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The Tor Project says that you cannot run the full version of the anonymized Tor Browser on a Chromebook. But, by using the Linux subsystem of your Chromebook, you can install and use it very easily. That is how.
What is Thor?
The Tor Project has created a free and anonymous computer network that anyone can use to maintain their privacy online. The Tor network uses the regular infrastructure of the Internet along with its own overlay network of volunteer-provided Tor nodes. These do the routing for Tor network traffic. They encrypt your traffic and use other tricks to make tracing back and identifying your IP address difficult to the point of almost impossible.
Tor Browser allows you to access websites on the Tor network, as well as the regular web, which is known as the clear web. In both cases, your network traffic is routed through the Tor network. But remember that your traffic has to go outside the coverage of the Tor network to reach the website you want to visit. If the website uses the HTTPS protocol, your connection will remain encrypted and will be inaccessible to others. If the website uses the older HTTP protocol, your traffic will not be secure. Using a virtual private network (VPN) provides protection for the last step of the connection and is highly recommended.
However, the main purpose of Tor Browser is not clear web browsing. In fact, it would make your connection seem a bit slow and degrade your user experience. Its real purpose is to visit sites on the Tor network itself, which are called onion sites. These have a “.onion” extension and cannot be accessed with a normal browser.
The Tor network is a darknet and a part of the dark web. There is a lot of horrible content on the dark web. You should only visit the dark web if you have a good or compelling reason to do so. And there are many valid reasons: the dark web is not all bad.
In some repressive regimes, Tor is the only way to access clear web websites that have been banned in those countries. Most major newspapers maintain an onion site on the Tor network so that anonymous sources can submit stories and leads while remaining anonymous.
How can you run Tor on Chromebooks?
The Tor website says that there is no official Tor client for ChromeOS. There is a Tor app for Android, and since Chromebooks can run Android apps, you can use it on your Chromebook. However, it is not ideal. The websites you visit think you are on a mobile device (such as a smartphone). The version of the website you will see is the responsive one. They are designed for small screens in portrait mode.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to install a genuine Tor browser on your Chromebook. It uses the Linux subsystem for ChromeOS. If you haven’t activated Linux on your Chromebook, you’ll need to do so first.
The Linux subsystem may not be available on older Chromebook models. If the settings described in the next section don’t appear in ChromeOS settings, then you’re sadly out of luck.
Turning on the ChromeOS Linux subsystem
First, you’ll need to activate the Linux subsystem of Chrome OS.
Click the notification area (system tray) to open the Settings menu and click the gear icon.
On the Settings page, type “linux” in the search bar.
Click the “Enable” button next to the “Linux Development Environment (Beta)” entry.
A confirmation window will appear to inform you that a download is about to take place.
Click the “Next” button to go to the next page.
Enter a username and leave the disk size option at the default setting. Click the “Install” button to start the installation process. This will take a few minutes. When the setup is complete, you will see the Linux terminal window and a command prompt with a blinking cursor.
Note that the command prompt includes the username you chose earlier. In this example, it was “Dave.”
To find out a bit about the Linux environment we’re running in, type this command and then hit the “Enter” key. You will need to press the “Enter” key every time you enter a command in the terminal window.
cat / etc / os-release
We are shown some interesting information. Most importantly, we now know what version of Linux this subsystem is based on. It is DebianLinux. Debian uses the APT software installation system, or “package manager,” in Linux parlance.
We will use APT to install the Tor browser.
Tor Browser Installation
Copy and paste the following line into the terminal window. Note that if you’re using the keyboard to paste into the terminal window, the keystrokes are “Ctrl + Shift + V”, not “Ctrl + V”.
When we tell the APT system to install a package for us, it looks in various locations to try to find the package. This command configures an additional location for APT to search.
echo "deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian buster-backports main contrib" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/backports.list
Now, we will tell our Linux subsystem to check for updates.
actualización de sudo apt
When that command completes, we’ll install the Tor Browser launcher. Cut and paste this command into the Linux terminal window and then press “Enter”.
sudo apt install torbrowser-launcher -t buster-backports -y
You’ll see a large number of scrolling results and a text-based progress bar at the bottom of the window. You may be prompted to confirm that you are sure you want to install the launcher. If prompted, press “Y” and press “Enter.”
When the installation is complete, we can start the Tor Browser launcher.
What we have installed is a small program that downloads the Tor Browser installation files, verifies the integrity of the download with signatures and checksums, and if all is well, installs it for us.
Wait for the files to download and install.
A connection dialog will appear. Click the “Connect” button.
Wait while another progress bar slowly slides to 100%.
Then, at last, the Tor browser will appear.
You’ll probably find it convenient to add Tor Browser to your pinned apps on your shelf. Right-click the Tor Browser icon on your shelf and select “Pin” from the context menu.
To launch Tor Browser in the future, simply click the icon on your shelf.
There will be a short delay while it gets set up and configured, and then the Tor Browser will start.
Make Tor more secure on Chrome OS
Let’s increase the security level of the browser. Click the three-line menu icon at the top right of the browser window.
In the menu, select “Preferences”.
When the settings window appears, click on “Privacy and security” in the list of options on the left side of the screen. If you have your browser window set to a narrow width, the option is replaced with a lock icon. Set the “Security Level” to the “Most Secure” setting.
Now that you have Tor Browser configured, you are ready to visit the onion sites. But where are they? Well, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. If you know why you need to be on the dark web, you need to know where you need to go.
The dark web has no equivalent to Google. At the very least, there is nothing you can trust that won’t direct you to fake sites and endless scams. So you can’t just search for a topic and get a list of links to different sites. This is not the clear web.
But the only way to prove that your Tor browser is working properly is to visit some onion sites. So here are some insurances.
- DuckDuckGo : the privacy-focused search engine. This still only searches the clear web, of course. Find it at https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/
- INC : the onion site of the Central Intelligence Agency. It’s at http://ciadotgov4sjwlzihbbgxnqg3xiyrg7so2r2o3lt5wz5ypk4sxyjstad.onion/index.html/
- New York Times : The New York Times maintains several sites on onions. This site provides its news to anyone who can access it, even from regions where outside news is prohibited: https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/
For maximum security, use Tor Browser with a VPN (ExpressVPN is our favorite) and only access the dark web with a specific purpose in mind. Casual tourism does not count.