More people than ever are starting to realize that the digital world can be a scary place. It’s full of cybercriminals, advertisers, and others that want to track everything you do online.
Over the last few years, people have begun to fight back and take control of their data. Two of the most popular tools with which you can take protection into your own hands are VPNs and Tor. In this guide, you’ll find a comparison of VPNs and Tor, their pros and cons, and a few pointers on the best way to use both of them.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for a virtual private network. When you use a VPN, you connect your device to a remote server, which then connects it to your target web destination. In the process, not only does it encrypt your data, but it also anonymizes your IP address. It means it’s burdensome for anybody to track what you do online.
The most significant benefit to VPNs is that they are easy to use. It’s the perfect example of a “set it and forget it” technology. If you choose a high-quality VPN provider (such one, for example), you don’t sacrifice the speed and get some other privacy and security tools, such as kill switch or double VPN.
The only downside is that you have to pay for a premium subscription to get all the benefits of VPNs. Fortunately, even the best VPN services only cost $2-6 a month.
- Very secure
- Easy to use
- Bypass network restrictions
- Access geo-blocked content
- Can use on mobile devices
- Compatible with Internet-of-Things devices
- Have to pay to get the best VPN features
- More secure, but less private than Tor
What is Tor?
Tor is an acronym for the “The Onion Router.” It’s referred to as an onion because it routes your data through many servers before it arrives at its final destination.
Each time information passes through a Tor layer, it receives a layer of encryption, blocking people from tracking what you do online. It is the main feature of Tor. Each layer knows where the connection comes from and where it is going to, but it is not aware of the whole circuit. Thus, nobody can ever see the full picture.
As a result, it creates extraordinary privacy because nobody can’t track your activities back to you. Meanwhile, a VPN server can see what you’re up to. So you’re only as private as the service provider is. And there are examples of providers logging data and collaborating with law enforcement. If you decide to use a VPN, be sure to select one with a “no logs” policy for this reason.
The downside to Tor is that all this routing slows down your performance. So Tor is not something you want to use for everyday YouTube streaming or social media. Moreover, although your identity is anonymous with Tor, website providers do recognize Tor nodes and can block access.
- Powerful tools to bypass censorship
- Tor network is almost impossible to shutdown
- Very slow. Not suitable for most types of everyday internet use
- Can be blocked
- Cloudflare recognizes Tor traffic and forces you to do many captchas. Since Cloudflare hosts the bulk of the world’s websites, it can make an already slow experience even slower.
Which Should You Choose – VPN or Tor?
VPNs and Tor aren’t mutually exclusive. They both have their times and places—especially since Tor is free. For the average internet user, a reliable VPN covers 99% of needs. They’re not only effective, but there’s minimal performance trade-off when you use one.
On rare occasions, where you need even higher layers of privacy, you can use Tor. For example, if you are a journalist publishing content from or about a heavily-censored country, it’s smart to do so through Tor.
In most circumstances, however, you don’t need to choose between Tor or VPNs. That’s because the best VPNs also are compatible with Tor. Instead of guessing, which is more secure, you can use both of them at the same time for more protection.
Both VPNs and Tor are great. VPNs are your everyday option for enhanced privacy and security. On rare occasions, you might need to use Tor. If that’s ever the case, then be sure to use it with your VPN to guarantee the most privacy and security.