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A few questions from an internet novice

Submitted by BrowseDuringClass1917 in freeAsInFreedom (edited )

I've been reading the basic security guide that's posted here and as somebody who doesn't know much about computer things (Just recently learned how to download wow mods) I'm a bit confused.

  1. It says that Searx has multiple instances available, including a Tor Hidden Service. What does that mean, is searx a way to reach the same information as Tor or does it mean that you can use searx through Tor?

  2. Does using a VPN+Tor increase security at all? I was reading an article that said if you use the VPN to enter Tor it will leave your exit nodes insecure, is this the same as normal Tor or does the added VPN create that vulnerability?

  3. Browser plugins don't have any effect on Tor, right?

Edit: Since I can't find a straight answer for this online, can I download a pdf off Tor without revealing my IP and all that jazz?

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quandyalaterreux wrote

It says that Searx has multiple instances available, including a Tor Hidden Service. What does that mean, is searx a way to reach the same information as Tor or does it mean that you can use searx through Tor?

It means that some searx instances have a Tor onion site of the form "stuff.onion" that can only be accessed using Tor.

Does using a VPN+Tor increase security at all? I was reading an article that said if you use the VPN to enter Tor it will leave your exit nodes insecure, is this the same as normal Tor or does the added VPN create that vulnerability?

Please read this: https://matt.traudt.xyz/posts/vpn-tor-not-mRikAa4h.html

Browser plugins don't have any effect on Tor, right?

They can mess up your anonymity.

Edit: Since I can't find a straight answer for this online, can I download a pdf off Tor without revealing my IP and all that jazz?

If you're opening the pdf in the Tor Browser, then it's probably safe (I say probably because there's always the possibility of a bug).

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BrowseDuringClass1917 wrote

Thank you for answering all my questions!

One more though, when I open the pdf in Tor and I download it to my computer am I totally safe? Should I just take the text from the pdf and put it on an offline document? Sorry this probably seems obvious to you.

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jadedctrl wrote (edited )

That depends on your PDF reader— some of them phone home with metadata (like what you're reading, your IP, potentially more), like Adobe Reader (uck).
And some PDFs have Javascript in them, which definitely can phone home to basically anyone.

Don't sweat it, though— AFAIK, no libre/open PDF viewers currently support the Javascript engine, nor do they phone home. :)

EDIT:
GNOME Evince doesn't support JS, neither does xpdf.
KDE Okular does support JS, though-- so before using it, make sure the JS engine can be disabled, otherwise don't use it.

You're safe if you use xpdf or GNOME Evince, for sure.
If you wanna use a different PDF reader, make sure to research if it has a JS engine (and, if it does, whether or not it can be disabled).

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ziq wrote

multiple instances available

That means each instance is on a different server with a different url so if one goes down the others remain.