When it comes to protecting your online identity and being secure while surfing the Internet, there are two things that will always come up in conversation: Tor and VPN.
As you probably already know, these two are not one and the same, even though they are often used for similar purposes.
To help you make an informed choice, let us take a look at why you should use one over the other.
VPN vs Tor: One’s a service, the other’s a project
The headline of this point should already give you some information as to what we are going to talk about here.
With VPNs, you pay a company so that you can use a private server to do things online privately and securely. With this comes several implications. You have to trust that a VPN provider will:
- Not keep logs of your data.
- Not succumb to pressure from third-parties (e.g., the government).
- Not attempt to use their services in any malicious way.
- Keep their services secure and private at all times.
The trust that users place on VPNs is absolute and comes with no real guaranties. Obviously, a VPN service that sells user data will eventually be caught out and the fallout will be massive. But if you are using that VPN service right now, does it really matter if they get caught in the future?
With Tor, most of these things actually fall upon the user. You need to be careful with your Internet traffic and not visit malicious places of the Internet. In essence, using Tor can afford users with more anonymity and privacy, but not in every case.
VPN vs Tor: One is more convenient than the other
Since there are plenty reasons to use a VPN, the truth is that Tor might not be convenient for you or even feasible. If you just want a secure way to browse the Internet and download whatever files you want, then a VPN is the best choice in 99.99% of the cases.
Compared to Tor, VPNs are lightning fast and they do allow you to browse the web with anonymity. If you are taking part in illicit activities (depending on what they are, of course) then neither a VPN nor Tor will really save you.
Tor, on the other hand, is more complicated to set up, particularly in a way that will give you the same level of privacy and security as a good VPN. Of course, this takes us to our previous point: do you trust your VPN provider to do all those things?
VPN vs Tor: Is trusting any service a fool’s errand?
Before the NSA revelations, most people were content with believing that the Internet was a secure place. In fact, most people outside of the tech world had little to no idea about the extent of information gathering from companies and services that they use every single day.
When people readily hand over their personal information to services and networks like Facebook, for example, then will using a VPN really protect their online privacy and security?
The first rule of being safe on the Internet is pretty simple: don’t fully trust anyone.
Tor vs VPN: So why not just use both?
While some people have proposed the idea of using both Tor and VPN together, whether such a thing works better or not is still up for debate.
The reason for that is pretty simple to explain: When you use VPN to access Tor, you are simply putting your trust in your VPN provider instead of your Internet provider. Setting up Tor is all about hiding your activity anyway, so why would you want anyone (including your VPN) to know about it?
That is not to say that Tor is absolutely safe. Its exit nodes can also be set up by pretty much anyone, including government agencies, so it cannot be blindly trusted.
In addition to all that, using both services together will almost definitely result in slower browsing. So if you are hoping to use both along with streaming services, then you are going to have a bad time.
Of course, for the less paranoid users, adding Tor and VPN in the same mix could definitely result in peace of mind as far as security goes. It could even help with privacy, provided that the VPN provider can be trusted.
VPN vs Tor: One’s free and one’s not
Though free VPNs do exist, they are not recommended at all. First and foremost, they are usually incredibly slow, limited, and are certainly less trustworthy. To get a good VPN service, you have to pay for it, it is truly as simple as that.
On the other hand, using Tor is absolutely free. If you are on limited funds or would simply like to try out what semi-anonymous internet surfing is like, then you might want to go with Tor, at least in the beginning.
Tor vs VPN: So which one is for me anyway?
Though we’ve gone through several differences between VPN and Tor, you might still be wondering which one is the right choice for you. So let me make it simple.
- Want to browse the web without thinking about it?
- Watch videos regularly?
- Want a secure way to use public Wi-Fi?
Then a VPN is for you!
Otherwise, do you:
- Want to use the Internet as privately as possible?
- Are willing to do some extra work?
- Don’t mind slow browsing?
Then you can go with Tor!