Tor and VPNs are powerful tools used for online security and privacy. They have similar functions but perform them in different ways. So, what is the difference between a VPN and a Tor? And should you use a VPN with Tor together? Let’s dig in and find out.
What Is the Difference Between Tor and VPN?
Tor: Tor, or otherwise known as Dark Web, is an anonymity network that routes internet traffic through a global network of nodes. The multiple jumps your traffic takes on the network allows you to stay anonymous.
You can connect to the network using a special Tor Browser, also known as Onion Browser. All your internet activities are anonymous when you use it. This means your internet connection that does not use Tor Network is not secure. For example, ISP can easily tell that you were connecting to the Tor Network or see other activities, like torrenting.
VPN: VPN is a private network that encrypts your entire network connection and tunnels all of your data through a VPN server. Unlike Tor, when you use a VPN, all your internet activity on the device is protected. VPN ensures all data coming in and going out of your device is protected and private. However, unlike Tor, it does not make you fully anonymous.
Should You Use a VPN with Tor?
According to the official Tor documentation, there is no need to use Tor with VPN to increase your privacy. The reason is that a Tor network is secure enough, and can suffice on its own. However, there are some benefits to combining the two.
Should you want to combine a VPN with Tor, there are two approaches you can explore:
- Tor over VPN
- VPN over Tor
Let’s explore each method in detail.
Tor over VPN
This method requires you to connect to your VPN before opening the Tor Browser. This way, the VPN encrypts your traffic before conducting your business on Deep Web.
The entry node of the Tor network will receive your VPN server IP address as the origin of your data. Your real IP address would be hidden from the Tor entry node. A VPN in this case would also hide the fact that you access the Tor Network from ISP. This way you can boost your privacy and anonymity.
Pros of using Tor over VPN
- It provides extra security and anonymity
- It helps you hide your Tor activities from your ISP
- Hides your IP and protects you against malicious entry nodes
Cons of using Tor over VPN
- If your VPN provider logs your data and works with authorities, this method is not viable for online privacy and anonymity
If you are considering connecting to Tor over VPN, NordVPN is an excellent VPN to use. The VPN is reputable and does not log users’ data and is independently audited.
VPN over Tor
This method is the opposite of the first one. It routes your VPN traffic over Tor Network. To do that you will have to configure your VPN to work with Tor. It is not a matter of simply turning on your VPN and you will need some technical expertise or assistance.
With VPN over Tor, the exit nodes reroute your internet traffic to your VPN server, eliminating the risks of malicious exit nodes. With this method, Tor entry nodes will see your real IP address and your VPN will only see the exit node’s entry address.
With this method, your ISP will have no clue when it comes to your Deep Web activities.
Pros of VPN over Tor
- Allows easier access to sites that block Tor exit nodes.
- It protects you from malicious exit nodes
- It helps you hide your VPN use from ISPs
Cons of VPN over Tor
- It is considered difficult to use as you need some technical expertise to configure your VPN for use.
For example, NordVPN has special servers called Onion over VPN. It routes your VPN traffic over Tor Network and even allows you to access Deep Web websites without Tor Browser. The downside is that the speeds with this feature are quite slow.
When to Use VPN with Tor
You can boost your privacy when using a VPN with Tor together. A VPN is not necessary when browsing only on Tor Network, but it protects everything else when you do not use it. A VPN hides your internet activities from ISP, including the fact that you access Tor. It would also protect your internet traffic like torrenting while only using Tor Browser you could not do that.
You should use a VPN with Tor when:
- You have a reliable VPN provider: a reliable VPN is critical for your privacy and anonymity on Tor. You should avoid the ones that log your traffic at all costs.
- You want to hide your use of Tor from your ISP: many ISPs are not a fan of Tor. They track what their users do, especially when it comes to Tor traffic.
- When your access to Tor Network is blocked: sometimes you may not access Tor Network because of blocked access. Using a VPN would allow you to bypass those restrictions.
- You want to protect yourself from malicious nodes: a compromised node in the Tor network is one way for hackers and authorities to try and break Tor’s anonymity. If such an attack happens, a VPN will greatly reduce the chance that your real IP will be exposed.
- You want privacy outside Tor Network: a VPN hides the use of other applications on your device like P2P and torrent clients. It also hides all other browsing activities when you don’t use the Onion browser.
- You are looking to bypass geo-blocking: many websites, just as ISPs are not a fan of Tor. Some sites do not allow connections from known exit nodes. Using a VPN would allow you to unblock specific geo-restricted content more easily.
Is It Safe to Use a VPN with Tor?
It is safe to use a VPN with Tor. Using a VPN that does not keep any logs could even boost your privacy and anonymity. It is important to have a VPN with security and privacy features that are suited for that.
Features of a good VPN for privacy:
- Compatible with Tor: Not all VPNs can be used with Tor. Some may not compatible or would not allow connecting to the network. Luckily the most popular services are fully compatible.
- Solid encryption: a good VPN comes with good encryption for security. Ensure that your preferred service supports OpenVPN protocol and uses AES 256 bit encryption.
- No log storage: a good VPN promotes privacy and does not store user logs. While choosing a VPN, ensure it does not store users’ logs and have a clear policy about it.
- Located in a secure jurisdiction: A good VPN is located in countries that do not participate in the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliances. NordVPN, for example, is located in Panama, a country with no mandatory data retention laws.
Should you use a VPN with Tor? Well, there are advantages and disadvantages to using the tools together. However, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages. When looking to use the two tools together, it’s best to choose a VPN with privacy features like a No-Log policy and strong encryption.
Here are some of the best VPNs that you could use with Tor: