Tor vs VPN – Which Should You Use and Why?
This is Not a Drill: Your Online Security is at Risk. It’s Time to Act!
Tor vs VPNs? Which one is best for you. Both are powerful tools you can use to protect your identity and anonymize your online traffic. The Online Router a.k.a. Tor encrypts your connection through multiple servers known as nodes or relays. Just before it hits your destination, your connection gets decrypted.
Today, more than ever, online security and anonymity are hot topic issues. The prying eyes of government, hackers, and identity thieves are constantly lurking in the shadows every time you log onto the Internet. That’s why you need to use tools like Tor and VPNs to protect you online.
VPNs encrypt your connection through a Virtual Private Network server which acts as a gateway to your final destination. Nobody but the VPN service provider knows your true identity, nor do others know what you are browsing on the Internet. Without a VPN, you're not safe streaming movies on foreign sites, downloading music files, or accessing content in restricted countries.
Now is the time to protect your identity. This explosive Exposé takes you behind-the-scenes into the inner mechanics of Tor and VPNs. We will compare Tor and VPNs in detail, to help you decide which is best to use and why. Brace yourself, we’re about to reveal the which is better: Tor vs VPNs?
Table of Contents
- Tor: What is it? – About Tor
- Why use Tor?
- What are the practical benefits of using Tor?
- How can you protect yourself when using Tor?
- Why should you use Tor for browsing the Internet?
- Tor: Security
- Get into the darknet using Tor
- Use Tor if
- Pros and Cons of Using Tor
- VPNs: What Are They - About VPNs
- What is a VPN?
- Why use a VPN?
- What are the practical benefits of using a VPN?
- How can you protect yourself when using a VPN?
- When should you use a VPN for browsing the Internet?
- VPN: Security
- Use a VPN if
- Pros and Cons of Using VPNs
Comparison & Summary
Tor: What is it? – About Tor
Tor appears to be similar in many ways to a VPN. Truth be told, Tor is completely different to VPNs. Tor – The Onion Router - is a network of interconnected computers all over the world. When you connect using Tor, your communications pass through multiple nodes or relays.
There is no single system like a VPN company which is responsible for managing your IP address. In this regard, Tor is best suited to complete online anonymity, while VPNs guard your online privacy. If you think about it, your privacy is somewhat limited with a VPN because the VPN company has access to all of your logs (there are things you can do to increase your privacy).
The Tor network is a trustless system. The moment you go online through the Tor browser, you are essentially anonymous. We must stress that no online security system is 100% foolproof – that's true for Tor too. However, it would be incredibly difficult for anyone to discover your true identity on the Tor network. It should be pointed out that Tor is not a VPN, even though they share many similarities. With both of them, the site you are accessing will not know your true IP address, allowing you to surf the net with greater privacy and anonymity.
With a VPN, you have to trust the VPN company. With Tor, you don't have to trust anyone. This fact alone differentiates Tor from VPNs.
Why use Tor?
Tor is made up of thousands of servers all over the world. The authorities cannot shut it down because it's like shutting down the Internet. Since it is a distributed network, Tor is an incredibly powerful resource for anonymous online traffic. For the most part, it cannot be hacked, tracked or cracked. With near complete
anonymity, you are assured of safe online browsing – regardless of what you are using the Internet for.
What are the practical benefits of using Tor?
You don't need to pay for this service at all. You simply download the Tor browser, and you're good to go. The Onion Router (Tor) does not directly connect you; it uses a network of relays. Your IP address will always be hidden from the websites you visit. Since Tor randomly bounces your connection from server to server, it's virtually impossible for anyone to pick up the breadcrumbs and track you down.
When you use the Tor network, your real IP address is re-routed through multiple nodes, and these nodes only know the IP address in front of the node and behind the node. Anyone trying to track the trail will fail, given that the whole path between your computer and the exit node you are accessing is unknown. The Onion Router (Tor) was developed by the United States Navy for data encryption purposes many years ago. Today, multiple civil liberties groups including the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) routinely tout the merits of Tor as a tool that allows free and uninhibited communication between everyone online.
How can you protect yourself when using Tor?
