Tor vs. VPN

Tor vs. VPN

Nord VPN

If you fear being monitored and want reliable online protection, you might often consider using either Tor or VPN services. Their functions might overlap a lot, but there are some significant differences. Read below to find out which one is a better option for you.

What is Tor?

Tor is a network used for anonymous communication. It has lots of servers scattered around the globe that are maintained by individual volunteers. This makes Tor connections difficult to intercept as they do not rely on a single company or organization. How does Tor work?

  1. When you enter a request, Tor software encrypts it three times for three different nodes – a guard node, a middle server and an exit node;
  2. The Tor software then sends it to the guard node. It removes one layer of encryption and passes it to the next server. The guard node can see your IP, but it cannot read the encrypted message;
  3. The middle node peels the second layer off and passes the message and its final encryption layer to the exit node;
  4. The exit node removes the final layer and can see your decrypted message, but it cannot identify the sender. This node passes the message on to the recipient.


Is Tor safe?

The fourth step is the most sensitive one as the message could be visible to the person or organization operating the exit node. Anyone can set up a node, so its security depends on the owner. The only solution here is using an HTTPS connection, which is itself encrypted by transport layer security protocol (TLS), or an Onion Over VPN feature.

By operating both guard and exit nodes, someone could identify the user and their message. An organization operating a large amount of Tor servers could intercept users, but it is unlikely that a single individual could do this. Organizations like the National Security Agency (NSA), however, could have the resources and desire to monitor the Tor network in this way.

Tor pros:

  • Its complex encryption process virtually guarantees full anonymity;
  • Free, easy-to-use software;
  • Difficult to shut down or intercept as the traffic is spread among a large number of servers maintained by individual volunteers;
  • Can access geo-blocked content.

Tor cons:

  • Complicated encryption procedure slows down your connection speed;
  • Exit nodes may intercept message content;
  • Poor accountability and transparency for the volunteers maintaining the nodes;
  • To assume the IP of a specific country, you will need to configure your connection or reconnect multiple times until you connect to a node in the country you need;
  • Not available for all operating systems.

What is VPN software?

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, encrypts your data and sends it to an intermediary server. VPN service providers operate many servers in different locations and offer different VPN protocols and features, giving you plenty of choices.

VPNs also encrypt your data, making it invisible to hackers and snoopers. Premium VPNs use top-grade 256-bit encryption systems, which are impossible to brute-force using any currently known and available device.

VPNs work like this:

  1. VPN software encrypts your data and sends it to a remote server that changes your IP address;
  2. The server decrypts your data before delivering it to your end goal;
  3. Data arriving at your device from the network undergoes the same process.

VPN working

As you can see, it requires way fewer steps than Tor to ensure security and privacy.

VPNs also encrypt your data, making it invisible to hackers and snoopers. Premium VPNs use top-grade 256-bit encryption systems, which are impossible to brute-force using any currently known and available device.

It’s easy to tell who runs the servers when it comes to reputable VPN providers, so the whole procedure is more transparent. There is always somebody accountable for the service, and they usually provide customer service. This makes it more stable and reliable than Tor.

VPN pros:

  • Accountability because it’s easy to tell who owns the server;
  • Easy to use, especially when provided by a VPN service;
  • Provides online privacy as your data gets encrypted and you get a new IP;
  • Premium VPNs use advanced military-grade encryption;
  • Faster than Tor due to a simpler routing scheme;
  • Premium VPNs offer features like specialized P2P serversKill Switch, and Smart DNS services;
  • You can easily choose the specialized server or country you need most.

VPN cons:

  • The system relies on a single provider and your information passes through fewer servers, so it’s important to trust your provider;
  • Premium VPNs are more expensive;
  • Some VPNs collect user and connection logs (make sure your provider has a no-logs policy).

VPN vs Tor: can they be used simultaneously?

You can use both Tor and VPN at the same time. You can connect to the Tor network by connecting to a VPN beforehand or vice versa. The latter method requires a special VPN service that supports such a connection.

However, this method slows down your internet extremely. There is little optimization when it comes to VPN and Tor combination. A better option would be to use a specialized and integrated onion over VPN feature.


Tor vs VPN: which is better?

Even though Tor and VPN applications overlap, there are more differences than similarities. VPN services provide you with transparent service and privacy protection, while Tor has less accountability and can be a potential target of security agencies.

We recommend using a VPN as it has way more features, more transparency, and high-end encryption mechanisms. Moreover, it won’t slow down your internet connection. VPN can protect your traffic in a more transparent way than Tor.

NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free!


Read more:

What is VPN? | VPN Explained In Detail

7 Golden Tips for Safe Web Surfing |(2019 UPDATED)


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