There are a lot of possible reasons why everyone should pay attention to the security and privacy of their online activity. The two most common and easy ways to protect yourself while browsing the Internet are:
1) Using a VPN service (Virtual Private Network)
2) Installing the anonymous web browser Tor
Both these ways of protection serve the same purpose yet they are not identical.
In fact, there are some significant differences in the usage of these tools. In this article, we will take a look at the functionality of the Tor browser and VPN services and compare them to find out the optimal method of securing your internet connection.
How Important Is It to Remain Anonymous Online?
The importance of securing your connection and leaving no digital traces while browsing the Internet is hard to overstate. In this article, we will talk about different reasons why you should use a VPN or Tor. Here is the shortlist:
● It is quite easy to do
● You can freely use public Wi-Fi spots without worrying about its safety
● You will hide your Internet activity from your internet service provider
● Possibility of bypassing regional and geographical restrictions
● Research the information anonymously
● Access torrent sites
● Perform investigative journalistic work without being tracked by the government
● Access the pages of the ‘dark web’
As mentioned previously, this is not a complete list, there are other reasons that you might use Tor and VPN services for. The main point is: you would never like someone following you around the city and tracking every action that you make.
Start protecting yourself while browsing the Internet to make sure that no one keeps notes of your internet life. Usually, unprotected users are surveilled from the moment they connect to the hotspot and until they shut down their browser
How Are VPN Services And the Tor Browser are different from each other?
Both of these tools allow users to achieve anonymity while they are online. Here are some specifics about them to underline the importance of their usage.
Tor Internet Browser
Using Tor to browse the Internet is safe and secure because your data is going through multiple layers of encryption and is routed through various servers in the Tor network. Your IP address remains hidden and untraceable as it’s covered by all these ‘layers’. That is why Tor is also called an Onion browser.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) Services
Similar to the Tor browser, VPN redirects your online activity through one of its servers. As soon as you turn on the VPN, your IP address is visible to other changes to the address of your virtual private network server. Generally, VPN services claim to not keep logs of the recent activity of their users, yet there were some cases of users’ data being sold to third parties. Potentially, this information may compromise your location which would negate the protection that you believed was in place.
Let’s check how effective are VPN services compared to Tor at some specific use-cases. We will be also looking at the overall performance and their features:
- Unlocking web-resources
The ‘surface web’ forms a small part of the information accumulated on the Internet. Every website accessible through your traditional browser is part of the ‘surface web’. Using a VPN service or Tor browser allows you to access most of these sites. Some websites may prevent VPN servers from accessing if they can identify them. Tor just ignores these restrictions and can freely access all surface websites.
Using Tor is quite different from a VPN in terms of its possibility to access the ‘deep web’ sites. With the Tor browser, you can access many more websites compared with a traditional browser and VPN service. However, you have to remain cautious as there are numerous sites on the network that may promote illegal activity and be possibly a source of contamination and spread of malware.
- Viewing of Some Formats of Content
Some formats of apps, videos, and photos are not supported by the Tor browser, for example, Flash, RealPlayer, and Quicktime are blocked by default, so if you are planning on visiting a website that requires one of the listed addons – don’t use Tor. The better choice would be to use basic VPN services as add-on plugins for Google Chrome or Safari.
- Using torrents
Downloading information with torrents may reveal your IP address to third parties, we would recommend you to use a VPN service instead. Nowadays, several countries and authorities have problems with the torrent activity, as their copyrighted material is distributed via torrents, thus, dealing the financial damage. and a VPN will keep you anonymous and let you download whatever you want without the knowledge of your ISP or anyone else.
This one is simple. Tor documentation recommends not using the browser for torrenting as it can expose your IP address. If you engage in downloading content from torrent sites, you really should be using a VPN service. Many jurisdictions have issues with the way copyrighted materials are distributed through torrents, and a VPN will keep you anonymous and allow you to download whatever you like without your ISP or anyone else knowing.
- Connection Speed
Internet service providers are capable of throttling your download speed, especially if you frequently use torrent or download huge amounts of data. Using a VPN can rectify this situation and it’s quite common to have a higher download speed connected to a VPN compared to your usual rate.
If you are looking for a high-performance browser, consider using common popular browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. The Tor browser is noticeably slower because it routes your online activity through multiple servers to protect your security and anonymity.
The are many free VPN services, but it is hard to trust someone working for free with your security, so it’s more common to get a paid subscription. It is a reasonable financial investment, as a high-quality VPN can literally change the way you browse the web.
You can buy a monthly subscription but it’s more cost-efficient to get a 1-year or 3-year license. Buying a premium subscription with RusVPN, you can enjoy all the features of a premium VPN service for as low as $2.99 per month.
The Tor browser was always free to download on all the supported platforms.
- Bypassing Censorship
Both VPN and Tor can help you to access websites that are normally forbidden for you by the government or an organization. Either of these methods allows you to access sites that are stated to be restricted and inaccessible through your internet service provider and normal browser.
Tor provides you with the possibility to access .onion sites where you can get information or buy something anonymously, which is not something that VPN service can offer.
- Hide your digital prints and intentions
If you think that someone might be spying on you for a political or a business reason, using Tor will be the perfect solution to not leave any digital traces. It can be used for a lot of legal things yet you have to be careful because it can be alarming for security personnel who might wonder why you chose to install it on your computer.
If you are preparing to perform whistleblowing and leak some critical information, having a Tor browser on your computer may lead to further verification of your actions. So Tor is a good tool, but it draws extra attention while using a VPN remains the most common method of keeping your privacy and protecting your identity, plus it will not trigger as many red flags as downloading Tor.
So, what to use, the Tor browser, or a VPN service?
From the list of facts above, your choice should depend on the way you are going to use anonymity and lots of other circumstances. If you are often to use torrents and just to download content in general – the speed is the decider, so you have to go with a VPN. If you are rather interested in accessing hidden websites on the dark web, Tor is your single real choice.
If you intend to commonly secure your online actions and remain anonymous to your internet provider and third-parties, both the Tor browser and a VPN service are fine. They will hide your IP address, letting you be unidentified on the web. Make sure to use one of these methods every time you go online if you care about your privacy or just want to hide your identity.