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How to Use Tor on Apple iOS Devices via the Onion Browser

by Tracy Knauer •

iPhone and iPad users have fewer tools than their Android-touting counterparts for staying private online. But it’s not completely impossible to be anonymous and beat censorship on Apple iOS. Here’s how to gain some privacy using the Onion Browser.

The Onion Browser, which is available for $0.99 in the Apple App Store, is a minimalist Web browser for iPhones that routes all traffic through Tor. That prevents websites from identifying visitors’ real IP addresses. It also allows users to circumvent Internet censorship policies by visiting sites that are blocked in their locations.

The app requires iPhones to be “jailbroken,” which allows users to modify parts of the system or install software that Apple restricts by default.

On iPhones, the Onion Browser is one of the only ways to use Tor, which makes it a vital tool for maintaining privacy if you have to use an iPhone. That said, the app’s developer is quick to note that the tool has some limitations, including:

  • It only routes traffic from within the browser through Tor. Other apps on your iPhone don’t gain Tor protection.
  • The Onion Browser, like most browsers, is subject to DNS leaking under certain circumstances. As a result, websites may be able to identify you even if you access them through the app.
  • While the app attempts to block certain HTML5 features that allow websites to identify users’ location, that blocking may not work flawlessly.
  • Some session data, which sites could use to track users, may be preserved between browsing sessions unless users create a “new identity” each time they use the Onion Browser. (The app provides a button for creating new identities.

Generally speaking, devices that run Android, which has much broader support for Tor than iOS, are a better option than Apple iPhones and iPads if you want to browse anonymously and privately. But if you really need to use iOS, the Onion Browser provides a fair amount of Tor protection.

Comments 1

  1. I find this post confusing. It says it’s available on the app store, but that it requires jailbreaking, that doesn’t make sense. It does appear it’s fully functioning on the app store (without jailbreaking), and those packaged for alternative app stores (cydia) use the open source code but are not endorsed by the developer (and could potentially have altered code).

    Regardless, thank you for bringing attention to an alternative. I have used the very similar Red Onion Browser on iOS with good success, though I can make no expert claims about it’s efficacy.

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