Hacktivismo, a well-known group of human-rights advocates and computer security experts, this week officially released a Firefox-based browser designed to allow anonymous Web surfing.
The browser, called Torpark, is a modified version of Portable Firefox, and can be run directly from a USB drive, meaning it can be used on public terminals in cybercafés. The browser creates an encrypted connection to the TOR (The Onion Router) network, which supplies a succession of different IP addresses. The browser is available here.
“Torpark causes the IP address seen by the Web site to change every few minutes, to frustrate eavesdropping and mask the requesting source,” said Hacktivismo in a statement. For example, a user could be in London and Web sites would see an IP address from a university in Germany, or other addresses belonging to the TOR network.
The browser is the work of Hacktivismo, which operates under the aegis of the influential hacking group the Cult of the Dead Cow. Developers said the browser is different from other anonymous browsers, such as Anonymizer or SecretSurfer, in that it doesn’t cost anything and is small and portable.
The Torpark browser uses encryption to send data over The Onion Router, a worldwide network of servers nicknamed “Tor” set up to transfer data to one another in a random, obscure fashion.
Internet traffic, such as Web site requests, carries information on where it came from and where it’s going. But that’s muddled using Tor, which has been endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and is hard to trace back to a source.
One minor downside is that surfing with Torpark is slower than with a typical browser over the same connection.
Torpark cautions that data sent from the last Tor server to the Web site is unencrypted. Since only the user’s connection is anonymous, Torpark advises that sensitive data such as username and passwords should only be used when the browser displays a golden padlock, a sign that a Web site is using encryption.
Not everyone needs anonymous browsing but for those that do, Torpark is an excellent option.