Here’s an interesting little fact for you: did you know that there is a hidden “dark” part inside the internet itself, which is unreachable by normal means? These dark websites, labeled as .onion pages, don’t appear on Google searches, and you can’t visit them, even if you know their name and content. This is all possible thanks to the Tor Project: a secret network, aiming to enhance privacy and anonymity by going against the regulations of the internet. This service shows many similarities with VPNs, and some of them like TorVPN or NordVPN allow you to combine the two for maximized security.
What is Tor?
So what is Tor exactly about? According to their own words, Tor (standing for The Onion Router) is a private network made up by a group of volunteer-operated servers. However, the essence of Tor is that instead of connecting in a direct way, users reroute their access through a set of virtual tunnels, as if they were using VPN. Tor depends on the constant data tunneling though, which contributes to the safety of their users. The process might sound alienating or complicated at first, but you can put your worries aside, since all you need to do is download and run a free client program. The greatest benefit of using Tor is that it makes it harder to track back your internet activity, as it avoids the traffic surveillance present with normal web usage.
Tor was originally meant to be a means for people to protect their privacy and their right to conduct delicate communication in full incognito mode. For example, a journalist might wish to use this network to get in touch with their hidden government sources without worrying of a fly on the wall. But keep in mind that Tor, as any other technology, is a blank page, and the users are the ones who give it purpose. Many people use the hidden .onion websites to set up untraceable pedophile pages, or exploit the system in other disgusting ways. Most government organizations, like the National Security Agency, don’t welcome Tor at all, and wage an unending battle against it.
Tor or VPN?
As you can see, Tor and VPN share many traits. They are both meant to be an easy to use way to enhance your virtual protection and prevent personal details from being leaked. Their core concept also revolves around data tunneling and encryption. Then the question is, which one serves your needs better? The truth is, the answer depends on you. VPN does more for you than simply encoding your data stream. It hides your IP, and helps you bypass content restrictions. With a VPN provider behind your back, you always get the more affordable prices when buying things online, not to mention you gain access to all available Netflix content. On the other hand, all this comes for a literal price. VPN services require a monthly subscription, and only the expensive ones unlock all the good features.
As for Tor, you can enjoy a whole new world of content, absolutely for free. You can gather interesting .onion hidden site links from Twitter or Reddit forums, and see the new face of the internet. You can do so by knowing that you are fully anonymous in the process. Still, keep in mind that agencies do their best to interfere with the operation of Tor, and you gain no access to extra privacy protection features either.
Using Tor and VPN Together
If you want to make the most of your private web surfing sessions, consider using the two services together. This way, their positive attributes add up, while their disadvantages are negated. Some VPN services come with smart DNS features, which is a nice touch when you want to avoid further detections. Most of them also have a nice client program, which makes the management of your virtual locations even easier. And don’t forget, that you are able to choose your proxy server’s location as well. With the Tor alongside VPN, your expenses don’t increase, since Tor is free. Yet, you still can visit hidden sites, and chat with others in full privacy. Still, we admit that using two data routing software might be a hassle. That’s why you should check out VPNs which also grant you access to the Tor network!
Recommended VPN Services
Making up your mind about using VPN is one thing, but finding the most suiting offer is another. To make things easier for you, we rounded up three of them for starters. Still, you’ll find more detailed information on each of them in our reviews.
TorVPN is an advantageous choice for those who value their identity enough to hide from conventional traffic analysis. The company operates eight servers in US, Europe and Hong Kong. The choice of locations is few, but TorVPN doesn’t limit your speed on either server. Your data is also protected by an exceptionally high encryption rate, scalable up to 4096-bit, which is uncrackable by normal means. Sadly, TorVPN didn’t develop its own client, and uses an open-source one instead. Still, they make up for it with the ability to simultaneously route your connection to the Tor network, granting you all of its benefits.
Interestingly, NordVPN is a service based in Panama, and not in Scandinavia, as the name would suggest. But moving on to the actual service, you find some highly comprehensible features. The double data encryption guarantees tight protection, and even if the connection fails, the kill switch shuts down all software from using the unsecure web. This is coupled with a sophisticated application, compatible with every major hardware and operating system, even smart home devices using Tomato. The Achilles heel of this promising VPN is the speed, though. That’s why it’s recommended for browsing, and not video streaming.
TorGuard, a self-titled online privacy protection service, comes with a strong package of features. The servers are located in eight countries. It’s a small number, but all international servers support P2P torrenting. Dedicated towards file sharing, TorGuard balances protection and speed very well, thanks to its 256-bit encoding. You can run all kinds of torrent clients with it, and the company has a stylish application, available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android systems. Another strong point of TorGuard is its preventive measures against DNS leaking, and the full support of PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP protocols.