Need Security & Privacy? Check out Vidalia & Tor!
September 10th, 2007
The Internet is a great resource for performing all sorts of tasks. Part of this success is due to the open nature of the many standards and protocols that make the Internet work, allowing information to travel from your computer to a remote computer. Unfortunately, for those who require security and privacy, the basic protocols of the Internet, which can reveal the path and frequency of who you communicate with, are not be sufficient to protect you.
Fortunately, a group concerned with Internet security and privacy has created the Tor network, a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. The good news is that the Tor network already exists, you just need a suitable client to access it. Enter Vidalia...
Vidalia for Mac is a Tor package offered in different forms, one being a bundle that includes three different programs. The bundle includes a Tor client, the Vidalia GUI, and the Privoxy filtering web proxy. Once you've downloaded the package and installed everything, you'll want to run the Vidalia Control Panel to check things out.
Vidalia Control Panel
Before you start configuring your applications to work with Tor, and after starting the Vidalia Control Panel, select View the Network, so you can get an idea of the scope of the Tor network. The Tor Network Map shows all of the participating servers, the country they are located in, and their relative bandwidth, if available. And here lies the power of Tor; rather than sending your traffic to your ISP's router, to intermediate routers, and to the final router and server you'd like to reach, Tor uses a path through the Tor network so that your traffic isn't so easily identified and profiled. Just remember that this is a technology, and is neither good nor evil; it depends on how you use it.
Tor Network Map
One of the first applications that you may want to try with Tor is a browser. Fortunately, there's a Firefox Add-On called Torbutton that will let you enable or disable the use of Tor for surfing the Internet. Once enabled, you can try to access TorCheck to see if you're using Tor for your web surfind. After this, you should check out the Tor Documentation for OS X to review how to configure your other Mac applications to work with the Tor network.
So start protecting your communications, and give Tor a try today! Have any other Gadgets that help protect you? Send an email to John and he'll check it out.
John is a software engineer who works in the corporate R&D group of a Fortune 500 company, focusing on all aspects of communications technology. He has several degrees that claim he knows what he's doing when it comes to computers. After watching co-workers reinstall Windows, search for device drivers, and experience other horrors during the day, he's glad that he comes home to a Mac (compatible) computer. Have any comments, suggestions, or favorite Gadgets? Drop John a line!
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