The question TOR Vs VPN is a very good one to ask. Since Tor and VPNs are similar they also have key differences that make them beneficial in different situations. TOR and VPNs are two of the best and most powerful online privacy tools available.
With more and more people concerned with their online privacy we are all looking for the best way to protect our online presence. We are going to discuss what each is, how they work we will also compare their strengths and weaknesses. We will also look at the different situations you would choose one over the other. So let us dive into TOR Vs VPN Which Should I Use?
What Is TOR?
The TOR network is similar to a VPN service, data travels to and from your computer through the TOR network instead of connecting to the site pages or sites on the internet. TOR provides anonymity, where a VPN service provides privacy.
The design of the TOR network makes your online presence almost anonymous. When you use TOR you don’t have to rely on anyone to keep your presence hidden. The TOR network relies on a group of servers that communicate with you anonymously. No single entity controls both the individual servers or TOR software that make up the network, because of this you don’t have to trust anyone in the network to use TOR. This is one of the key differences between TOR and a VPN.
How TOR Works
The TOR network is made up of volunteers from around the world who run 1000s of independent servers, Tor is designed in such a way that no one server knows both what you are doing and who you are.
When you want to send data over the TOR network
- TOR software installed on your computer will randomly choose 3 TOR servers. The TOR software will then build the intended path between these 3 randomly selected servers.
- The server known as the Exit Relay/Node will connect to the internet. When connected to the internet the software encrypts the data/message to be sent with encryption which only the Exit Relay/Node can decrypt.
- The TOR software will encrypt data/message again, your data/message has now been encrypted 3 times. The first server to receive this data/message is known as the Guard Relay/Node.
- The TOR software installed on your computer will now send the encrypted data/message to the Guard Relay/Node. This server removes the outer layer of encryption. The Guard Relay/Node can not read the data/message because the data/message you are sending is still protected by 2 layers of encryption. The address of the next server in the chain was included when the TOR software first encrypted the data/message to be sent.
- The Guard Relay/Node now sends the data/message to the next server in the chain known as the Middle Relay/Node, this server removes the second layer of encryption. Similar to the first server the data/message is still unreadable because the data/message is still protected by one layer of encryption. When this layer has been removed the address of the last or Exit Relay/Node is revealed.
- The Middle Relay/Node now sends the data/message to the final server in the chain, the Exit Relay/Node. This server removes the last layer of encryption. The data/message can now be read by the Exit Relay/Node but because the data/message was relayed through the other servers in the chain the identity of the sender is not known.
To get a better understanding of how the process works we will look at what each server in the chain does
- The Guard Relay/Node can see the data/message. This server can not read the data/message because of the remaining layers of encryption. The only thing the Guard Relay/Node knows is that your computer sent data/message using TOR software and that it needs to relay this data/message to the Middle Relay/Node.
- The Middle Relay/Node only knows that the data/message came from the Guard Relay/Node and in turn must relay to the Exit Relay/Node. The Middle Relay/Node can not read the data/message because of the final layer of encryption. The Middle Relay/node does not know the identity of who sent the data/message to the Guard relay/Node. This information is not relayed through the TOR network.
- The Exit Relay/Node removes the final layer of encryption and can now read the data/message, but does not know where it originated, just that the Middle Relay/Node forwarded it.
- TOR creates anonymity by no one server knowing both where the data/message originated and what it says.
- Hard To Shut Down – The TOR network is made up of 1000s of servers located around the world. TOR is not centralized, it is distributed, there is no brick and mortar company offices, headquarters or main server, this makes it almost impossible to shut down.
- The servers used on the network are run by volunteers. In order to shut down TOR, you would have to find each individual server in the network.
- Anonymity – TOR provides nearly complete anonymity and because no one can ensure 100% anonymity using TOR provides greater anonymity while online than that of the best VPN.
- The TOR Network Is Very Slow – Because the data/message has to travel through 3 or more servers that are located around the world and also has to be encrypted and decrypted at least 3 times TOR network speeds are very slow, and because of this TOR is not recommended and is discouraged for use with video streaming or P2P (Peer 2 Peer) file sharing. It bogs down the whole network for anyone using it.
- Volunteer Run – The TOR network is run by volunteers, and the lack of a consistent money source to pay for maintenance and upgrades has led to many of the servers in the network are old, out-of-date providing very slow speeds and bad internet connections.
- Low Compatibility – The TOR network although compatible with Android devices TOR is not compatible with iOS so you can not use it on iPad or iPhone.
- Illegal Activities – Because of near anonymity the TOR network could be used for various illegal activities, and if you happen to be one of the volunteers hosting a server especially an Exit Relay/Node you could attract the unwanted attention of law enforcement or government agencies.
What Is A VPN?
A VPN or (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address, protects your privacy when you use any internet connection, by routing your information through a server and encrypting this information.
How Does A VPN Work
A VPN service network is made up of many servers that are located for the most part in many countries around the world. Your information is sent through one of these servers from your device.
This information is encrypted before reaching its online destination. Information that is sent or received from outside of your network is also encrypted and will pass through the VPN server before it reaches your device, because of this you will have the ability to send and receive information without revealing your real online location. The traffic will be seen as originating from the VPNs server and not your real location and device.
- Encryption – VPN providers fully encrypt all information that passes through their servers and your device. This encryption prevents anyone from hacking your connection and intercepting your information. This also allows you to send and receive sensitive information online.
- Speed – Even though your information has to be encrypted and has to pass through the VPN servers speed degradation is minimal, you would probably not even notice.
- Easy Setup And Use – Most VPNs are very easy to set up, they have built-in install wizard features that with a couple clicks of your mouse it will install and configure your VPN software. With most VPNs, you can also manually configure your VPN to start when your computer/device starts, you can also configure other features your VPN might offer such as IKS (Internet Kill Switch) which will kill your internet connection if VPN connection drops, and any other features your VPN offers.
- Compatibility – VPNs offer great compatibility across most operating platforms and devices. You can find a reputable VPN that will be compatible with whatever operating system you have, some better ones offer multi-device and operating system combined. VPN is compatible with and on Android devices and phone, Mac, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Linux, Game Consoles, Routers, and Smart TVs.
- Poor Log Policies – Some VPN providers keep information of their users, they log your activity, usage, browsing history, IP addresses, search history, bandwidth and time stamp. This is why it is important to find a VPN provider that offers a NO-LOG Policy, there are many reputable VPN providers that do. This link will help you find one
- Potential Weak Encryption – Most reputable VPNs offer 256 bit-key military-grade encryption, many others including most free VPNs offer a lower grade of encryption such as Blowfish and PPTP, which could lead to a hack. So when choosing a VPN look carefully at the encryption offered, you want the gold standard which is 256 bit-key military-grade encryption.
So In The End Which Is It?
We now know the What, How, Pros and Cons which one are we going to choose. Why would we need to choose one over the other, let’s see?
If you are in a dangerous country or dangerous line of work perhaps a journalist, protester, or anti-government activist where your life and or freedom could be in jeopardy you may want to choose TOR, it offers near anonymity and is always free.
On the other hand, if you are using the internet to conduct bank transactions, shopping online, using public Wi-Fi connections the use of a VPN to keep your information safe and secure would be the more practicable option.
As for TOR Vs VPN while they both offer effective ways to keep your online information safe and secure the use of a reputable VPN provider is the most practicable solution in keeping everyday users secure online.
I hope you enjoyed this post if you have any questions or just want to leave a comment please do so below
Stay secure and always practice
Safe Text !!!