More and more, security and privacy are becoming important factors for users looking to choose a web browser. While most major browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Edge will allow users to limit the amount of data that is shared and what traces are left from browsing, that isn’t the default behavior. For those wanting a more private browsing experience with the addition of relative anonymity, Tor Browser has become one of the most popular alternatives out there.
I’m not that familiar with the internal workings of the Tor Browser but I’ve seen a lot of users wanting to install it on their Chromebooks. So, I’ve done a little research on how the Tor Browser works and why you’d want to use it and threw together a quick tutorial on how to install it on a Linux-enabled Chromebook. First, we’ll cover what Tor is not. The Tor Browser does NOT block ads like browsers such as Brave. The Tor Browser will protect your personal data, browsing history and behavior which will eliminate curated advertising but you will still see ads on websites.
The Tor Browser anonymizes user traffic with a network of circuits that sends as receives encrypted data that essentially hides the source IP. Tor also deletes all site data and cookies when the browser is closed and users can customize how much if any personal data can be utilized by the browser and websites that are accessed. Combined with a VPN like NordVPN, the Tor Browser is a powerful tool to help users stay completely anonymous online. There’s a lot more to the Tor Browser than I care to cover here but Tom’s Guide has a great breakdown of how Tor works and even how you can host a Tor relay to help expand the entire network.
While Tor may have gained popularity with some of the darker corners of the web, it’s equally useful for those who are simply concerned about privacy. As a matter of fact, an increasing number of government agencies are using Tor to assist in victim advocacy as the nature of the browser makes cyber-stalking quite difficult. Anyway, we’re here to figure out how to install the Tor Browser on a Chromebook. So, let’s get started.
This may be beating a dead horse but I never want to assume that someone reading this has already setup Linux on their Chromebook. If you are new to installing Linux (Beta) on Chrome OS, you can find the quick and simple setup guide here. Now, the Tor Browser doesn’t live in the main Buster repository but that’s okay. Where there’s a will, there is a way and I have a way. You can technically install Tor using the tarball but it gets a little tricky once it’s unpacked. The method we’re going to use today only requires four commands in the terminal and then, you’ll be up and running.
First, we will have to add the repository that contains the Tor Browser. For this, we’re going to add the Buster backports. What’s a backport? Essentially, Debian backports are packages taken from the next release of the distro. Chrome OS users Debian 10 a.k.a. Buster. The next release, Debian 11, is named Bullseye. The backport for Buster comes from Bullseye. You can add the backports by editing the sources.list with a text editor but the easiest way is to run the following command.
echo "deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian buster-backports main contrib" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/backports.list
Next, we will update the packages and install the Tor Browser. You can do this as two separate commands or in one single line. For our purposes, I will list the single line that will perform both functions. Paste the following into the terminal and hit enter.
sudo apt update && sudo apt install torbrowser-launcher -t buster-backports -y
All we have to do now is launch Tor and go through the initial setup. Once you’ve done this, you will find the desktop icon in your app launcher. Start Tor from the terminal with the following command. If you’re a Firefox user, Tor may feel a bit familiar to you as it is built off of the same engine.
Note: If you want to remove the backports after installation, run this command in the terminal.
sudo rm /etc/apt/sources.list.d/backports.list
This is another great example of how the addition of Linux apps has exponentially increased the capability of Chrome OS and in turn, opened the door to a wide range of new users. I know I’ve said it before but I love tinkering with Crostini. If you have an app you’d like me to test out, drop a comment or shoot us an email. I find a lot of these applications by simply poking around the web and looking at what users are trying to do on their Chromebooks. It’s awesome to find ways to install and use these apps so users can get the most out of their devices.