that no one’s data is ever 100% secure online.
Hope this article helps you to protect your online privacy and staying safe. If you have any opinions or experiences, don’t hesitate to share with us in the comment section below.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)