Tor relays data between multiple randomly selected nodes. Each time this is done, encryption takes place. Each relay knows where the signal emanates from, and the node where it is going. However, with Tor the whole circuit is unknown. Tor also resets these relay circuits every 600 seconds, making it impossible for actions to be linked. Volunteers run each of the nodes on the Tor network, and with more volunteers comes greater security and anonymity. Tor is a powerful tool in the fight against censorship, unlawful information gathering, hacking, and theft. Tor is your protection when you are surfing the web.
To get started, you will have to download and install the Tor software. The client loads up quickly, and is available on external USB devices or as a browser. This allows you to anonymously surf the Internet on PC, Mac, or mobile devices.
Why should you use Tor for browsing the Internet?
Thanks to its sophisticated encryption protocols, you are assured of maximum anonymity. If you are communicating with friends, family, or business colleagues over unsecured networks, Tor provides all the security you need. The software is easy to download and install, since the Tor package is a lightweight client. You can use it to easily access geolocation-blocked content, access social media in restricted countries, write, blog, and share updates at any time. Tor will slow you down dramatically however. Since you are not using a linear path to your exit node (your connection is bouncing around), it is not ideal for streaming video content, downloading heavy multimedia files, or watching live sports coverage.
At first glance, it might appear that Tor security is ironclad. This is a misconception. All the nodes on Tor are run by volunteers. This means that bad actors can set up exit nodes and see what type of traffic is leaving those nodes. These nodes can harvest information such as your personal data, login credentials, chat history, and so forth. Avoid transmitting sensitive personal information over your Internet connection. Plus, try not to access websites that are not secure (HTTPS protocol must be in effect). To boost your security when using Tor, use a VPN as well. Granted, your speed will take a hit but it will definitely help your security, privacy, and anonymity.
Source: Tor Project
Get into the darknet using Tor
Tor is often used by people operating on the darknet. This part of the Internet facilitates all sorts of illegal, illicit, and criminal behavior. People have been known to launder money, engage in human trafficking, stolen merchandise, gunrunning, bootlegging, and drug smuggling on the darknet.
Facebook – the social media giant – can be accessed through Tor for greater security. Given all the privacy considerations that users are facing with Facebook, one way to guard against them stealing your sensitive information is by accessing it through the Tor network.
Propublica has made it possible for readers to logon using the Tor browser. Dubbed ‘Tor Hidden Service’ this network enhances your privacy and protection settings by preventing your ISP (Internet service provider) from accessing all of your browsing history. The Onion Router and its an official browser – the Onion Browser - is designed to allow people to access all sorts of content online without threat of violence, intimidation, censorship, or incarceration.
Use Tor if:
- You want free software
- You seek full anonymity
- You don't mind latency in connections
- You want to browse low-bandwidth sites
- You want to access geolocation-blocked content
- You want a lightweight client for anonymous browsing
Table: Pros and Cons of Using Tor
|Pros of using Tor||Cons of using Tor|
|100% free to download and install the Tor client||Extremely slow browsing makes it a poor option for streaming content|
|Guaranteed privacy and anonymity online||Tor is not recommended for P2P file sharing purposes|
|Multiple nodes and relays to ensure that your IP address is never revealed to the final exit node||Bad actors can infiltrate exit nodes and see what type of traffic is leaving those nodes|
|The distributed network cannot be shut down or attacked||Users cannot configure specific country IP addresses without great difficulty|
VPNs: What Are They - About VPNs
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. Think of it as a middleman which reroutes all of your Internet traffic through a VPN server before it connects to a search engine. In other words, a VPN takes your online connection and encrypts it before passing it through a server with a different IP address to yours.
Why use a VPN?
A VPN offers many benefits to online users, including privacy, anonymity, and protection from prying eyes. When you register for a VPN service, or use a free VPN, your online connection immediately hooks up to the VPN server. Once that connection has been established, all of your outgoing traffic is fully encrypted.
Nobody (except the VPN service) will be able to see your IP address when you're browsing different websites, nor will they be able to connect you to the sites that you are accessing. With a VPN, you can change your IP from your city to a different city anywhere in the world. This makes it extremely difficult for hackers, cybercriminals, or government agencies to identify you online.
What are the practical benefits of using VPN?
