What is Tor & How Does it Compare to VPN Service?

Tor: Anonymity Online

Tor: Anonymity Online

Given the import of the NSA’s PRISM program, and it’s surprising durability as a news story, it should come as a surprise to no one that people are seeking out ways to achieve online anonymity. You needn’t be paranoid nor engaged in questionable online activity to prefer that your e-mails remain between you and those you send them to, thank you very much.

We at FlashRouters like to do our part to help people find some level of privacy and comfort while maintaining an active online presence, whether we’re recommending VPNs or providing routers that enable VPN usage and feature advanced security options. The market for online privacy services is a rapidly broadening field, and the more hackers, identity thieves, and intelligence services work to undermine your personal security, the more anonymity services crop up and make their job tougher.

One of the leading forces for internet privacy is Tor, an online anonymity tool that has, unsurprisingly, seen a massive jump in downloads since the PRISM revelations. But there’s plenty more that you should know about this incredible service, and we’ll tell you all about it below…

What Is Tor?

Tor Project

Tor Project

The Tor Project couldn’t be more relevant and necessary than it is today. An open network project that offers its users online privacy, the Tor Project was initially developed for the U.S. Navy with the intention of protecting government communications. And now it works to protect you from the government and other voyeuristic forces. Funny, that.

It works like this: you download Tor, and when you use their network, your traffic is sent around a relay of networks that are run by volunteers set up all over the world. This means no one can know what site’s you visit, and the site’s you visit are unable to find out your actual location.

Tor’s network of virtual tunnels allow companies to create private networks for sending sensitive information online. The ways in which Tor provides a safe forum are limitless. In fact, here’s a sample of the list of ways that Tor can help you, taken from their site:

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

It’s service like this that explains why the amount of Tor’s users has more than doubled since the PRISM revelations, and why it’s the network of choice for journalists, activists, law enforcement agencies, and regular citizens all over the world.

What is the Advantage of VPN Service versus Tor?

Tor is excellent for basic privacy within a web browser. However, there are some major advantages of using VPN and VPN Routers like the ones FlashRouters provides:

  1. Tor can anonymize your browser-based activity but using VPNs can protect the location and privacy of an entire device or computer not just your browser based activity.
  2. To utilize Tor on multiple devices, you would have to get it installed on all of them. When connecting all devices through a VPN Router, any and all can be completely protected instantly.
  3. Tor  picks a random location to route your traffic. With a VPN Service, you can pick a specific location to router your traffic and tunnel through such as the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong & much more. Server locations depend on the VPN Service. For more details on VPN services, visit our top VPN service provider list.
  4. VPNs allow you to mask your location from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Pandora, and more to unblock geo-restricted content for your laptops, smartphones, and streaming media players like AppleTV WDTV, & Rokus.
  5. Tor does not add encryption to your connection while VPNs do. Some providers, such as IVPN, also work with multiple location hop technology similar to Tor, but with encryption as well.

Tor can count Edward Snowden as a fan, and one with a clearly aligned viewpoint about internet privacy. Julian Assange has also endorsed Tor as a necessary component of Wikileaks functionality. Of course, a couple of endorsements from controversial, high-profile guys like that is all it takes to put a big ol’ target on Tor’s back, as far as the government’s concerned. Then again, if intelligence agencies go after Tor, then Tor just redoubles their protection efforts.

So if your goal is masking communication and browsing alone, Tor might be the right choice for you. But while Tor is an amazing free tool for users looking for protection and privacy, for a full collection of devices, you might want to consider a VPN service. For users who can’t afford that option, Tor is an amazing tool for immediate privacy enhancement, and a great project that is worth supporting and utilizing.

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