Tor Browser 4.5 Introduces Security Slider and Improvements

I’ve never checked out the Tor browser before, but it does sound kind of interesting.

The Tor Browser Team has released Tor version 4.5 for all supported operating systems. The update is considered significant which is why automatic updates have been delayed for a week. Tor users running an older version of the browser can download the most recent build from the official project page.

Here is a short introduction to Tor in case you have never come into contact with it. Tor Browser is a hardened customized version of Firefox that uses the Tor network to protect your privacy on the Internet.

The browser ships with Tor integrated (and security add-ons such as NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere) which means that you only need to download and run it to stay anonymous in the Internet and improve security and privacy in the process.

tor browser 4.5

A new feature of Tor Browser 4.5 is the security slider which you access with a click on the Tor icon and the selection of privacy and security settings from the menu that opens up.

There you find a slider to adjust the general security level of the browser. The default level is set to low which ensures compatibility with most sites and technology.

tor security slider

If you switch it to medium-low instead, changes are made to the browser. Here is a list of what each level changes:

  • High – JavaScript is disabled on all sites by default, some types of images are disabled.
  • Medium-High – All JavaScript performance optimizations are disabled, some font rendering features are disabled, JavaScript is disabled on all non-HTTPS sites by default.
  • Medium-Low – HTML5 video and audio are click-to-play, some JavaScript performance optimizations are disabled, remote JAR files are blocked and some methods to display math equations are disabled.
  • Low (default) – All browser features are enabled.

Compatibility drops and security rises with each security level. The settings display privacy related options as well which are all enabled by default.

Browsing history and data is not recorded which means Tor Browser runs private browsing mode permanently unless the feature is disabled. Furthermore, plugins are disabled and third-party cookies restricted.

The Tor menu itself has been improved as well. It displays information about the active Tor circuit and an option to change the circuit with a single click.

The circuit refers to the servers your traffic is routed through on its way to the website or application you open in the Tor Browser.

tor circuit

Overall circuit handling was improved in this release. Was it previously sometimes the case that circuit information changed suddenly, and with it information about your location and language among other things, it is now the case that the same circuit will be used while a site is active in the browser.

Additional security and privacy improvements are introduced in Tor Browser 4.5. Here is a short list:

  1. SharedWorker API has been disabled to prevent cross-site and third-party communication.
  2. Device sensor and video statistics APIs have been disabled.
  3. Rewrite of obfs2, obfs3 and ScrambleSuit transports and introduction of obfs4 transport which comes with additional DPI and probing resistance features.
  4. Windows packages are signed by DigiCert.
  5. Automatic updates are signed with an offline signing key now.
  6. Default search provider changed to Disconnect.

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