Surf the internet anonymously with Vidalia

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Vidalia is a GUI for Tor, the free onion-router implementation that can provide anonymous internet communication.

This program resides in the system tray and provides quick, 1-click anonymous internet access.

It allows you to start and stop Tor, view it’s status and bandwidth usage, and even setup your own Tor server if you want that can contribute to the anonymous network.

If you’re not familiar with Tor, it is an “onion router” program that can provide some degree of internet anonymity through a worldwide network of interconnected servers that employ the technology (the “onion” metaphor refers to the use of a set of encrypted layers to get the anonymity).

What Vidalia does is (a) make it really easy to use Tor straight from your system tray, and (b) install all the tools that you need to get anonymous internet access in one or two clicks (Tor, Privoxy, and TorButton for Firefox). Here are some notes on this program:

  • Installation: the full Vidalia setup will also install Tor, Privoxy, and TorButton, which are all the tools that you will need.
  • Setup: if you are using Firefox you will simply be able to turn Tor off and on using TorButton (click or right-click the bottom right corner in Firefox to access). You will have to configure Internet Explorer and other applications manually (say, a P2P app, Torrent client, or download manager). See here for how to do this (jump to step two: “To torrify other applications that support HTTP proxies ….”).
  • Vidalia network map screenshotThe Tor Network map: a cool feature of Vidalia where you can observe the geographic location of servers on the Tor network on a world map, including where your own traffic is going.
  • Will Tor/Vidalia provide anonymous and secure surfing: anonymous yes, but not secure. While Tor can provide a degree of anonymity, it is not encrypted and therefore not 100% safe. Tor is best used to withhold/disguise your IP address (for example, to work around cases where access from your country is blocked). However, your transmitted data can in theory be intercepted. If you are trying to use Tor to, say, download copyrighted material it is apparently not a 100% foolproof disguise of your identity. More info on Tor vulnerabilities here.
  • Surfing speed: once you activate Tor and surf anonymously you are likely to experience slower surfing speeds than normal. This is largely inevitable, although depending on which servers your traffic is going through can be variable.
  • Memory use: 40 megs total: 20 megs for Vidalia, 15 for Tor, and 5 megs for Privoxy. On the other hand, you only need run it when you need it.

The verdict: this is a very nice app with a straightforward, clean interface and works really well. Insofar as it provides 1-click anonymous internet access this is simply great app and highly recommended.

Version Tested: 0.0.16

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux. Vidalia requires Tor 0.1.2.x or later. If you’re installing the Windows or Mac OS X bundle, then the latest version of Tor is already included

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 6.38 megs).