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Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. The name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name "The Onion Router". Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to the user: this includes "visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms". Tor's intended use is to protect the personal privacy of its users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities from being monitored.
Tor does not prevent an online service from determining when it is being accessed through Tor. Tor protects a user's privacy, but does not hide the fact that someone is using Tor. Some websites restrict allowances through Tor. For example, the MediaWiki TorBlock extension automatically restricts edits made through Tor, although Wikipedia allows some limited editing in exceptional circumstances.Onion routing is implemented by encryption in the application layer of a communication protocol stack, nested like the layers of an onion. Tor encrypts the data, including the next node destination IP address, multiple times and sends it through a virtual circuit comprising successive, random-selection Tor relays. Each relay decrypts a layer of encryption to reveal the next relay in the circuit to pass the remaining encrypted data on to it. The final relay decrypts the innermost layer of encryption and sends the original data to its destination without revealing or knowing the source IP address. Because the routing of the communication is partly concealed at every hop in the Tor circuit, this method eliminates any single point at which the communicating peers can be determined through network surveillance that relies upon knowing its source and destination.An adversary may try to de-anonymize the user by some means. One way this may be achieved is by exploiting vulnerable software on the user's computer. The NSA had a technique that targets a vulnerability – which they codenamed "EgotisticalGiraffe" – in an outdated Firefox browser version at one time bundled with the Tor package and, in general, targets Tor users for close monitoring under its XKeyscore program. Attacks against Tor are an active area of academic research which is welcomed by the Tor Project itself. The bulk of the funding for Tor's development has come from the federal government of the United States, initially through the Office of Naval Research and DARPA.

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