Since people are increasingly more attached to using the Internet nowadays, they are also trying to find ways to keep their activities private. There are many different reasons for doing this. For example, some can’t stand the idea of government surveillance, while others worry about credit bureaus getting hacked. Unfortunately, more and more websites try to use browser tricks to track you as you browse.
Can Tor be used as a VPN? No, Tor can’t be used as a VPN. While Tor can be used to help increase your privacy and protection on the web, Tor cannot encrypt your location in the same way that a VPN can. However, you can use a VPN with Tor, giving you an increased level of security. Tor is the best browser around for decreasing another website’s ability to track you online.
Since there isn’t too much information available on the Internet today covering how you can use Tor and a VPN, we decided to create this guide to help you out. Below we’ll discuss the benefits of VPNs (check out my review of the best VPN choices here), the benefits of Tor, and how and why you can use these two-privacy protection features together. That way, you’ll be safe and secure each time you browse the web.
Using a VPN Service
Since Tor can’t be used as a VPN service, we’ll break down why by explaining what a VPN service is. Then, later we’ll discuss Tor and how you can use Tor with a VPN. With a VPN service, you can encrypt the traffic between your client and use a VPN server instead while browsing the Internet. VPN servers use encrypted tunnels to hide your public IP address, making your traffic private.
Most VPNs use a 256-bit encryption code, which provides enough security to be considered “top secret” by the government. The government primarily uses 256-bit encryption to perform its activities and keep hackers out.
While you can correctly configure your VPN and discover an excellent service provider, nothing is every 100% secure when we’re talking about the Internet, unfortunately.
Even while using a VPN, you can still experience things like data leaks. When a data leak happens, unencrypted data winds up getting transmitted. That includes things like:
- IP leaks
- DNS leaks
While there are ways to try to combat this, like using an IP leak test or a VPN kill switch, these items don’t always work, either. A VPN kill switch will take you off the Internet completely when your VPN fails, preventing any accidental exposure of your activity. However, not all VPN kill switches are as useful as they sound, and not all VPNs even offer this service.
An IP leak test is designed to test your IP and look for any accidental links to the Internet. However, again, not all VPNs offer these features, and IP leak tests are not always 100% accurate. So, there are still concerns about these two types of links when people use VPNs.
How Can Encryption Help You?
VPNs utilize encryption that would be acceptable for any government enterprise once you subscribe to one of them. The purpose of encryption is to keep your personal information secure while you are exploring the Internet.
Encryption works in a similar way to keeping your data locked in a safe that nobody can break into. Only a person that knows the password can get into your safe and see that content. Even better, nobody can break that safe open.
Encryption is probably the most fantastic feature of any VPN. With encryption, it becomes challenging for a hacker to figure out what you’re doing. You can still be attacked using a 256-bit VPN connection. However, it would take at least fifty supercomputers checking AES keys each second for many years to figure out just one part of an encrypted data string. So, what we are saying here is that it’s nearly impossible.
If you are using a VPN service that features 256-bit encryption, then neither hackers or a government surveillance agent can hack into your items and use your data as it goes out across the Internet.
With the data being encrypted, the people trying to access your information honestly have no way to read what they find. That’s because the encrypted versions of your data look like gibberish that nobody can follow.
Many activists, journalists, politicians, and government workers use VPNs that feature a 256-bit encryption service to keep their items and information safe. That’s particularly important when
- Doing business
- Communicating in a chaotic political climate or
- When working with breaking news stories
However, you don’t only need to use a VPN just because you have a dangerous job. Even if you don’t have a hazardous situation, using a VPN will keep you safe from fraud and other scary circumstances.
Who Should Use a VPN?
If you’re wondering whether or not you should use a VPN, we’ve got a list for you to consider. Below we’ll discuss why you might want to use a VPN.
- A VPN will allow you to have online anonymity.
- If your private information is getting out on the Internet and that concerns you, like your banking info, then get a VPN.
- If you often use business networks while traveling, a VPN will protect you.
- VPNs prevent network administrators from spying on your Internet history.
- VPNs also allow you to bypass network firewalls set-up by your network administrator.
- If you often use public Wi-Fi, then getting a VPN will keep your information secure.
- If you live in an area that uses online censorship or a lot of government surveillance, a VPN can keep you safe.
- If you want to keep your online freedom safe and private, consider getting a VPN.
- If you are tired of companies tracking you so they can send you advertisements, then get a VPN.
- If you use Netflix or other similar streaming TV services, you can unblock their catalogs and view more utilizing a VPN.
What are the Advantages of Using a VPN?
Using a VPN has several advantages.
VPNs sometimes slow down your connection initially, especially if you wind up signing up for a free VPN service, which we don’t recommend. However, if you subscribe to a real VPN service, then it can improve your Internet speed. That’s particularly true if you have ISP throttling or a congested network. If that’s the case, a VPN can help speed up your connection.
#2 Ease of Use
VPNs are very easy to use. Typically, all you need to do to get set up is:
- Sign up for the VPN service.
- Download and then install the necessary programs.
- Connect to whatever server you choose
There isn’t a lot of technical knowledge required when it comes to using a VPN, making them easy to use and set-up. Many VPN service providers will even walk you through how to do the set-up process on the phone if you need any extra assistance.
#3 End-to-End Encryption
Another great thing about VPNs is that they encrypt all of the data and information on your connection. That keeps your private information private, including things like your credit card information and bank accounts. Considering the types of fraud and identity theft that takes place today, that should give you some peace of mind.
#4 Bypass Censorship or Geo-blocks
Since a VPN keeps your IP private, you’ll look like you are going online and using the Internet using the location of the server you decided to use. That way, you can access geo-blocked websites, or if you live in a country that uses censorship, you can bypass that, too.
