Tor Browser v8.5 Brings UX Improvements, Stable Android Version

Tor Browser on Android. (Image credit: Tor Project)

The Tor Project announced version 8.5 of its browser, which comes with new features that improve usability, as well as the first stable version for Android.

Tor Browser 8.5 Desktop Improvements

The new desktop version of the Tor browser, based on Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) v60.7, brings the new Firefox Photon UI as well as redesigned logos. Another usability feature includes an improved security slider, that should make it more intuitive to switch between the Tor browser’s security levels, from Standard to Safest.

Other improvements include a series of security patches, including one that disables Intel Hyper-Threading (HT) on macOS. As we know, both Google and Apple have made it clear that to make mitigations against the Intel MDS flaws effective you also need to disable HT. Intel itself has advised it, but only for “select customers” who really care about security.

In the Tor’s browsers’ case, it makes sense to maximize the security of the user over just about anything else, including an up to 40% loss in performance due to the disabling of HT.

First Stable Tor Browser for Android

For the first time, a stable version of the Tor Browser has also arrived on Android. Tor was previously available on Android only through other apps or browsers, but you can now use the official Tor browser from the Tor Project. 

The group behind the Tor browser believes that browsing is increasingly mobile, and many of the Tor browser users now need to be able to use the browser on their mobile devices, too. According to the group, users will enjoy the same protections they get on the desktop variant, including making sure there are no proxy bypasses, first-party isolation that blocks cross-site tracking, and other anti-fingerprinting defenses.

The Tor browser will continue to be missing from the iOS platform for the foreseeable future, as Apple continues to restrict all third-party browsers from using anything but the company’s Webkit rendering engine as well as the firm’s JavaScript engine. In other words, the Tor browser would need to be re-developed on top of Safari for the iOs platform. Even if the Tor Project would be willing to do that, it just doesn’t have the necessary resources for such an overhaul and for maintaining two wildly different versions of Tor.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • digitalgriffin
    I will warn anyone that is in the USA, even looking up TOR or Tails, will put you on a list by US security agencies to be looked at closer. TOR is also not fail proof. If a server of a website you visit is compromised (applies javascript exploits), or too many nodes taken over by a security agency, then you are at risk for being uncovered. They can also do pattern matching and elimination even though the traffic is encrypted and packet sizes altered. There are other methods of fingerprinting as well.

    In other words, don't do something stupid, thinking you are protected behind encrypted traffic.

    TOR is best used by dissidents in countries where they feel their free speech or being repressed, or someone who feels that information they share is too private. (ie: Rape victims, reporters & sources whom fear reprisal.)