In the world where Internet freedom is becoming almost non-existent and cyber threats are lurking from every corner of the world wide web, it is important to find the right tools to remain safe online and exploit the full potential of the Internet.
Unfortunately, many people around the world are suffering the consequences of strict geo-restrictions and are unable to use the Internet freely. Thousands of Internet users are becoming victims of hackers and government espionage every day. It has become incredibly difficult to stay safe and anonymous and do all those things we love doing online without fear or restrictions.
Two great tools to help you preserve Internet safety and freedom are Tor and VPN. But, even though these two tools are often compared, they are actually very different. Although they are used for the same purposes, they function in different ways and provide different levels of security and performance. So, before choosing one or the other, you need to learn about those differences.
That's why we've compared Tor vs VPN to see which one is a better choice.
What is Tor
Tor is the acronym for “The Onion Router,” and it was first developed by the US Navy. It’s a global network of servers that can be accessed via the Tor browser. Just like its name suggests, Tor makes your connection secure and anonymous by routing your data through several layers of security represented by nodes.
How Tor Works
Tor works as a network of servers, also called nodes or relays. Each time you send a request through the Tor browser (for example, when trying to connect to a website), your connection is routed through a number of randomly selected nodes until it reaches the final destination. Your connection is encrypted on its way until the final destination, where it gets decrypted before it arrives. An interesting thing about Tor is that these nodes are actually run by volunteers, and the bigger the network of volunteers the better.
What is VPN technology
A virtual private network is a technology that allows secure data transmission between your device and the Internet. It encrypts all the data the is sent or received by your device in a way that makes it impossible for anybody to spy on your connection. With the help of a VPN, you can also hide your physical location by getting a new IP address.
How VPN works
Unlike Tor, a VPN sends your data through a virtual tunnel and routes your connection through a single server until it reaches the final destination. With a VPN, your connection is completely encrypted along the way.
A VPN service has its own network of servers, usually on multiple locations around the world. Once you turn a VPN on, you will either be automatically connected to an optimal server or will have to choose one by yourself. From that point on, you'll get a new IP address, and all your online activity will appear to be coming from that IP address at a location completely different from your own.
Is Tor Safe
With Tor, your connection is encrypted and re-encrypted from one node to the next, and each server can only “see” the IP address that precedes it and the one that follows it, but nobody can see the whole path of your connection
Using Tor, your data will be encrypted from the first moment to the exit node. However, there is a weak spot between the last node and the final destination where the data will be decrypted. This fact also means it's pretty risky being a volunteer on the exit node because all the online activity will appear to be coming from that server.
Is A VPN More Reliable
When it comes to a VPN, you can expect your Internet connection to be encrypted the whole time, from your device to the final destination of your request. And unlike Tor, that only covers one request at a time, a VPN immediately encrypts your whole connection from the second you start your VPN client.
Although technically your VPN provider can get an insight into your private data, all reputable VPNs ensure your privacy and anonymity with an air-tight no-log policy. A no-log policy means that the VPN provider doesn't monitor, track, or record your data and therefore can't share it with third parties.
When To Use Tor Browser
If you live in a country with severe Internet restrictions and need a quick fix to browse the Internet freely, Tor is a great choice. It's also a good option for all those looking to hide their online habits from their ISPs, government, and other prying eyes.
In other words, Tor can be very useful for bypassing geo-restrictions and preserving your precious anonymity. However, since the nodes are randomly assigned, you will only be able to access geo-restricted content if the exit node is located in a country that allows it.
Tor is also the tool of choice for many illegal activities and has been used to access the notorious Silk Road black market and facilitate many other criminal doings. This makes Tor quite controversial, although the majority of people are using it only to preserve their anonymity and circumvent restrictions.
When To Use A VPN
VPN technology, on the other hand, can be used for almost anything. Due to its strong encryption methods, a VPN is the best choice for those who want to ensure their online security. A good VPN will protect you from all prying eyes as well as hackers and other dangerous online threats.
Aside from being completely protected, you will be able to enjoy your favorite benefits of the Internet: streaming, downloading and sharing files, gaming, working and communicating with your loved ones, and you'll be doing all that safely and anonymously, from anywhere on the planet.
Tor Pros & Cons
Tor is free, easy to use, and untraceable. On top of that, since it comprises a network of servers from different locations, it would be incredibly difficult to take it down.
Here is a quick look at the advantages of Tor:
- Tor is 100% free to use
- Complex encryption methods ensure full anonymity
- Good for casual browsing and things that don’t require high-speed connectivity
Although Tor will give you the safety and anonymity you need, you will have to give up many other things. For one, Tor will slow your connection down tremendously, precisely because there are so many different servers involved before your request reaches the final destination.
This means that although Tor will help you bypass geo-blocking, you won't have a lot of options to take advantage of this. You can expect very poor performance if you were planning to stream, torrent, or play online games.
Here is a quick look at the disadvantages of Tor:
- Complex encryption methods significantly slow down the connection speed
- Potentially, data can be intercepted at the exit node when it gets decrypted
- Poor anonymity for the volunteers running exit nodes
- Tor servers are randomly chosen; therefore you won’t be able to unlock desired content
- In some countries, Tor is considered to be illegal, and you may get into trouble with local authorities
VPN Pros & Cons
A VPN has numerous advantages as it's a foolproof tool for using the Internet completely safely and anonymously no matter what you like to do online. VPN is fast, secure, and excellent for P2P traffic. This means you can enjoy torrenting, streaming, and easily access geo-restricted websites and content.
Here is a quick look at the advantages of a VPN:
- All the data between the source device and the destination server is solidly encrypted
- Data can be transmitted at a high speed
- All content is accessible
- VPNs are really easy to use
- Paid VPNs offer sufficient channel bandwidth
- Premium VPNs offer a variety of additional features such as Kill Switch, P2P servers, etc
- With a VPN you can prevent your ISP from throttling your connection
Although a VPN will give you much better protection and more options, this tool isn't perfect either. There are a lot of unreliable VPN providers that can monitor your activities and even sell your data to third parties. That's why you need to be careful and choose a trustworthy provider with a clear zero logs policy.
VPN is also a paid service, though there are free versions out there that we wouldn't recommend. In some cases, VPNs can be very costly, but you can easily find a good, reliable provider offering services at an affordable price.
Here is a quick look at the disadvantages of a VPN:
- Premium VPNs can be somewhat pricey
- Free or unreliable VPN providers can collect logs
- There can be data leaks if your VPN provider doesn’t offer Kill Switch
If you've been paying attention, you will be able to conclude who wins this contest.
Tor is a great option when you're just looking for something to help you protect your privacy and anonymity while you're browsing, but in other cases, a VPN is a much better choice.
Not only does it give you complete safety and anonymity online, but it also provides you the best Internet experience with the most options. With a VPN, you can now avoid geo-restrictions, keep all your sensitive data protected, enjoy your favorite online content, and much more.