TOR vs VPN, a futile discussion that has been in existence for the last five to ten years. The two are different technologies but they are designed to fulfill the same purpose: anonymity and unrestricted access. However, there are some differences between TOR (The Onion Router) and VPN (Virtual Private Network) which you might want to consider before choosing one of them.
The two anonymity tools, Tor and VPN, are often confused to be rivals, as assumed by a general internet user. But the question about the rivalry between the two is as vague as it is to compare a burger and french fries. Both of them are meant to satisfy our belly, and the burger + fries combination does a commendable job enhancing our taste.
Talking about our anonymity saviors, they can be understood as two modes of transportation, like an airplane and a bus. VPN is like an airplane which is faster but costlier. And TOR, like a bus, is slower but cheap (actually free).
A bus can pick you up right outside your house, but that’s not the case with the airplane. This refers to availability. It takes minutes to get Tor up and running as there is only a single variant of it. On the other hand, one has to compare various VPN services before choosing the best one.
TOR and VPN are meant to provide anonymity to you and help you hide your data and location from any “middle-man” existing in the network you’re connected to.
Tor Vs VPN: What’s the difference?
Now, before proceeding further, you need to read the following articles to get a better understanding of the working of Tor and VPN, in case you’re not familiar with it:
Everything About Tor: What is Tor? How Tor Works?
What is VPN (Virtual Private Network)? How does it work?
When to use Tor?
The sole aim of TOR or The Onion Router is to provide anonymity to you. It conceals your location by covering your data with some encryption layers and bouncing your data through different relays that exist in the TOR network, unknown to everyone using the TOR network.
Let me enlighten you with the fact, TOR encrypts your connection, not your data. So, if you’re sending some ‘plaintext’ information, then at the exit node, where the last layer of encryption is decrypted, there are chances that someone might access your unprotected data. So, it is advised that you use HTTPS connections to safeguard your data while it is on its way to the destination server.
And try not to send any confidential information like your email, phone, or other personal details without any encryption, as it might serve as the means to identify you, no matter how many relays you’ve jumped through.
TOR is used often where a high level of anonymity is required by the user, such as in situations where you might want to act as a “Whistleblower” like Edward Snowden, who exposed NSA’s unethical acts, or if you’re under surveillance by the court of law. It’s also effective when you don’t want someone to know who you are and what are you doing, or if you’re facing death threats or being stalked on the internet.
Well, TOR can’t be regarded as a fool-proof solution to the quest for anonymity, but the various relays present in the TOR network add to the difficulty faced by someone while tracking your activity on the network, even NSA found it difficult to identify someone on the TOR network.
Tor serves the purpose of hiding your identity, but it costs your connection speed, which you’ll have to sacrifice if you want to use the TOR network.
The movie buffs and the torrenting guys won’t find TOR much compelling as the high latency of the connection created while the data jumps through the relays reduces the connection speed by a considerable amount.
It will be a wise act to use TOR only for loading static pages, which are well served by the high latency network. You’ll not be able to buffer youtube videos or download HD movies quickly, for that need you’ll have to use a VPN.
Furthermore, you can also use Tor in combination with a VPN service to boost your security and anonymity while browsing the web.
Also Read: TOR Anonymity: Things Not To Do While Using TOR
When to use VPN?
As you might’ve read in the above links, and we very well know that in a VPN connection an encrypted tunnel is created that allows an uninterrupted flow of your data from your device to the VPN server, which acts as your representative to the public internet.
VPN is capable of providing high speeds and it can successfully meet the needs of our movie buffs and YouTubers. But in this thing also, only your connection is encrypted and not your data, so I advise you to use PGP encryption tools while sending some confidential data.
The VPN server has access to all the traffic you’ve initiated, but popular VPN services claim that they don’t store any logs. Well, that claim might sound legitimate until any government agency asks them about your existence on their network.
A VPN network can be used in low-risk situations like if you’re not accused of some crime that you may or may not have committed, or if you want to hide from various tracking tools on the internet and simply browse the internet or download torrents.
Virtual Private Networks are also used to extend a company’s private network facilitating the employees to work from a remote location and still have access to the company’s resources.
VPN network can also be used to bypass geographical boundaries to gain access to blocked services or use the internet in places where the federal organizations have implemented network restrictions for the general public.
Also Read: 10 Best VPN Services You Can Try
Tor Vs VPN: Wrapping Up
Both TOR and VPN have their pros and cons, but they are no enemies. Instead, they were created to serve the same purpose, to provide anonymity to online users, but they have been misunderstood as rivals. I can’t suggest any particular of them as each one outperforms the other on some aspects, and we can’t declare a winner in the TOR Vs VPN battle.
The need of the hour is to use both of them as per your need and serve your intentions. It is wise not to converse on their credibility which only contributes to a nugatory discussion. So, stay anonymous, stay safe.
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Also Read: 7 Biggest VPN Myths And Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them