How to browse the web anonymously with Google Chrome

Collecting your online activities is a lucrative business for someone else in today's Internet economy. As I speak, your VoIP traffic might be monitored by a secretive surveillance program in the name of national security. For whatever reason, you may want to conduct online business confidentially without being monitored by random eavesdroppers. To protect your online privacy from all these potential adversaries, what you want is "online anonymity".

That's what Tor is about, which is a free software that enables you to completely hide your online communication via a large-scale anonymity network. Tor can be used for web browsers, VoIP, instant messaging, remote logins, etc.

In this tutorial, I will describe how to set up Tor so that you can browse the web anonymously inside Google Chrome.

First of all, don't get confused between "anonymous" browsing and "incognito"/"private" browsing natively supported by Google Chrome. The "incognito" browsing means that your browsing history (including cookies) is not recorded by web browser. Your online communication is still visible by external observers such as web servers and eavesdroppers.

Install Tor on Linux

Tor is available as packages in the native repositories of major Linux distros. However, it is not recommended to use those packages since they might not be patched with the latest stability and security fixes. Instead, use Tor's official package repository to install it.

To install Tor on Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint, use the following commands.

$ sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org $(lsb_release -sc) main"
$ gpg --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --recv 886DDD89
$ gpg --export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install deb.torproject.org-keyring
$ sudo apt-get install tor

Once installed, Tor will be set to auto-start upon boot.

To start Tor for the first time:

$ sudo service tor start

To install Tor on Fedora, CentOS or RHEL 6, first add the official yum repository information. In the repository configuration, replace "DISTRIBUTION" with "el/6" (for CentOS/RHEL 6), "fc/18" (for Fedora 18), or "fc/19" (for Fedora 19).

$ sudo vi /etc/yum.repos.d/tor.repo
[tor]
name=Tor experimental repo
enabled=1
baseurl=http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org/rpm/DISTRIBUTION/$basearch/
gpgcheck=1
gpgkey=http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org/rpm/RPM-GPG-KEY-torproject.org.asc

[tor-source]
name=Tor experimental source repo
enabled=1
autorefresh=0
baseurl=http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org/rpm/DISTRIBUTION/SRPMS
gpgcheck=1
gpgkey=http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org/rpm/RPM-GPG-KEY-torproject.org.asc

After that, run the following commands to install Tor, and launch it. Optionally, set it to auto-start upon boot.

$ sudo yum install tor
$ sudo service tor start
$ sudo chkconfig tor on

Check if Tor is Running on Linux

First, check the daemon status of Tor:

$ sudo service tor status
 * tor is running

Then check the default port number of Tor, and verify that Tor daemon is listening on that port.

$ cat /etc/tor/tor-tsocks.conf
server = 127.0.0.1
server_port = 9050
$ sudo netstat -nap | grep 9050
tcp        0      0 127.0.0.1:9050          0.0.0.0:*               LISTEN      12389/tor       

Install and Configure Chrome Extension

To create Tor on/off button in Google Chrome, install Proxy SwitchySharp extension in Google Chrome.

Next, open up Options of Proxy SwitchySharp. Under "Proxy Profiles" tab, create a new profile called "tor", and add the following manual configuration.

  • SOCKS Host: 127.0.0.1
  • Port: 9050 (which is the Tor port number that you found earlier)

Under "General" tab, click on "Quick Switch" checkbox, and populate "Cycled Profiles" area with "Direct Connection" and "tor" options. That way, if you click on SwitchySharp icon multiple times, each of those two settings will be enabled in a rotated fashion. Don't forget to save the change.

When you click on SwitchySharp icon on the top right corner of Google Chrome, and the icon stays highlighted, this implies that you are using Tor.

To verify that you are indeed connected to the Tor network, go to https://check.torproject.org. You will see the following screen if you are on the Tor network. To switch off Tor, simply click on SwitchySharp icon again to make it grayed out.

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6 thoughts on “How to browse the web anonymously with Google Chrome

  1. Anonymous and Google Chrome? Are you sure that proprietary browser even in incognoto mode makes you anonymous after you put it in tor proxy? Better use Firefox.

  2. Considering that Tor has largely been funded by US intelligence and security organs and the number of exit nodes that are in northern Virginia, I'm not sure that Tor is the best choice for protection from government surveillance...

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