Tor is considered as one of the anonymous methods of browsing the internet and it uses cryptographic technology termed as the ’Onion Routing’. As the name ‘Onion Routing’ suggests, every node in the network decrypts a single outermost layer of the encrypted message. The actual message lies in the innermost sealed envelope. Therefore, no single node can decrypt the entire message, and it becomes complex for the hacker to trace the list of nodes that the message has traveled. By this technique, people use Tor for privacy and safety in their online accesses.
What is Tor?
Tor is the abbreviation of ‘The Onion Router’, and it was developed for the U.S. Navy to enable anonymous browsing. It had a network of servers distributed worldwide to support internet browsing anonymously. Later on, it is a non-profit organization devoted to research and development of online privacy tools. We need to download the Tor browser to access the services it provides. Nothing else we should set up or configure other than this download process. Whatever we do in the Tor browser would always go through the Tor network with many nodes inter-connected.
How does Tor work for Privacy?
Tor routes the traffic through its networked servers after a good encryption. It means that nobody can trace the data that a user sends. Also, if someone tries to track the internet protocol (IP) address of the node from where the request has been originated, TOR just displays random IP addresses. Therefore, it supports a high level of anonymity and most importantly it is available absolutely for free. Also, using Tor is free from those annoying advertisements that appear on our web pages often.
Furthermore, Our internet activities are not censored and hence we can access geo-restricted contents. Apart from these, Tor also supports anonymous web hosting services accessible by only other Tor users. By this service, our web pages can be even kept private and to be viewed by just other Tor users alone.
What are the Drawbacks of using Tor?
Though it offers anonymity and privacy in connections to a possible level, using Tor networks has a few drawbacks.
Slow Internet connections
As the message has to travel several Tor nodes before reaching the destination, the connection speeds are really slower than what we experience with an Internet Service Provider.
Hidden Services being exploited for illegal activities
Hidden services are Tor’s web hosting services that are accessible only by other Tor users. Often, this service is used for illegal activities like drug trading, child pornography, arms trading, etc.
Susceptible to Man-in-the-middle attacks
NSA has captured the IP addresses of Tor users by using malware in the Tor browser. Therefore, we cannot say Tor is completely safe and is susceptible to attacks including man-in-the-middle.
It is for these reasons we should find an alternative to Tor when privacy and safety are our major concerns apart from anonymity. If it is for simple browsing or messaging that will not be affected even after getting caught by the government spying activities, we can go ahead with Tor. But if privacy really matters to us, it is not a good idea to rely on Tor networks.
Better Alternative of Tor-VPN
Better alternatives for Tor are proxies and VPNs.
Proxy servers just hide our IP address and it does not encrypt our messages. Though it can offer anonymity, Proxies cannot offer privacy and security in our data accesses. Therefore, it’s not a good alternative for Tor as it does what a Tor network does and nothing exceptionally good.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs encrypt our traffic with an encryption key and sends our data through a secure tunnel. The data goes through a suitable VPN server and then it reaches to the actual destination where it decrypts.
VPN hides the actual IP address. And for those who try to find the IP would cause getting just the intermediate VPN server’s IP. Therefore, a VPN can offer complete freedom in all of its connections and it supports anonymity.
As the data goes through encrypted tunnels. Hackers cannot view our information and they cannot perform an attack on our systems. VPN offers ultimate privacy in each of our connections.
The most secure VPN can bypass Firewalls such as ‘The Great Firewall of China’, and can escape government censorships. We are free from such traps and can enjoy a secured internet access throughout the globe.
It is for these above-mentioned reasons, VPNs are considered as better alternatives for TOR networks. Instead of using Tor and bearing with those headaches, it is a good idea to switch to a VPN network. VPNs are often cheaper and most of them cost less than $5 per month. Also, we can avail exclusive discounts with long-term subscriptions. There are options like free trials, paid trials for a lesser number of days like 3 or 7, refund policies, etc which are helping new users to judge a VPN service before using it for the rest of the time. Also, VPN often supports anonymity even in its payment modes such as Bitcoins.
Read more about strong and encrypted VPNs for ultimate protection.
Conclusion- Is using Tor Safe for Privacy?
Though Tor networks seem to offer anonymous connections, there is no security or privacy in our connections through the Tor. We should rely on an HTTPS connection, to ensure our data security. Why should we take another safety measure while using a network like Tor? The reason is simple and obvious that the network cannot offer a faster and reliable connection. Therefore, the only best alternative to Tor networks is the usage of VPNs. VPNs alone can provide anonymity, security, and privacy altogether.