VPN vs. TOR – Advantages and Disadvantages of VPN and TOR
When it comes to online security and privacy, VPN and TOR are among the top solutions. But which one is better? This article explains how each of these privacy solution work and which is best for you.
The advantages and disadvantages of each are also discussed in order to give you an idea of what’s in store for you when you use a VPN or the Tor network.
Tor – How It Works
Tor is an acronym for “The Onion Router”, which is the original name of the project. With Tor, your request will go through several layers or nodes before finally reaching its destination. The data goes through another set of layers when it is sent back to you. Hence, it is called The “Onion” Router.
Because of these security layers, your data is kept safe and secure. Every node that the data goes through does not know your IP address, but only the IP addresses of the previous node and the next node.
On top of this, your data is encrypted while travelling through these nodes. The encryption, however, stops when it reaches the last node or the exit node. The exit node is the final node that will handle your data before it is finally passed to the destination website. The decryption that happens at the exit node is noteworthy as it potentially harms your data and puts your privacy at risk.
The Tor network can only be accessed through the free Tor browser that you need to download. However, there are also applications that have Tor access built-in.
Advantages of Tor
1. Difficult to Shut Down
The government or any other organization cannot shut down the Tor network easily since it is being operated by volunteers only.
2. Hides Your IP Address
Your real IP address is well hidden because your request goes through multiple layers before reaching its destination. Each layer or node won’t know your IP address.
3. Free to Use
The Tor browser can be downloaded for free, and its network is free of charge as well.
4. Bypass Geographical Restrictions
Since you real IP address is hidden, you can bypass geographical restrictions and unblock contents that are otherwise inaccessible in your location.
Disadvantages of Tor
1. Slow Connection
Since a single request goes through multiple layers or nodes, using the Tor network will really slow down your connection. Each node also varies in terms of bandwidth, so there is a chance that you will go through the slowest node, especially since the selection is random. If you want to stream videos or access content that require high speed connection, using the Tor browser is not advisable.
2. Security Limited Only to Tor Browser
The security that the Tor network provides can only be used while using the Tor browser or applications that have a built in Tor access. This means that not all applications that you use on your computer can be protected by the Tor network.
3. Potential Security Breach
The data that reaches the exit node is decrypted, making it easy for anyone running it to see your data. This can put you under the mercy of spies and hackers, especially if you are not using an HTTPS connection. The alarming thing about this is that anyone can just setup an exit node.
4. Questionable Maintenance
The Tor network is run by volunteers only, so they may not have enough funding that can take care of the maintenance.
5. Red Flag
Using the Tor network frequently can create a red flag for the government, causing them to set up surveillance for you. This is because they know that Tor users are mostly people who want to hide sensitive information.
VPN – How It Works
A VPN or Virtual Private Network enables you to connect to a provider’s server virtually, allowing you to use a different IP address. Because you can select which server to connect to, a VPN service allows you to bypass geographical restrictions. You only need to connect to a server that is located in a specific country, and you will be able to access websites and contents specific to that country.
Aside from this, a VPN uses heavy encryption for all data that you send or receive. This way, nobody will be able to see what you are doing on the internet.
Advantages of a VPN
1. Faster Speed
Generally, a VPN is faster than Tor because your data only travels from your computer to the VPN server, then to the destination website. With the Tor browser, your data goes through different Tor nodes before reaching the destination website.
2. Free VPN
There are public VPNs that are available for free since they are funded by revenues from advertisements.
3. Over-all Protection
All internet connection on your computer will be protected, unlike the Tor network that can only be accessed through the Tor browser. As long as your computer is connected to the VPN, everything you do while online is protected.
Furthermore, the VPN can also be setup directly on your router, so that all devices that connect to the router are protected by the VPN.
4. Bypass Geographical Restrictions
The ability to connect to a different server of user’s choice enables VPN users to access websites and applications that are otherwise blocked in a certain location.
Disadvantages of a VPN
Free VPN services are loaded with advertisements. If you are willing to shell out a small amount of money though, you can get rid of these advertisements. LimeVPN has a VPN package that will cost you only $1 per month. With the package comes more features also.
2. Browsing History Log
There are VPN services that log your browsing history, which actually defeats the purpose of a VPN. So choose your VPN service provider carefully. LimeVPN does not keep a record of your browsing history.
Using Tor with VPN
The two privacy solutions can be used together to provide an added layer of security. However, this method can heavily slow down network connections because the Tor network will need to randomly send your request to several servers all around the world.
VPN vs. Tor – The Bottom Line
The choice between VPN and Tor as a privacy and security solution ultimately boils down to your purpose or goal. If you want to stream high quality online videos, then a VPN service is the best option since it does not dramatically affect network speed. Tor is not ideal for video streaming because it considerably slows down network connection.
Users who need to access geo restricted web contents sparingly and infrequently can just use the Tor network since it is free of charge. For example, if you go out of the country for a couple of days and need to access a website that is blocked in the country where you are currently in, then you can download the Tor browser in order to access that website.
However, if you are planning to do this frequently, they might as well subscribe to a VPN service that can provide you with the ultimate privacy and security without slowing down network connections.