For anyone that wants to secure their online privacy, there has been age old confusion whether to use a VPN or Tor. Both the tools are used to prevent your internet activities and sensitive data from being hacked or used by unwanted entities.
Since both, Tor and VPN, are excellent tools for securing your privacy and keeping you anonymous, which tool should you use? In this guide, we will break down both the security tools, weigh their pros and cons, and help you select the best tool.
Tor (The Onion Router)
Tor is a free privacy tool that keeps you anonymous by hiding your true identity over the internet. Short for The Onion Router, Tor was developed by US Navy to send encrypted data through multiple layers.
How does Tor work?
In Tor, your data is passed through multiple nodes that are available in a Tor network. Each time the data passes through a node; your data is encrypted and re-encrypted until it reaches the exit node. These nodes are operated by volunteers; so higher the number of volunteers, more secure your data will be.
What makes Tor so secure is that no one knows the complete route or circuit through which your data will travel. Although a node may know who is connected to it and who it will connect too, under no circumstance it can know entire path between your PC and the website you are trying to access.
Having said that, the major problem in using Tor is finding an exit node. This is because those running an exit node on Tor are vulnerable to numerous threats. As an exit node is the final piece in the entire circuit, if anything illegal (like pirated content) is passed through it, the final IP address is shown of the exit node.
- Highly secure and provide complete anonymity over the internet.
- Hides your true identity and encrypts your internet traffic using multiple layers.
- Very difficult to trace or shut down the distributed Tor network.
- Free to use.
- Finding an exit node is very difficult on Tor. Some governmental agencies (e.g. China) have blocked exit nodes or used them to monitor users.
- Tor is very slow as your data travels through multiple nodes (usually located in different countries).
- Not suitable for P2P file sharing and torrents.
- While you can use Tor to unblock geo-restricted websites, you won’t experience fast high quality streaming because of the slow speeds.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN service works differently compared to Tor. It is an extension of your network and creates encrypted tunnels between your PC and remote VPN servers. While doing so, a VPN hides your real IP address and masks it with the IP address of its own server.
This allows you to secure your online privacy and protect your sensitive data from hackers, phishes, spammers, surveillance agencies, and other malicious cyber threats. In addition to anonymity, a VPN service allows you to access geo-restricted and other blocked web-content such as Netflix.
However, ensuring complete anonymity may require you to trust your VPN provider. Not all VPN services are secure as they may keep logs of their users. This is where you need a logless VPN service; one that has zero log policy and does not keep activity logs.
- Fast performance (especially when compared to Tor). Your internet speeds are hit but slightly when using a VPN.
- Highly suitable for P2P file sharing and torrents. Some VPN providers even have servers optimized for P2P file sharing.
- Secures your internet traffic by encrypting it and tunneling it through secure protocols.
- Wide spread of VPN servers around the world make it very good for unblocking geo restricted websites and using it for streaming content online.
- VPN services will cost you money. Although there are free VPN providers available, they won’t provide the same level of protection or choice of servers that premium VPN would.
- Some VPN providers may keep records of your internet activities. Highly popular VPNs have been known to give user data over to authorities when presented with legal orders.
- A VPN operating in a country which has mandatory data retention law means that it is not secure at all and has to keeps logs of your activity. This is where choosing the correct VPN is critical.
Which VPN Services to Choose?
Like we noted above, a VPN service that does not keep logs should be used. More specifically, a VPN that does not keep activity logs. These are the logs where all your internet activity is stored. In addition to this, a VPN that offers multiple protocols and high encryption level should be selected. Below listed are some of these VPN services that do not keep any logs and provide high encryption levels.
5.0 / 5.0
3.0 / 5.0
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3.5 / 5.0
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3.0 / 5.0
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2.5 / 5.0
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Final Choice | which should you use?
Now that you know about Tor and VPN, which should you use? Both have their pros and cons but selecting the one over the other depends on your usability. For instance, if you want complete anonymity then you should use Tor, provided you can live with slow speed. However, if privacy, file sharing and unblocking are important to you, then nothing comes close to a VPN.
We would recommend that you use VPN and Tor in combination. There are two ways of doing this: first connect a VPN and then Tor. Secondly, you can initially connect to Tor and then to a VPN.
The later is a much better option as your VPN provider won’t know your real IP as you connect through Tor. Similarly, since your internet traffic is encrypted by a VPN, you are protected against malicious exit nodes on Tor.