What’s the Tor Browser?
Since we’ve spent some time discussing the benefits of VPNs, now we need to cover Tor’s benefits and how you can use Tor with a VPN to help disguise yourself better on the Internet.
The Tor browser provides users with a browser that makes the user appear anonymous online. Tor doesn’t utilize any VPN technology to do this, but that also means you aren’t getting the security and protection of having your data encrypted when you use the Tor browser.
Tor is an acronym for “The Onion Router,” which means Tor is a special kind of browser that uses several anonymous servers to send the user’s information through. By doing that, Tor makes it much more difficult for people to figure out what you are up to online.
However, nothing is ever encrypted with Tor, so if somebody wants to try to track down those redirects with Tor, there is still a possibility of that happening.
How Effective is Tor?
If you are considering using Tor, it’s only natural to wonder how useful the software is. The history of Tor should provide you with a little insight and some peace of mind. That’s because Tor has been around for a long time, even if you have just recently heard about it.
Back in the 1990s, Tor came out to be used by the United States Research Laboratory, so US intelligence could use it for research and still secure their online communication and data.
Tor was eventually released to the public for free. Tor works well for many purposes, much like people in the US government trying not to show their IP addresses when looking at what is happening in other parts of the world.
As you would expect, since Tor adds additional security, it is also used for nefarious means at times as well. Because of that, Tor has gotten a reputation for providing access to the “dark web,” or the part of the Internet that’s not indexed by search engines.
Tor is a powerful search engine, and that’s evident because of its history. However, if you look closely at Tor’s disclaimer, you’ll see that Tor doesn’t give you total anonymity online while you are doing your web browsing. While Tor does bounce traffic around randomly, the information does exit through what we call an “exit node.” Exit nodes, unfortunately, can be hacked.
However, Tor is much more difficult to hack and obtain information from compared to basic web browsers like Google Chrome. So, if you are looking to up your safety measures a notch while you are searching online, Tor does add another layer of protection, which is never a bad idea to access and use.
Why Should You Use Tor?
You should consider using Tor if you’ve got any of the following concepts on your mind.
- You can’t stand the government surveillance laws in your country, and you are trying to get around them.
- You are worried about getting hacked, and you want your browser activity to remain anonymous.
- You are trying to stop websites from seeing your browser history, so they’ll stop sending you targeted ads.
- You want to keep your information safe and away from prying eyes.
- You want to bypass censorship or access content that is blocked because of where you live.
What are the Advantages of Using Tor?
There are several advantages to using Tor. We’ve listed those advantages for you below.
- Provides Anonymity
- Hard to Shut Down
#1 Tor is Free
Tor is a free system, so that makes it very affordable and cost-effective for users. You risk nothing by using it, and it’ll increase the security of your browsing activity for free.
#2 Tor Provides Anonymity
Tor doesn’t keep track of your browsing activity while you interact with the Internet. You also don’t need to sign up or make any accounts to use it. Since it’s free, all you need to do is download the software. Also, Tor won’t keep track of any of your financial information or credit card information.
#3 Tor is Hard to Shut Down
Tor has servers all over the world, so its data and security is very scattered. That makes it hard for anybody ever to shut it down. That makes it a bit different from a VPN service. VPN services usually have head offices or central servers. Plus, VPNs operate as businesses.
Because of that, they can quickly be closed and banned. If that happens, you’ll be left to figure out another VPN. However, you’ll never have that problem if you are using Tor.
Using Tor and Your VPN
Since neither Tor nor a VPN can offer you complete 100% protection as a single option, many people wonder if they should use both Tor and a VPN together for the best protection. Using Tor alongside a VPN means you’ll get two layers of security and privacy.
However, that doesn’t mean everybody agrees with the effectiveness of this combination. So, using Tor together with a VPN can’t happen without some controversy, because not everybody agrees on how to do this.
There are two different methods you can use when combining Tor and your VPN.
First Method: Tor Over VPN
People call the first method of using Tor with a VPN, “Tor Over VPN.” To use this combination, follow the steps below:
- First, connect to your VPN server.
- Next, open your Tor browser
By using this method, you’ll be able to hide your Tor and use the encryption security of your VPN. That does help to make Tor a more effective way to browse the web. At the same time, with your VPN on, you’ll also never be revealing your IP address to the Tor entry node. Instead, Tor will only see the IP address you are using with your VPN, depending on which VPN server you are using.
When you use this method, you do still have a couple of drawbacks to consider:
- Your VPN provider can still identify your IP address.
- You still cannot safeguard your Tor exit nodes, even with your VPN
Second Method: VPN Over Tor
The second method you can use is called “VPN over Tor.” To use this combination instead, use our below steps:
- Open your Tor browser, but don’t type anything into it yet.
- Connect your computer to your VPN.
- Once you do that, you create your encrypted tunnel.
- Now type into your Tor browser.
- Your traffic will start passing through your Tor browser.
- After it hits Tor’s exit node, the encrypted data then moves to the VPN server, and then it goes out into the Internet.
Using this strategy can be helpful because the data that comes from the Tor exit node will still be encrypted by the VPN. That keeps you safe from malicious nodes that can hack into your data and expose your Internet privacy.
Also, if you use this method, you won’t need to worry about your VPN seeing your IP address because it will already be scrambled if you open up Tor first. By combining Tor’s anonymous usage with the VPN’s help, you get two layers of protection.
VPNs do keep logs, but this way, they’ll never have your real IP address. Since you choose your server’s location for your VPN, you can easily bypass geo-blocking issues as well. So, the VPN over Tor method is the better option to use for your Internet security.
While there are more steps, and it’s a bit harder to utilize Tor this way, you’ll have all of the protection you need. You’ll also need to make sure you are using a VPN service that supports using Tor in this way.