What is Tor?
The Onion Router known as a logo for Tor, which was developed by the US navy to enable people to browse the Internet anonymously. Being a non-profit organization, today Tor team is concentrated over the enhancement of privacy tools.
How does Tor work?
The general picture is that your online identity is disguised by Tor with flowing your traffic through different servers. You canâ€™t be traced back due to traffic encryption. Random nodes can be seen by a person who tries to trace it.
Anonymity software as well as Tor browser are included by Tor. There are two things under the one name both the software installed on your device and the network that manages Tor connection. This means that at one and the same time several devices let pass your traffic through their networks in such a way that a party on the other end of a connection canâ€™t trace traffic back to you. In this way the bigger amount of nodes (ends) participate in the network, the more encrypted (confused) turns your traffic. Thus, your identity is concealed through the rest of the world by a number of layers.
The so-called â€˜intermediateâ€™ traffic, the traffic that hasnâ€™t yet reached the destination is passed through the devices named relays. Middle relays, end relays and bridges are the participants of the process. In order to handle your traffic further the network middle relays are used where end relays are the final ends of the process. A â€˜middle routerâ€™ can become anybody who wants to participate in the process. Tor relays that arenâ€™t listed publicly are the bridges we have mentioned before. The tool is considered to be safe as it is used by many different customers from average users to political dissidents.
Performance-related drawbacks: due to the fact that at least three relays are rerouting your traffic the speed subsides. Such heavier content elements as videos or audio tracks consume more bandwidth. But it also depends on the number of relays participating in a process.
Intelligence agencies awareness: as it has been already mentioned, the government sees when Tor system is used. Those people who use Tor are identified by the agencies as foreign nationals by default. And only after it has been revealed that the person using Tor is an American citizen the records on him/her are destroyed.
End relays hosting: the interest to such customers is shown from the part of law enforcement agencies. Itâ€™s a pretty common state of things when such a person receives a copyright takedown notice (if not speaking about other things). Moreover, an exclusively smart hacker is possible, although itâ€™s extremely difficult to trace back your traffic.
Is a VPN a Torâ€™s alternative?
As you have already learnt from the article, Tor is good for anonymizing, but if itâ€™s extremely necessary your traffic to be traced back, therefore you will be revealed. In addition, speed performance of Tor operation leaves much to be desired when talking about video materials in particular. So, there is still an effective technology that is equal in its functionality to Tor and even better.
A VPN which is called after â€˜a virtual private networkâ€™ is a network that operates over the existing one thus protecting your Internet connection and all the related activities.
VPNâ€™s main functions
Three main functions of a VPN are privacy, security and anonymity.
Itâ€™s normal for us to lock the door of the washroom we take after fitness training, because we donâ€™t want anyone to penetrate into our personal acting. So, why then our network activities are open for interferences. Therefore a good VPN maintains a privacy function. It locks all your traffic with the help of a ciphering key. The length of a key (128-bit, 256-bit, 1024-bit) proofs your privacy.
Another function is security. When being schoolboys we used to write secret notes to each other in a non-existing language. A good VPN uses up-to-date protocols for securing your traffic from interference into your business. All the traffic while passing through a secure tunneling becomes encrypted.
If talking about anonymity a VPN provider should be paid with more attention here as an anonymity-concerned one doesnâ€™t keep logs or any other metadata that can be further passed to an interested party. In addition to this you should choose the services that accept secure payment methods such as crypto currency or digital gift cards.
One more function maintained by a VPN regarded to be highly useful for many people is restrictions bypassing. While using Tor you canâ€™t choose the end relay of the process but your true IP address is shifted. While using a VPN you can shift your virtual location to any country or city you wish, which falls a long way short from Tor. A good VPN service provides a wide location net where you can find lots of servers in various countries. While staying home, you can connect to a server located in France/Paris so that other online participants/resources are to consider you as if you were in Paris. This helps to avoid any geo-restrictions imposed in many countries. When choosing a VPN you should also pay attention to servers either they are possessed by the provider or just hosted from a third party. The first option is more suitable as the level of your online anonymity is to be significantly enhanced.
Tor over VPN
As you see, both technologies have some vulnerable points, therefore many VPN providers suggest using Tor over a VPN. Tor makes your online anonymity undeniable, while VPN enhances your encryption a lot as well as providing you with a higher speed performance.
A higher speed performance of a VPN, if compared to Tor, is provided due to up-to-date servers, which are improved in this regard by the companies to offer their users better service. While using a VPN you can watch any streaming content without any breaks, provided that limitless bandwidth and speed performance are supplied by a provider. So, Tor usage over a VPN is considered to be a viable choice for your network protection.