Tor: The Onion Router
What is Tor, and how does it work? Tor is a piece of software that is used to access the internet anonymously. It can be used to provide journalists and anyone interested with a free alternative method of communication, far away from any prying eyes.
It works by connecting to numerous devices in the Tor network before connecting to your device. This means that a website will be accessed by a different device in the network each time, so they won’t be able to locate the original source, which would be you.
Tor can be used to access the dark web, but it can also be used to browse normal websites. So the website won’t be able to see who you are, but they will be able to tell that you’re using Tor.
For journalists, informants and the like, it’s a valuable resource if they’re worried about their personal safety. Normal users can still benefit from the added privacy, and your ISP won’t be able to see which websites you’ve been going to. (As with the website itself, your ISP will be able to tell that you’re using Tor.)
It’s worth noting that it won’t protect you while using websites that aren’t encrypted. (Encrypted websites will have HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.)
Most users stick to the browser version, which is available on Mac, Windows and Linux. It’s the easiest way to get started, but there’s one important question. Is Tor browser safe? Overall, it’s safe enough, but it doesn’t compare to the encryption provided by a decent VPN.
For the most part, it’s a great way to keep one step ahead of anybody interested in what you’re up to. However, it’s not ideal for torrenting, as it’ll flood Tor with too much data to work effectively.
VPN: Virtual Private Network
VPNs are most commonly used to securely encrypt data sent to and from your computer while online. It’s an added layer of security, keeping personal data away from the clutches of anybody but you and the VPN provider.
Most VPNs will keep no logs of user data. This means that they’ll have nothing to offer if they’re asked for your info, which is great for personal privacy.
Unlike Tor, you’ll have to pay for a half decent VPN. There are a few free ones available, but they often lack the secure encryption provided by a premium service. They also tend to run slower and sell your logs to third parties in order to maintain a bottom line.
A VPN can be used to mask your IP address, setting it to a different location if need be. Similarly to Tor, it offers anonymity when you’re online, and you’ll be able to access content and websites if they were previously blocked by your ISP. Compared to Tor, a VPN is better suited to handling the speeds necessary for streaming content. If you’re planning to torrent, a VPN is the way to go for the same reason.
Combining a VPN with Tor is also a great option.
VPN & Tor
You’ll be pleased to hear that you can use VPN and Tor for maximum security while online. Doubling down might seem excessive, but it makes sense considering the purpose of both.
If you use Windows, the Tor network isn’t the best option as there are often numerous flaws that can be exploited.
There are two methods if you want to combine VPN & Tor. There are pros and cons for each one, so we’ll go through both below. (You’ll need to have both your VPN and Tor ready to use.)
Tor to VPN
This method means that you’ll connect to the VPN server first. The data sent to and from your computer will be encrypted by the VPN, then routed through the Tor network. Using Tor with VPN as a backup is a great idea, and it’s simple to configure.
However, you’ll be left at the mercy of the VPN provider, as they’ll know your location. (That’s one of many reasons why it pays to stick with a trusted VPN service.)
VPN to Tor
Alternatively, you can use Tor first, logging in to the VPN afterwards. After shooting through their router, the data will be encrypted by your VPN. Your connection will show up as the last exit point from the Tor network.
Overall, both methods are viable, but they’re more useful for different tasks. VPN connections are better for security, while Tor is one of the best ways to stay anonymous. Either method of connection is better than nothing, although both can be overkill depending on what you’re planning to use it for.
With that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that using both VPN and Tor together will probably slow down your connection unless you’re blessed with godlike internet speeds.
If you have to choose one, pick a VPN that you trust to get rid of your personal data. We’ve picked out a trio of the very best below.
Best VPNs for TOR
#1 NordVPN – The Perfect VPN To Combine With TOR
If you’re planning to use both Tor & VPN, we’d go for the extra security provided by NordVPN. Their encryption is second to none, and they keep no user logs. They’ll be sure to take care of your data in the best possible way. Their speeds are good enough for most users, although it isn’t as fast as the others on this list.
- One month: $11.95
- 12 months: $5.75
- 24 months: $3.29
For more information on NordVPN features, read our extensive NordVPN review.
#2 ExpressVPN – The Ultra Fast VPN Service
ExpressVPN is rated highly by the majority of experts. Their speeds are some of the best available on the market, more than able to handle high speed downloads or online gaming. Then again, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that security is one of the most important factors when making your decision. We’d plump for NordVPN if that’s your main concern.
- One month: $12.95
- Six months: $9.99
- 15* months: $6.67 *Three months free
For more information on ExpressVPN features, read our extensive ExpressVPN review.
#3 IPVanish – Fair Speed for a Fair Price
has hundreds of server locations across the globe. Speed is a plus point, while their 256-bit encryption will keep your data safe as it travels to and from your device. If you want the speed of ExpressVPN, mixed with the security provided by NordVPN, IPVanish is what you’re looking for.
- One month: $7.50
- Three months: $6.75 per month
- 12 months: $4.87 per month
For more information on IPVanish features, read our extensive IPVanish review.
Above all, it’s important to stay safe online. Whether via Tor or VPN, it’s always best to keep your personal data as secure as possible. Using a combination of VPN with Tor is the best way to browse websites with complete peace of mind.
We’d probably go for a VPN provider over the Tor network, mostly because encryption is better than attempting to stay hidden. For the average user, it’s difficult to justify the time, cost and effort it takes to use a VPN with Tor. One should be enough, and the choice is down to you.