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Can someone explain to me (in layman terms if possible) what sending tor the signal NEWNYM does?

I have read in several blogs that it should improve performance and/or improve anonymity but I could not find any easy explanation on how/why it helps achieve anything. I know it does "flush circuits" and make applications build "clean circuits", but this is not really helpful information as I don't understand the benefits of that. If someone could help me out there, I'd appreciate it.

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according to the manual (that I just read for the first time) it gives you a new “circuit”. [so that no association can be made between what you did before, and what you did after. So if you leaked your identity, then called newnym, then what ever you do next can't (easily) be traced back to you.] –  richard Sep 13 '12 at 13:31
New circuit meaning new connections will go through another set on nodes or...? –  Silvia Sep 13 '12 at 15:05

2 Answers 2

From HOWTO use the Internet anonymously using Tor and Privoxy

"signal newnym" will make Tor switch to clean circuits, so new application requests don't share any circuits with old ones.

I would take this to mean that it basically establishes a new "clean" pathway through the Tor network. Essentially you would do this so that the previous set of proxies you were using do not see the "to/from" points of your new connections.

I would assume that any current connections would continue to use the old pathways though so anyone "snooping" would know that the old connection still existed but would not know of the new path.

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The signal NEWNYM sent from a controller to tor.exe is a switch to clean circuits, so new application requests don't share any circuits with old ones. Also clears the client-side DNS cache. In other words, NEWNYM means new identity for the TOR client. For TOR relays this signal have no effect.

If Tor chose to ignore a signal (such as NEWNYM), this event will not be sent. Note that some options (like ReloadTorrcOnSIGHUP) may affect the semantics of the signals here.

Note that the HALT (SIGTERM) and SHUTDOWN (SIGINT) signals do not currently generate any event.

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