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Security

CIA sets up shop on the anonymous, encrypted Tor network

You can access the agency's "onion site" to send tips and apply to be an operative.

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CIA

With our personal data at risk on a regular basis -- from Facebook to Russia to Aibo the robot dog -- an increasing number of organizations are taking refuge on the anonymous, encrypted Tor network. That now includes the CIA, which on Tuesday announced a new "onion" version of its website for the network.  

Tor, short for "The Onion Router," anonymizes Internet traffic by routing it through an international network of relays that mask a user's location and usage. This makes it difficult for individuals, companies and governments to track your activity online. But accessing the Tor network requires tools that aren't as user-friendly as mainstream web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

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James Martin/CNET

The CIA's global mission requires that "individuals can access us securely from anywhere," the intelligence agency said in a press release. "Creating an onion site is just one of many ways we're going where people are." 

The onion site (Tor address) features secure links for reporting information and applying for a job, and will mirror all of the content currently available at www.cia.gov. 

Many tech companies, even those accused of stepping over the line when it comes to tracking users, have promised to bring out their own privacy-enabling tools. Google is expected to announce later today that users of its Chrome browser will soon get greater insight into and control over websites that use cookies to track them. 

Brave, cofounded by former Firefox leader Brendan Eich, has developed a browser that blocks ads and trackers by default. (Brave has incorporated some components of the Tor Project's network identity-hiding technology into its browser.) Firefox is testing a new version of its browser that will give users the option to cut off tracking technology. And Cloudflare has announced a new VPN that hides web traffic on phones.

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