PirateBrowser bypasses censorship imposed by governments, ISP’s, or firewalls

Want to browse the internet without being censored by your government, your ISP, or even your company firewall? ‘PirateBrowser’ may be what you need. Released by torrent indexing service ‘the Pirate Bay’, PirateBrowser is designed to give regular users access to censored content, but note that it is not designed to provide anonymous browsing and not designed to provide anonymous torrent downloads.

PirateBrowser is a portable implementation of the TOR network combined with a portable version of Firefox and the ‘FoxyProxy’ add-on. It cobbles together browser technology that has been freely available for a long time into one easy to use package, convenient in that (a) it is completely portable and can be carried around and launched only if and when you need it, and (b) unlike other implementations of TOR, it will leave your original Firefox install untouched, to be used as per normal when and if you want to use it.

PirateBrowser Screenshot1

There are probably many questions that user might want to know about this or other implementations of the TOR network, of which we will address four : (1) What is TOR? (2) How well does PirateBrowser work?, (3) can it provide anonymous torrent downloads?, and (4) can it circumvent the geo restrictions imposed by some services such as Spotify or Pandora?

(1) What is TOR: it is short for ‘The Onion Router’, and is, in a nutshell, a “free, worldwide volunteer network consisting of more than three thousand relays” (per Wikipedia). A request is routed through several successive points, chosen at random, and encrypted at each turn on its way both back and forth. This makes it extremely hard to trace and monitor the transactions that are taking place. TOR in theory can be implemented on top of any browser.

(2) How well does PirateBrowser work: the answer is yes, but make sure you know what it is intended to do; namely, to give you access to blocked sites, not provide anonymous browsing.

I tested this with my favorite VPN service (Tunnelbear), first by routing myself into a UK VPN, confirming that I could not access some torrent sites using my normal browser, and confirming that I was able to access those same sites using PirateBrowser.

Internet speed seems NOT to be affected. (See the ‘verdict’ section).

(3) can it provide anonymous torrent downloads? It won’t, and not in fact intended to do so, especially given that it doesn’t even deliver browsing anonymity. Moreover torrents do not use the same HTTP protocol that browsers do anyway.

But in this respect I have a question to readers at the end of the ‘verdict’ section below.

(4) can it circumvent the geo restrictions imposed by some services such as Spotify or Pandora? It cannot. Your geographic location will strangely be unchanged. A good way to think about it is that while PirateBrowser will let you browse and use sites that your government, ISP, or Firewall will prevent you from using, it will not let you access sites that themselves do not want you to access them (because of your geographic location, etc).

In any case if accessing geo-restricted sites is what you want,  you can try a free VPN or, simply use my favorite Chrome extension ‘Media Hint‘ for the purpose that does a great job.

The verdict:

Ask yourself: is there content that I want to access that I cannot access normally from my browser?

If the answer is yes, then PirateBrowser is a great way to go around this. As long as you know it is not designed for anonymous browsing.

It is recommended insofar as it is completely portable, so nothing is installed on your system, and can be launched only when needed. It will also not take over your Firefox install, as some TOR implementations do, and will let you use your ‘normal’ Firefox as normal.

If the answer is no (there is nothing that you would like to access that is being censored, but you would like anonymous browsing, downloading, geo-restricted access, etc.), then PirateBrowser is NOT FOR YOU.

There seems to be no speed penalty for using PirateBrowser. We tested PirateBrowser and a normal browser (Chrome) using a speed measuring resource (speedtest.net), and both were comparable. In fact, PirateBrowser strangely came in a little faster (probably by chance, but the measurement confirmed that there is no visible or significant speed penalty for using PirateBrowser).

Download PirateBrowser here.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Fletch

    Tor has it’s own bundled browser that does this as well. Not sure what the “pirate browser” has that the Tor bundle does not. https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

  • dadams

    Hello. I tried this in Korea. The sites that are blocked are still blocked with this browser. Not sure what to think. Maybe it’s something about the way the sites are blocked?

  • dadams

    The TOR browser loads some sites but when I try to play a video it says I need Adobe Flash installed. I already have Flash installed on my computer. How can I install flash into the TOR browser? Is there an extension I can use?

    • Fletch

      I believe that the reason Flash is not installed is that using the plugin can easily be tracked which renders using an encrypted browser pointless.

  • http://carbonize.co.uk/ Carbonize

    I know people that use this and still get blocked from the PirateBay by their ISP. Use the official TOR browser and give this a miss.

  • http://carbonize.co.uk/ Carbonize

    Oh and if you’re not noticing a speed hit then I’d say it’s not using the TOR network as you will always have a delay when going through TOR. I personally use TOR Browser but then use the latest Firefox instead of the old one that they supply.

  • Fletch

    Even if you use something like this, or encrypted email, don’t assume that your stuff can’t be read or tracked. According to a NYT article today, the NSA have broken a lot of the major encryptions or have access to the companies that provide it, behind the scenes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/us/nsa-foils-much-internet-encryption.html?hp&_r=0

  • SamerKurdi

    Thanks, folks, for all of your feedback. Here’s a summary of sorts:

    - TOR Browser aims to provide anonymous browsing, while PirateBrowser does not

    - PirateBrowser aims only to unlock censored content, but it isn’t always successful, as reader dadams attests. I’ve read confirmations of this elsewhere, that in some parts of Asia it doesn’t seem to work.

    - PirateBrowser does not seem to suffer a speed penalty, which is probably because it doesn’t provide anonymous browsing. Something to think about when choosing between PirateBrowser and Tor Browser.

    - TOR Browser doesn’t come with flash, which makes browsing many sites impossible, esp video sites and the like. You can add flash to TOR Browser, but in doing so you are likely compromising anonymous browsing.

    • http://carbonize.co.uk/ Carbonize

      You don’t have to use the browser that comes with TOR browser though. I personally just start up the program and once it’s connected I change the proxy settings in my Firefox and use that to browse. This way I get the anonymity of TOR but with all the stuff I need in my web browser.

  • Fletch

    Another new article today from Gizmodo saying that the NSA can probably break the Tor encryption.

    http://gizmodo.com/the-nsa-can-probably-break-tors-encryption-keys-1273299782

    Still, I suppose it is better to have it than not? Maybe?