Tor and VPN use cases are similar in many ways, but they can also be very different. With the rise of cybercrime and government surveillance, individuals have come to realize the importance of online privacy. Tor and VPN offer two solutions for this problem.
In this article, we will explain in detail what each service does and why you would use it for certain tasks. Let’s get started, shall we?
First Off, What is A VPN?
VPN is a service for encrypting your IP address and allowing you to use the Internet on a secure virtual private network which allows you to access any website of your choosing, even if that site is blocked by your country’s government among other things. It helps to bridge two remote sites together or allows individuals to securely connect to a different network.
The whole point is to tunnel your connectivity from a network of lower trust to a network of higher trust. A corporate VPN for an instance is like entering a wormhole from point A to point B bypassing everything in between.
Cases Where You Can Use a VPN
Here are some of the use cases of a VPN, take note it doesn’t involve anything to do with selling online security and privacy. If a VPN provider is marketing to you that their VPN pro version will help stop hackers from hacking your computer or phone, know that such claims are misleading and inaccurate.
- Circumventing IP blocks to watch Netflix
- Getting around national firewalls, (government blocking social media during elections or a website being blocked in your country.)
- Bypassing download limtis
- Performing offensive security assessments
- Conducting OSINT and research
READ ALSO: Top 10 Free and Paid VPNs for Amazon Fire TV
Understanding The Tor Nodes
Tor aka the onion router takes its name from how it transmits its data. It takes your data including identifiable information like your IP address and wraps it in multilayered encryption and sends it through a network of randomly selected relay servers i.e. the nodes each of which is known as a small portion of the journey and not the entire transfer. This approach provides a lot of anonymity and is the best option for those who are truly paranoid about someone following their internet traffic.
TOR Network, as defined by the official website is a group of volunteer-operated servers that improve the privacy and security of one’s data. A series of virtual tunnels are created between all nodes (also known as relays) of the TOR network, and for each data transmission, a random path of tunnels (known as the relay path) is chosen. The encryption and decryption mechanism is used in an onion routing fashion to limit the knowledge of each node about the data that passes through it. Each node will only know the relay path in which it is involved, but not the whole path from the source to the destination.
But Tor does have weaknesses, first off it’s very slow and all the exit nodes are listed which means some websites can block access when using the service.
You can use a Tor Browser Bundle, or install the Tor browser on your local computer or Andriod phone from the Google Play Store.
Which One Should You Use?
Tor or VPN, well the truth it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison, and since you care about privacy and security. You will have to gauge your level of the threat model. Is it cyber crimes, big tech, spammers, troll armies or your government? Understanding your level of threat helps tailor your level of paranoia accordingly so it’s not over or underweight.
Is your reason for using this kind of privacy technology to keep you from getting in trouble? If the answer is yes, then TOR is probably your best option but if the answer is no, then a VPN might be recommended. When I talk of trouble I am not referring to illegal activities, I am referring to situations like China or Russia due to political backlash, journalists looking to protect their sources, and whistleblowers looking to protect themselves.
As an average internet user, you need to be honest with yourselves here, true anonymity and privacy are impossible unless you abandoned the internet whole together. So everything is best measured not in binary but rather in degree of strengths.
I am not writing this article to not declare a winner between Tor or VPN or to tell you, you need to use one over the other. What I hope you get is how they work and what they are best used for?
Let us know your opinions in the comment section if you have used both services and why you choose one over the other?