In the present era of Mass Surveillance by intelligence agencies like NSA, GCHQ & RAW, you should know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write, site you visit, subject line you type, and packet you route is in the hands of some electronic system whose reach is unlimited, but whose safeguards are questionable. This amount of metadata collected about you is more than enough to create simulations of you and predict your behaviour in any given circumstance. It involves a systematic interference with individual’s right to privacy in terms of subjection to significant indiscrimination, monitoring and censorship. Hence, Privacy & Anonymity are rising concerns among informed citizens, journalists, whistleblowers and Edward Snowdens of the world.
When it comes to technology, privacy and anonymity enthusiasts extensively use encrypted proxy services like VPN & TOR Anonymity network to hide their identities & activities online. But let’s understand how useful & worthy they are, what are the differences and how can we leverage the potential of both.
VPN is faster than TOR, and is suitable for P2P downloading. The major downside however (and reason VPN is said to provide privacy rather than anonymity) is that it requires your trust the VPN provider. This is because, should it wish to (or is compelled to), your VPN provider can “see” what you get up to on the internet. VPN also allows you to easily spoof your geographic location.
On the contrary, TOR is much slower because of the built-in Onion Routing, is often blocked by websites, and is unsuitable for P2P, but it does not require your truston anybody, and is therefore much more secure & truly anonymous.
Interestingly, VPN & TOR can be clubbed and used together in order to provide an extra layer of security, and to mitigate some of the drawbacks of using either technology exclusively. The main downside, however, of doing so combines the speed hit of both technologies, making connections more secure but slow. It is also important to understand the difference between connecting VPN to TOR and connecting TOR to VPN for accessing the Internet. Order Matters!