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TOR (The Onion Router)
Tor has become very a very popular online tool for leaving a minimal trace while moving through websites. Many people use their service to browse the Internet anonymously.
Tor (short for ‘the onion router’) was developed by the United States navy, and it helps bolster your online privacy by making it extremely difficult for online entities to track your online habits.
By moving your traffic through multiple Tor servers, someone who intercepts your data can’t trace it back to your computer. All you need to do to take advantage of these benefits is to download and install the Tor browser.
For the average computer user, Tor came to the limelight as a result of the revelation that Edward Snowden used Tor to help mask his Internet traffic when he exposed the inner workings of the NSA and GCHQ surveillance programs.
Tor is often used by social and political activists, reporters, businesses, and others, to simply help eliminate identity snooping from unauthorized players in Internet security.
But, you might be thinking that Tor provides the same services as a VPN, right? This begs the question, “Which is better? Tor or a VPN?”
How Tor Protects Your Identity
Tor does not encrypt your traffic, so it only provides privacy – not security. It does make it very difficult for online entities to see where your data is going to and coming from, though. Essentially, a user on the Tor network sends their data to relay servers. These servers relay your information to other Tor relay servers and the path can vary among data streams.
Because the traffic is unencrypted, an online attacker could still read your data, but it would be extremely difficult for them to tell where it had originated from.
But be aware, that since TOR sends your information through a series of servers, your data will move much slower through the system than if you connected directly.
Problems with the Tor Network
In 2014, the FBI was confirmed to have been tracking people online through an attack they carried out on the Tor network. And a hacking group had introduced new Tor relays into the system and used them to carry out an attack. These attacks have been examined and repaired by the Tor team, but new threats on security should always be taken into consideration.
For now, the Tor network is stable, but the N.S.A. and other governmental agencies are always looking for cutting-edge ways of snooping on people’s data and tracking them online.
This is not an uncommon practice for the United States government. For example, the N.S.A. was caught red handed collecting vast amounts of data on US citizens with backdoors into Google, Yahoo, and others.
The whole point of Tor is to be untraceable, but unless you are sending anti-government information through the network, you should be safe.
So … What Does a VPN Do?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), on the other hand, offer security as opposed to privacy. Encrypting your traffic with a VPN tunnel makes it impossible for an Internet attacker to read. In short, they can see that you are having a conversation – they just can’t tell what you are saying.
A VPN creates a private tunnel over the internet to a server. This can be located in the same country as you, or located somewhere else.
By using a VPN service, your IP address is masked with an IP from your VPN provider’s servers. While most VPN providers have an absolutely zero logging policy, some only log connections for performance reasons.
And crucially, all data traffic sent over the VPN is encrypted, so it cannot be read if it is intercepted. Even in a personal or business lawsuit, a simple subpoena could expose what you do online, you just couldn’t read it.
Please read our previous article: Why You Need a VPN
Problems with VPNs
However, traffic over a VPN is still traceable. You may not be able to read it, but you can identify the source and destination of the information.
Additionally, while VPN services don’t usually log Internet traffic, all major ISPs do, so records of all the websites you visit could be compelled by a court to be brought forward if any government agency wanted to examine your internet activities.
And like TOR, your data will move much slower through the system than if you connected directly, simply because your data goes through an encryption process.
Despite the problems that Tor has experienced in the past, they still provide a valuable service. And VPNs offer a different, yet very important service as well. The question here isn’t whether to use a VPN or use Tor exclusively, but rather is there a need to use both.
So why not use TOR and a VPN simultaneously? You will drastically reduce the chance that someone is tracking you online, and simultaneously make your data impossible to read because it is encrypted.
At TechViews News we use both, but for different purposes. But please know that if you use them simultaneously, your Internet speed will crawl. That’s a byproduct of your data going through multiple modifications before it reaches its destination. In the end, using Tor with a VPN simultaneously is arguably overkill.
With all security measures, the more layers the better, but if all you want is to stream online content, download torrents, or browse privately, VPNs will often fit the bill much better.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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