Harsher Laws Require Privacy, Which is Better for Crypto Users, VPN or TOR?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the most commonly used privacy tool that average consumers of internet technologies have available to them. In fact, a study done by GO-Globe.com said that over 25% of internet users had used a VPN at least once in the 30 days prior to the study being conducted. Which means there are almost 400 million VPN users out there if you take the 4 billion total worldwide users data from Statista.com. That is a lot of users wanting to protect their privacy.
There is, however, another option for many users. It's called TOR and most people would be quick to assume it is a tool that only criminals use. After all, when any hacking network is busted, TOR is inevitably mentioned. The truth is that it was originally developed by the United States Naval Research Lab for protecting US intelligence online. It is now used by over 2 million people every day according to Project Tor's Tor Metric Page. This number is a very conservative estimate as TOR is… well… very private.
What Is A Virtual Private Network?
A VPN is a service that is provided to you by a third party that provides encrypted communication between your computer and a server in the third party's network. The server you communicate within that network will then connect to a website on your behalf and relay data to your computer. The target site thinks it is communicating with the VPN server and not your computer.
This means that you can use a server located in another country to access services not normally available in your own country. Examples of this are people who use VPN yo bypass georestrictions on media content. The library of top streaming service Netflix differs from country to country. Many who were early adopters of Netflix around the world would use a VPN to access the US service.
However, since launching worldwide, Netflix has cut out VPN among its users and many have not been happy with the change.
What Is TOR?
First, what does it mean? The name TOR means “The Onion Router,” which sounds funny but is anything but. TOR is a free, open-source network that is designed to provide ultimate anonymity to its users. TOR allows your data to pass through thousands of relays that are run by volunteers. These relays then scramble your identity and location from anyone trying to monitor you.
There are however problems with TOR. Many websites have identified relays belonging to TOR and have banned them from accessing their sites. Governments and cybersecurity companies have known to monitor Guard/Exit Relays to try and ascertain a users identity and location. Guard relays are entrances to the TOR network while the self-evident Exit Relays are the exit points.
Key Differences Between VPNs And TOR
The key difference between the two is centralization. VPNs are private networks owned by a third party. There are good third parties (such as Nord VPN and Express VPN) which do not keep data logs on their users' activity and offer full encryption. They will fight for their user's anonymity to the last. Then there are other VPNs that are not as trans[arent. VPNs that offer free access but sell your data or steal your passwords.
TOR, the other hand, is decentralized and while it does run off of volunteers, many of those volunteers have a vested interest in keeping the network safe. However, as mentioned earlier you can be tracked by governments and top cybersecurity companies while using TOR as well. It's just slightly harder.
So Why Not Use Both?
The ultimate in privacy will require you to use TOR and a trusted VPN provider. However, this will definitely depend on what you want to do. Normal browsing is about 10% slower with a VPN switched on. It is much, much slower using TOR. When you use both it can be painfully difficult for modern users who have grown up with broadband speeds allowing almost instant browsing.
That said, if you truly want your identity to remain hidden and you absolutely do not want the government or any company to track you then there is no other option. Mild privacy issues can be handled by only using VPNs, slightly more serious issues by using TOR alone. If you truly value your privacy and anonymity on the internet then only by using both together can you best preserve?