In this day and age, hacking and invasion of privacy has become the order of the day on the internet. If you want absolute privacy on the web then simply browsing on a private tab or “incognito” is not going to cut it. It is very important that you have some form of security while browsing and there are some browsers that do provide that.
Tor is one of the browsers that provide this form of security and it serves as an Internet networking protocol designed to anonymize the data relayed across it. Using Tor's software will make it difficult for any snoops to see your webmail, search history, social media posts or other online activity. They also won't be able to tell which country you're in by analyzing your IP address, which can be very useful for journalists, activists, businesspeople and more.
Tor browser is designed to make the user anonymous online, which does not use VPN technology, and therefore does not encrypt data. The name Tor is an acronym for ‘The Onion Router,’ which is a specialized browser that sends the user’s data through several anonymous servers. In doing so, it becomes considerably more difficult to identify what the user is doing online.
However, there is a disclaimer that Tor does not completely anonymize the user while surfing the web. The traffic on Tor, while bounced through random nodes, eventually exits to the internet via what is termed an ‘exit node.’ These exit nodes can be hacked, or the exit node may be monitored by the owner, thereby exposing a user’s data.
A VPN, on the other hand, is a tool that helps enhance your online privacy and security. A VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs are used to access region-restricted websites, download torrent files anonymously, mask your internet usage from your ISP and prevent prying eyes from listening in on your activity on public Wi-Fi. VPNs are also used extensively in the corporate world for connecting securely to remote networks.
In these days of growing online crime and government surveillance, using a VPN is becoming more and more important for protecting your online activity from criminals and other prying eyes. when you are browsing the internet without TOR, you should probably be using a VPN regardless of whether or not you are using TOR. And make sure that the VPN uses some form of encryption as well.
All networks, especially public Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to traffic analysis. Put this together with the fact that some internet service providers monitor your activity on some level, and you can see why it might be a good idea to always use an encrypted method of using the internet. At the very least to protect your personal information when you are entering credit cards, usernames and passwords, as well as other personal data online especially if you are using a public Wi-Fi network.
A VPN service is a way to encrypt all the traffic between a client, then to a VPN server, and on to the internet. This is done via an encrypted tunnel, which keeps the user’s public IP address hidden, and the net traffic private. Modern protocols perform the encryption at 256-bit, which is secure enough to be considered ‘top secret’ for government use.
However, even with the VPN configured correctly, and the service performing well, nothing is 100% secure, and there can still be data leaks, where unencrypted data gets transmitted – including IP leaks, and DNS leaks. In other features, we’ve recommended some approaches to mitigate the issue of VPN failure, including performing an IP leak test, and using a VPN kill switch. However, despite best efforts, concerns remain regarding being affected by these sorts of leaks when using a VPN.
With neither a VPN nor Tor being completely 100% effective as a single solution, this raises the question of whether to run both simultaneously, thereby giving the user a double layer of privacy coverage. However, this layered combination is not without controversy. There are certainly arguments as to whether Tor and VPN should be used simultaneously, and moreover, there is disagreement over how best to implement this. However, there are advantages that undoubtedly come with combining Tor and a VPN such as the fact that Protection from malicious Tor exit nodes, as data is encrypted by the VPN client before entering (and exiting) the Tor network (although the data is encrypted, your ISP will be able to see that it is heading towards a Tor node)
Another benefit is that because you connect to the VPN server through Tor, the VPN provider cannot ‘see’ your real IP address – only that of the Tor exit node. When combined with an anonymous payment method (such as properly mixed Bitcoins) made anonymously over Tor, this means the VPN provider has no way of identifying you, even if it did keep logs.
It also helps that while combining Tor with a VPN the Tor entry node will not see your true IP address, but the IP address of the VPN server. If you use a good no-logs provider this can provide a meaningful additional layer of security. Using a VPN through Tor is usually considered more secure because it allows true anonymity - not even your VPN provider knows who you are. It also provides protection against malicious Tor exit nodes, and allows you to evade censorship via blocks on Tor exit nodes.
Whichever configuration one might choose, combining VPN and Tor will improve your privacy and security, and goes some way towards addressing weakness in using either technology as a stand-alone solution.
It is however recommended that any user who requires a very high level of security to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of each setup in relation to their particular needs. Under most circumstances, for example, using VPN through Tor provides almost perfect anonymity, but the fact that the VPN acts as a fixed end-point for Tor does mean that under some circumstances such a setup could potentially become a liability.