Content Written By Henry Dalziel, 2021
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a virtual private network that allows you to create a secure connection to another network.
As we should all know by now, it’s not a great idea to be using “free” WiFi since it can be hacked pretty easily. We cover tools to hack WiFi here – and you’ll see just how easy it is.
A VPN, for the most part, is a fantastic encryption tool to use in public places, like cafes, or airports but it is also helpful to access region-restricted websites. Another great thing about a VPN is that it encrypts all data, collecting little to no information.
Third parties can’t access data exchanged over VPNs because it is routed through all the private network’s servers. Most VPN clients are not free, but most people who use them will agree they are well worth the investment.
Free VPN services do exist, but they might not always be the safest solution.
What is Tor?
Tor is an open-source project, a network that anyone can join, contribute to, and use for free. It works by routing your data through the network to anonymize it.
This process is rather slow and not very efficient. No logs are kept, but there might be occasional malicious nodes that keep limited logs. Its main purpose is to stop anyone from knowing your location or browsing history. Some parts of the network may be under surveillance at a given time, but the network is generally safe and tracing your activity within it is almost impossible.
How Secure Is A VPN?
While VPNs encrypt your data and secure it from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government or other third parties, the question remains: can’t VPNs collect data themselves? Certainly, there’s a risk, but the most secure VPNs won’t keep any logs of your activity.
How Does A VPN Work?
When you want to connect to a website, the request is forwarded to your router, that device in your home that comes from your ISP. At this moment, the ISP receives your data, the websites you want to visit. It also assigns you an IP address, which is then used by some websites, such as Google, for localization purposes. This data will then be used by third parties, either for targeted marketing or by websites that restrict access based on region.
If you use a VPN, your device connects to the VPNs servers. All your traffic passes through these servers and is thus hidden from your Internet Service Provider. Your IP address will match the one associated with your VPN. You can also choose to change your location, to make it look like you are browsing from a different country, thus being able to view region-restricted content.
How To Use Tor and VPN together
The problem with using Tor alone is that only your browsing data is anonymized. Meaning all the other apps you may be using are exposed. And the problem with using a VPN alone is that there’s a risk they will keep some logs of your data and you won’t be completely anonymous. This is why it is important to use Tor and a VPN together.
I know what you’re wondering now; how exactly should I use VPN & Tor together?
Connect To A VPN, Then Use Tor
To maximize security and privacy, VPN should be first, then Tor. In short, this is called Tor over VPN. Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps:
- Start by connecting to your VPN;
- Open your Tor browser and access any websites you want – your data will now be completely anonymous and thanks to the VPN, your ISP won’t be able to tell you’re using the Tor browser;
- If you want to access other apps, the VPN will protect your privacy there.
Why Does The Order Matter?
Connecting to Tor first, then to a VPN (known as VPN over Tor) does not have the same advantage of guaranteed anonymity. Why? Because through this setup, the VPN can see your traffic, just as if you weren’t using the Tor browser at all.
The Advantages Of Using Tor Over VPN
To see the advantages of using both services, let’s take another look at what each provides separately, and how the two compare to each other.
On its own, Tor:
- Encrypts all traffic.
- Protects your data even from itself.
- It doesn’t require trust.
- It is hard to detect, therefore hard to block.
- Its main disadvantage is that it is slow.
A VPN on its own:
- Encrypts all traffic…usually.
- Protects you from your Internet Service Provider and some third parties.
- Requires trust – your VPN provider knows your true IP address and you usually connect to the network through an account you create when you sign up for the service;
- relatively easy to detect and to block (laws in some countries may forbid or limit the use of VPNs).
As you can see both a VPN and Tor are amazing. And both have their minuses.
If you use them together, by first connecting to a VPN then to Tor, you eliminate most of these issues.
- All your traffic will be encrypted – what the VPN doesn’t encrypt, Tor will.
- All your data will be protected from your ISP, third parties, governments, and the VPN provider too.
- The chances of someone detecting you are using a VPN are reduced and even eliminated by using it with Tor.
Are there any disadvantages to using VPN & Tor together? There might be. For instance, Tor supports only TCP traffic, while some VPNs support both TCP and UDP. And you still need to trust your VPN provider because even using Tor, they still know your true IP address. Your privacy, however, is at the maximum level possible while using Tor over VPN.
Using VPN & Tor is the best solution for anyone wanting privacy, anonymity, and security. Used separately, both have disadvantages. Your traffic might not be completely encrypted, someone might detect that you’re using a VPN, and so on. Using them together eliminates most of these disadvantages. The great thing is that they are both easy to use. In just a few clicks you can surf the web without worrying your activity might be tracked.