Online privacy has never been more of a concern. In today’s world, certain software allows companies to track your every move online and send targeted content your way as they see fit. But, what if you value anonymity and your data? Well, then you have a couple of choices and in this post, we’ll take a look at the two main ones – TOR and VPN Services.
While The Onion Router or TOR isn’t by any means new, many daily internet users don’t even know about it or what it’s used for. So what is it exactly? TOR is a free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication online. The software directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user’s location and online activity.
In a nutshell, using TOR makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to any one specific user. This includes visits to websites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms. Tor’s main intended use is to protect the personal privacy of its users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities unmonitored.
However, there is a downside to all this fantastic anonymity, since your data is pinged across many different nodes and hides your IP address and location, it also slows your internet speed and isn’t suitable for file-sharing or media sharing – so while you may use TOR to sign up for a streaming service not available in your country – the speed simply makes streaming that media impractical. Another concern with TOR is that if you don’t choose HTTPS-enabled sites, your data can be monitored at exit nodes. And then there’s always the eerie Dark Web that TOR allows you access to, which is riddled with sometimes unimaginable illicit content and activity that no human should ever be subject to.
Another way to secure your data on the web is by using a VPN. A virtual private network or VPN extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running on any devices on a VPN will benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.
VPN is known to be faster than TOR and also provides anonymity to users. However, VPN is usually a paid service and technically, your VPN provider can track your activity or be legally ordered to hand over your records. VPN also restricts a user’s access to TOR.
Both VPN and TOR have unique advantages. They’re rather different in the way that they operate. At the end of the day, the primary considerations come down to speed and privacy. Tor hides your IP address from everyone but it’s very slow while VPN is faster but not 100% anonymous.