Tor vs VPN – What are the Differences and Which One Should You Choose
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
In our digital age, we are constantly being monitored by the state and ISPs. Protecting our online presence is now considered to be a prerequisite as it has become incredibly difficult to effectively protect our digital footprint. This is exactly why everyone is raging about Tor and VPN services, as they both provide similar functions. However, there are many significant differences between these two services. Read on to find out more.
What exactly is Tor?
TOR is basically a free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communications via servers present all around the world. These servers are maintained by single individuals that help strengthen the integrity of the entire network as it does not rely on a company or organization. The name Tor is derived from an acronym for the original name “The Onion Router” as this overlay network consists of more than seven thousand relays. Here’s how Tor works.
- When a user enters a request Tor immediately encrypts your input three times for three different nodes. These include a guard node, a middle server, and an exit node.
- Before being passed to different nodes, the software will remove one layer of encryption before being passed to the next server.
- The middle server will remove the second layer off before passing it to the final encryption layer before it reaches the exit node.
- Finally, the exit node removes the final layer of encryption and can see your decoded message. However, the sender remains anonymous and is passed to the receiver.
Is TOR safe?
As you can see that when the message reaches the final node, the individual operating the server can clearly understand the message. Since anyone can set up a node, the over-all of the server depends on the integrity of the node operator. The best solution to this dilemma is using an HTTPS connection which will be encrypted using TLS or an Onion OverVPN.
The TLS is a transport layer security protocol that encrypts and authenticates data which is transmitted from a client to any receiver such as a server, machine or application. These features will handle the data encryption and will help secure your digital footprint from every aspect. However, if an individual is operating the guard and exit node, they will still gain access to your data but it is very unlikely that this will happen as servers are hosted by different individuals all around the world. To further enunciate the applications of Tor, we have articulated a list of Pros and Cons.
- Tor can help you gain access to geo-restricted content
- Free and convenient software
- Impossible to intercept data which is being transmitted through different nodes
- Complex encryption process guarantees anonymity
- Tor is not available for every operating system
- Low accountability and transparency for people operating the nodes
- Exit nodes have the capacity of intercepting the message content or your request
- Encryption method will affect your browsing speed by a substantial margin
- Process of changing servers takes time and is a little complicated
What is VPN software?
A VPN is a virtual private network that encrypts all of your data and transmits your requests to an intermediary server. These services are provided by many different companies and operate via servers which are strategically located all around the world. These networks use encryption techniques such as AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data from hackers and other individuals trying to gain access to your sensitive information. Here’s how a VPN works.
- When you enter a request, the VPN service will encrypt your data and will then send it to a remote server which changes your IP address.
- The server will then decrypt your data before it is delivered to your intended recipient. This decoding process is only done right before the request is transmitted to its final delivery point.
- This process will also apply any data or information being shared with you the host.
As you can clearly see that a VPN is far more efficient as it requires fewer technicalities to protect your data and information. These encryption methods used by virtual private networks are iron clad and are impossible to decode. So even if a hacker manages to infiltrate your network, they won’t be able to access or decode your information. Here’s a list of Pros and Cons.
- Changing servers is a simple process and only takes a matter of seconds
- Simple to use and convenient
- Extremely fast due to the simple routing process
- Includes features such as Kill switch, Smart DNS services, P2P servers
- Advanced military-grade encryption provides incredible security
- Complete online anonymity
- Premium VPN plans can be expensive
- Some VPN providers log your data
- Since the information passes through on server, you will have to find a trustworthy company
Can you use a VPN plan and Tor simultaneously?
Yes, you can easily use a VPN plan and TOR simultaneously. You can connect to the VPN network by first connecting to Tor or vice versa. However, using both a VPN and Tor will hamper your browsing speed by a substantial margin, so proceed after considering that.
Tor vs VPN – Which is better?
As mentioned before, both Tor and VPN services have similar applications but there are far more differences than similarities. However, as you can clearly see a VPN service will be more effective in comparison to Tor. These services are designed to provide you with online anonymity and have many different features that have been engineered to enhance your browsing experience.