How to Use Orbot for Tor Privacy on Android

by Tracy Knauer •

Orbot is a simple and handy way to browse anonymously on Android mobile devices through Tor without even having to “root” your tablet or smartphone. Here’s an overview of the app.

Orbot is an official, open source app from the Tor project that extends Tor functionality to Android. Its full source code is available online, which helps provide assurance against malware or other nefarious features.

Orbot can be installed like any other basic Android app from repositories hosted by either the Guardian Project or Google Play. To ensure you’re getting a legitimate, malware-free copy of the program, though, you should make sure to install using the instructions on the project’s website.

That’s especially important because Orbot has been used as a vector for executing malicious software in the past — not because of deliberate flaws in the app itself but because botnet hackers found a way to exploit it in order to control users’ devices. Obtaining an official, up-to-date version of Orbot from a trusted repository will help protect against malware threats.

Older Android devices — specifically those running Android 1.x — used Orbot in conjunction with a special Tor browser for Android called Orweb. On newer Android platforms, however, users can simply use a standard browser like Firefox and configure it to route traffic through Orbot for Tor privacy.

The easiest way to use Orbot on Android 2.x and later devices is to root them, which provides access to low-level operating system features that are blocked in standard Android installations. (Specific instructions for rooting vary by device type and Android version; Google should be able to point you in the right direction for your setup.) On a rooted Android device, Orbot can automatically route traffic through Tor either on a device-wide basis or only for specific apps.

If you can’t or don’t want to root your phone or tablet, you can still use Orbot. In that case, however, you’ll need to configure specific applications manually to interface with Tor via Orbot using a SOCKS or HTTP proxy. (Orbot supports both.) If you don’t know what that means, you’re probably best off rooting the device. But if you only need to use Tor with one or two specific Android apps, setting proxy configurations manually may work well enough for you.

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