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Tor vs. VPN: Which Should You Use?

Tor vs. VPN: Which Should You Use?

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More and more people are thinking and talking about privacy on the Internet. Tor and a VPN are among the most powerful privacy tools available on the Internet today. In some ways they are quite similar. But they also have some key differences that make them useful in different situations.

In this article we will look at using Tor versus using a VPN. We will first look at how each of them works, which will allow us to see their relative strengths and weaknesses. Next, we’ll discuss specific use cases for deciding when you want to use one or the other. Click the icons below to navigate to each section, or read on for a step-by-step analysis of these two tools.

VPNs: Overview

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a technology that protects your privacy when using the Internet by routing your connection through a server that hides your IP address and encrypts your online communications.

How do VPNs work?

A VPN consists of a network of servers, usually located in multiple countries around the world. When you use a VPN, information sent from your computer passes through one of the VPN provider’s servers before traveling to its destination online, such as your online bank account. Likewise, information sent to your computer from outside your network passes through the VPN server before reaching your device.

As a result, you can send and receive data without giving up your location on the Internet. The online destination will only see the traffic coming from the VPN server, not your real device or location. In addition, messages sent from the server are encrypted, which blocks unwanted access from third parties.

VPN Advantages

Using a VPN to protect your privacy has some big advantages over using an unprotected connection.

Full encryption of messages
VPNs encrypt all messages that pass between their servers and your computer. This prevents anyone (such as your Internet Service Provider) from spying on your connection and intercepting your data. This is especially important in countries with high levels of censorship, or when you are sending particularly sensitive data.

Speed
Although your internet traffic goes through the VPN’s encoder and the servers can slow down your internet connection slightly, this is only done by a small amount. For daily use, you probably won’t notice the difference.

Easy to install and use
While the technology that makes a VPN work is complex, most of it is easy to install and use. With just a few clicks, the installation wizard will install and configure the program. The wizard can set the VPN to start automatically when your computer starts so that you are always protected.

Compatible with most devices
The best VPN services provide software that works on most of the popular devices. Windows, Mac or Linux computers? Check. Android or iOS smartphones? Check. Some services also provide software that can run on your home router or set-top box.

Disadvantages of VPN

Using a VPN can provide good security against most types of surveillance. However, there are ways in which your privacy can be compromised when using a VPN.

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VPN failed
For a VPN service to protect you, the VPN software on your computer must work properly. If the program crashes for some reason, messages can go to and from your computer unencrypted and out of the VPN. This would leave them vulnerable to your ISP or anyone else who wants to spy on them.

To guard against this problem, many VPNs include a kill switch in their software. The kill switch is set up so that if the VPN software fails for any reason, the computer is disconnected from the Internet. While losing internet access isn’t great, it’s better than using the security that a VPN gives you.

Various registration policies
While using a VPN that offers security against strangers, you have to trust the VPN provider. Since you use their software and servers, the provider knows a lot about what you’re doing online and where you’re going.

Most VPN services keep different types of logs of their users’ activity. Sometimes the services keep these records for their own use, and sometimes the government is forced to keep these records. These records include:

  • Usage logs: Logs of where you go and what you do online when using a VPN. Some VPNs keep detailed logs of each user’s activities, while others aggregate usage information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to identify individual users.
  • Contact records: Logs information such as when you log into the VPN, your computer’s IP address, your username, and similar data. Not as bad as usage logs, but there is still a lot of information that can be used against you.

The records that a service keeps and how long they keep determines the amount of risk it is exposed to. One of the VPN service providers may delete this information immediately. Someone else may log this information for maintenance and support purposes, and then delete it once you disconnect. Other VPNs are still required by law to keep this information for days, weeks, or even months.

Some VPN services advertise that they keep no logs, providing you with the maximum level of security. However, you should be careful with the provider you choose; Some VPNs claim “no log,” but in fact keep detailed connection logs.

If there is a record, there is a chance that the agency will use this information against you, and there are limits to what a VPN can do to protect you. No matter how well a VPN service supports privacy, if a government agent requests a subpoena for their records, they are obligated to turn it over.

Possible weak encryption
For the connection between your computer and a VPN server to be secure, the encryption used by the VPN service must be unbreakable. This is true for the best VPNs, which use the 256BIT Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). However, some lower-level VPNs use weaker encryption algorithms like PPTP and Blowfish, so you’ll need to carefully consider the encryption each VPN uses when choosing a provider.