Now that you know you're at risk, it's time to get serious about protecting your online security. A VPN is a powerful way to secure your online activity and to anonymize your browsing activity. From a practical perspective, a VPN offers you peace of mind when you are streaming, downloading, or sharing multimedia content online.
There are strict copyright laws, privacy laws, and government controls in place across many countries. With a VPN, you can obfuscate your traffic by hiding your IP address. This allows you to access geolocation-blocked content, bypass government restrictions on news sites, blogs, social media platforms et cetera. From a practical perspective, you get to communicate freely with no threat of reprisals from the authorities.
How can you protect yourself when using a VPN?
No technology is 100% safe. However, reputable VPN services come pretty close. It is extremely important to fully vet the VPN service that you're using, to ensure that they will not share your logs with third parties or government agencies. There are many ways to ascertain the claims made by VPNs regarding their logs policy.
For starters, you may wish to consult third-party review sites with no affiliation to specific VPN companies. The privacy policies of VPN service providers provide an indication as to how they handle sensitive data. If the VPN service provider submits to court orders and legal requests for user information, avoid it.
Further, if a VPN provider maintains personal information such as your name, address, and credit card for payment purposes, beware. These user logs may provide a trail that leads straight back to you. It is best to register with a paid VPN through cryptocurrency with a different email address to the one that you use for regular activity.
This email address should be used exclusively for this purpose – not for any other communications. The greater the privacy controls you implement from the get go, the less likely a VPN service will become a bad actor if the tables are turned.
When should you use a VPN for browsing the Internet?
VPNs are ideally suited to everyday activities such as streaming movies, accessing social media, watching sports matches on foreign channels, communicating with friends and family in China, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Sudan, and other countries with Internet restrictions in place.
VPNs work well where you have high bandwidth and there is a limited threat level. In other words, if you haven't got an Internet kill switch on your VPN service, being discovered shouldn't adversely affect you. VPNs are effective for everyday activities where you want to beef up your anonymity, privacy, and security online.
A VPN offers many value-added security features. For starters, VPNs obfuscate your IP address. This means that your true IP address is hidden from everyone but the VPN service. The best-in-class VPNs offer AES-256 encryption which is the gold standard around the world. True to form, the best VPN service providers ensure that no data gets written to a hard drive, which boosts your security. Additional security measures are put in place such as no connection logs, no activity logs, no DNS queries, or any other identifying information about your browsing activity.
VPN security is further boosted by the option of split tunneling. This means that part of your traffic can go through your regular router and Internet, and the other part goes through the VPN service. Powerful tools like network kill switches are designed to immediately sever the connection to the Internet if your VPN connection drops.
IP address masking ensures that your true IP is never revealed online, nor is your location. With the world's premier VPN services, you can choose from hundreds of VPN server locations across dozens of countries. Plus, it's possible to enjoy unlimited switches between VPN servers at your leisure. All of these security features are often available across multiple devices with one account. VPN security is assured on Mac, PC, Linux, Android, and iOS devices, including Routers, Chrome extension, and Firefox extension.
We strongly recommend using a VPN to protect your online privacy against all the bad actors populating the Internet. From ID theft, to government monitoring of your browsing activity – the most effective way to secure your connection is a trusted VPN.
Use VPN if:
- You want to stream movies
- You seed or download torrents
- You want to protect your privacy
- You are paranoid about online security
- You want to share sensitive information
- You need to access social media in restrictive countries
Table: Pros and Cons of Using VPN
|Pros of using a VPN||Cons of using a VPN|
|Hide your true IP address on the Internet||Connection speeds are typically slowed down by VPNs|
|Easily bypass network firewalls||The credentials of several VPN services are often questionable|
|Anonymize your online traffic||VPN companies may share your personal information with the authorities|
|Access blocked content, and communicate freely without censorship||Many VPN services require subscription services|
|Stream Netflix, Hulu, Sports, and Live Events||Many companies, websites, and operators can detect VPN servers|
|Internet kill switch cuts your Internet connection if your VPN is disconnected||VPN software is subject to failure, leaving your IP address and location exposed|
|Unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption technology||Many VPN services rely on single providers which need to be trusted before you use them|
|Guaranteed protection when using public Wi-Fi|
|Secure online banking transactions|
VPN vs Tor: So which is Best?
