One way for Internet users to remain anonymous online is to make use of secure third party buffers such as TOR (The Onion Router) or VPNs (virtual private networks). Increasing government surveillance and hacking/eavesdropping activities online make the decision to surf the web anonymously critical for a number of people in the modern world. There are differences between TOR and VPNs, however, and some users will find each service offers distinct advantages over the other.
TOR is a system originally developed by the United States Navy to ensure anonymity of communications. The service is free of charge and consists of a network of volunteers who operate separate nodes which encrypt users’ Internet communications. Each node is protected by different encryption, so communications are securely protected.
Data is also packaged into a consistently sized data parcel, so cannot be identified by external parties by way of transmission size. Where Internet consumers merely wish to ensure secure communications TOR is a great choice. It is only as safe as the final exit node, though. At the point data exits the TOR system it is decoded and forwarded to the destination site. Nodes are selected randomly, so it is unlikely users will be allocated the same exit node consecutively.
VPNs are operated by private, commercial companies. There are some free VPNs on the market and these tend to be monetized by way of adverts and may not have many servers on the network, resulting in slow speeds overall. Users signing up for VPNs will find all data is transmitted via a securely encrypted tunnel which eliminates the user IP address and allocates an IP address from the chosen server. VPNs are a lot faster than TOR, as they don’t need to rely upon networks of nodes.
Users who want to send or receive large amounts of data on a regular basis will find VPNs a better option than TOR. VPNS can also be utilized to unblock censored or geo-restricted video streaming sites on smart tv´s, which can be an extremely useful function for a number of people. Consumers using VPNS will find they can enhance their online security considerably, particularly when utilizing mobile devices from insecure locations, such as WiFi hotspots.
All in all, when consumers simply wish to ensure secure transmission of data and speed is not an issue TOR is a great choice, but for all round utility a VPN has to be a better option.