For maximum protection, you need some way to make yourself anonymous. That’s why they created Tor.

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Tor: Overview

What is Tor?

At first glance, Tor is similar to a VPN. Messages pass to and from your computer through the Tor network rather than directly connecting to resources on the Internet. But where VPNs provide privacy, Tor provides anonymity.

A VPN service can prevent strangers from seeing where you go and what you’re doing on the Internet, but there are ways to work around the privacy they give you. By its very nature, a VPN service has access to information about you. You have to trust them to protect that information.

When you use the Tor network, you don’t have to trust anyone. Tor’s design makes you virtually anonymous when online. While no system is 100% guaranteed, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to identify you when using the Tor network.

Is Tor a VPN?

Since Tor and a VPN perform similar functions, you may be wondering, “Is Tor really just a specific type of VPN?” The answer is “no”. this is the reason:

A VPN is a network of servers that protects your privacy by encrypting your messages and masking your IP address. Your VPN provider controls both the VPN software on your computer, and the servers in their network. You should trust your VPN service to protect your privacy when using their network.

Tor is a network of servers that you communicate with without revealing your identity. No single organization controls both the Tor software on your computer and the individual servers in the network. You don’t need to trust anyone to use Tor securely. Like anything else, the fact that you don’t need to trust anyone when using Tor is what makes it different from a VPN.

How does Tor work?

The Tor network is designed so that no server can know who you are and what you’re doing. The network consists of thousands of independent servers run by volunteers around the world. Here’s what happens when your computer wants to send a message using the Tor network:

  1. Software on your computer (either the Tor Browser or another program that Tor supports) Randomly chooses three Tor servers. program then builds a road between those three servers.
  2. The process starts with the server that will do it Public internet connection (he is called exit knot). Tor on your computer encodes the message In a way that only the exit node can be decrypted.
  3. program then Repeats this process With the server in the middle. right Now The message has been encrypted twice.
  4. The program does the same thing with the server that will do it First receive the message from your computer (called knot guard). message now triple encrypted.
  5. Once the message is encrypted, the file Tor . program on your computer Sends the encrypted message to the guard knot. This server removes the outer layer of encryption. Guard Node can’t read the original message because it’s still there Two layers of encryption. However, the program includes the next server address in the path when it encrypts the message.
  6. The guard node sends the message to The server is in the middle of the path. This server removes the second layer of encryption. Like the first computer, the message still cannot be read because there are files Another layer of encryption. But removing this encryption layer tells it the address of the exit node.
  7. middle server Sends the message to the exit node. exit knot Removes the final layer of encryption. This means that the exit node can see your original message. However, since the message was relayed by other servers in the path, the exit node does not know who sent the message.
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This is key to understanding Tor, so let’s take a look at what each server in the path knows.

  • the knot guard It can see your computer’s IP address. But she doesn’t know what the message is saying because of the extra layers of encryption. So all you know Guard Node is that your computer sent a message using Tor and it needed to Forward this message to the middle server.
  • the middle server It knows that the message came from the guard node and that it should forward the message to the exit node. He can’t read the message because it’s there Only one layer of encryption remains. The middle server does not know who sent the message to the Guard Node because this information is not passed through the Tor network.
  • the exit knot He knows what the message says because he has to Remove the final layer of encryption before sending the message to the public Internet. But she does not know where the message originally came from. All he knows is that the middle server forwarded the message.

No single server knows or can know where the message is coming from and what it is saying. This is how Tor provides anonymity.

Tor Onion vs VPN Encryption

The way messages are routed within their networks is another key difference between VPNs and Tor.

When you send a message using a VPN, the message is encrypted on your computer and sent to a specific server in the VPN. There, it is decrypted and sent to the final destination. Incoming messages to your computer are sent to the VPN server. There it is encrypted and sent to your computer. The VPN software on your computer decrypts the message. Once the VPN connection is established, you will continue to use the same server for the duration.

Tor uses onion routing, which is a more complex approach. Onion routing requires that the message pass through at least three randomly selected Tor servers before being sent to its final destination. Before the message leaves your computer, Tor encrypts the message multiple times. The effect is to give messages of cipher layers that must be peeled, similar to the layers of an onion.

As the message passes through the network, each server decrypts one of the layers. When the last server in the path removes the final layer of encryption, it exposes…


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