We have now made the case for both Tor and VPNs. While users get to enjoy many of the same benefits from both of these powerful software resources, they are completely different in the way they operate. The Onion Router (Tor) relies on a network of volunteers who manage nodes to relay your Internet connection all over the world. These nodes only know information that precedes them, and information that comes after them.
They cannot connect all of your browsing activity. Tor is a decentralized system, much like the blockchain network. It cannot be shut down without tremendous difficulty. Unfortunately, if you plan to use Tor be prepared for really slow Internet connections. If you have low bandwidth to start with, it will get infinitesimally small, rendering it useless for P2P purposes. It is great if you want complete anonymity, but definitely not ideal for the purposes of multimedia content, streaming, seeding, downloading, and large file sharing.
VPNs offer many powerful solutions where Tor is lacking. With a VPN, you can stream content online easily, provided you go with a reputable VPN service provider like ExpressVPN, PureVPN, or HMA. It is always best to use a VPN provider which maintains no logs, and will not cooperate with the authorities in the case of a court order, or government request for user data. A VPN is best for accessing geolocation-blocked content in specific countries. It allows you to access a server IP in the country of your choice at the click of a button.
However, you must be able to trust your VPN service provider, and this is an issue that requires your attention. Many VPN companies offer scant information about ownership, headquarters, or other stakeholders. If they operate from a questionable locale, avoid them. Also, if a VPN company is based in a country that shares information with other countries, avoid them. As you can tell, there is no sure way to pick between the two all the time. It really depends what you need to do online. If you simply need to protect your ID and your communications with low-bandwidth Internet access, use Tor. If you require rapid-speed Internet with increased anonymity, privacy, and security, use a VPN.
Table Comparison between VPN and Tor
|VPNs hide your true IP by connecting you to a VPN server which is operated by a VPN company||Tor connects you to nodes in the Tor network which reroute your connection before hitting the exit node|
|VPNS offer rapid Internet connections and are ideally suited to P2P activity||Tor is much slower than VPNs and is not recommended for P2P activity|
|VPNs are centralized with headquarters and/or fixed locations for servers around the world||Tor is completely decentralized and operates through a series of interconnected nodes on the Internet|
|VPNs can be downloaded for free and used for free for a limited time with many providers. They are used as browser-based extensions across multiple platforms, devices and operating systems||Tor is a free, lightweight browser application that can easily be downloaded|
|VPNs offer 256-bit military grade encryption technology to safeguard online activity.||Tor bounces your connection from one node to the next, with each node only aware of data directly before and after it. There is no need for additional security measures with Tor.|
|VPNs offer unrestricted access to blocked sites||Tor offers unrestricted (albeit slower) access to blocked sites|
|VPNs hide your true IP address and protects traffic inside your web browser||Tor hides your true IP address and protects traffic inside your web browser|
|VPNs can increase your bandwidth (in the case of IP throttling) but typically slightly decrease it, and increase latency||Tor usually reduces bandwidth and increases latency|
Our Final Verdict
By now you have a thorough understanding of the major differences between VPNs and Tor. Both are ideal for securing your online connections, although their practical applications differ considerably. VPNs offer maximum security, anonymity and connectivity with P2P applications likes file sharing, seeding, downloading, torrenting, and viewing multimedia content in geo-blocked regions.
It is important to be able to trust your VPN provider by checking their logs policy. If the VPN provider operates in a country that readily shares information with other countries and territories, avoid it. Take time to pick a reputable, secure, and trustworthy VPN provider since these companies are not decentralized operations like Tor. When you use Tor, your online connection is guaranteed safe, secure and private. However, you should expect latency and sharply-reduced Internet speeds with Tor.
For those who are prepared to sacrifice a little speed for greater anonymity, you may want to use Onion over VPN – a hybrid security system for anonymous, secure, and uninterrupted online communications. We recommend the services are the world's premier VPN companies like CyberGhost, StrongVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, and TunnelBear among others. As always, check pricing, security features, logs policies, simultaneous connections offered, and compatibility with your hardware and software.
Still finding it hard to choose? Combine both Tor and VPN to one powerful privacy tool.