The technological world we live in today is not safe for anyone. One report reveals that every thirty-nine seconds, a data breach happens online. This means that every day, almost thirty thousand websites are hacked worldwide. Because of these data breaches, people use several tools to protect their privacy and information. This tool can be Tor, VPN, or any proxy browser that ensures anonymity.
Out of all these tools, one stands out like a glow stick in the dark. It acts as the primary defense against stalkers. That is Tor.
What Is Tor?
The word Tor is short for The Onion Routing.
Naval Research Laboratory employees of the United States designed this software. Initially, the Tor browser served the naval force of the United States. Its primary aim was to conserve the privacy of government communication. Slowly, the browser gained popularity amongst common people. Today, Tor has over four million active users.
Tor is a private browsing tool that guarantees anonymous surfing. It does this by encrypting the connection many times. Then Tor passes this encrypted information to multiple relays. The relays are spread worldwide and act as layers of protection.
The best characteristic of Tor is that it is a private browsing tool. This means one organization does not control it. Volunteers sitting around the Globe control all these relays. Hence ensuring safety.
Nodes That Make The Tor Work:
To understand how the Tor browser works, we need to have a good understanding of all of its protective layers.
Tor Guard Node
When you search for something on the Tor browser, they first connect you to the Tor guard node. This node is like the main entrance to enter the world of Tor. For every Tor user, there is a set of guard nodes available. Every time you surf the Tor browser, it connects you to one of the Tor guard nodes.
Tor guard node gets your IP address, but there's nothing to worry about. This node is hard to crack into, so don't worry. No cyberpunk can see your IP address or use it to doxx you.
Tor Middle Node
Tor middle nodes are what makes the Tor network so big. These nodes/relays can not access the IP address of those surfing Tor. Nor do they know which website you are about to access. When you look something up on Tor, it goes from guard node to middle node in encrypted form. Tor passes the encrypted data from one middle node to another.
Tor middle nodes add a layer of security. Then your data is passed to the exit node.
Tor Exit Node
The final destination of any query entered into the Tor browser is the Tor exit node. Unlike guard nodes, exit nodes do not know your IP address. So, the website you have accessed doesn't get your real IP address. What it gets instead is the address of the Tor exit node.
So when people make illegal searches, exit nodes take all the burden. This means many exit nodes of Tor become victims of legal notices and get warnings about being taken down.
What Are The Advantages Of Using Tor?
Tor is a private browsing tool that conceals your activity online. It has a feature that resets the cookies when you stop using it.
When you access a website through the Tor browser, it assures your anonymity. No hacker or government agency can get this information.
Tor hides the identity of its users as long as they surf on the Tor browser. It is because it promises to keep you anonymous 24/7 that it has become the favorite pick of news reporters and social workers. Tor doesn't require its users to register themselves or pay hefty fees. It is a private browser that anyone can enter through Firefox, etc.
Is Tor Safe Without VPN?
Now that we know all about Tor, let's throw light on a frequently asked question. Is Tor safe without VPN?
To answer that, we must understand what VPN is. And how it differs from Tor.
VPN is a virtual private network. It safeguards your identity online by assembling an encrypted network for your data. It is like a hidden tunnel built across a public network, helping you receive and share encrypted data, anonymously.
What Are The Advantages Of Using A VPN?
VPN hides your original IP address and allows you to surf unanimously.
VPN has its servers spread all across the globe. This eliminates the problem of regional limitations. So, you can access the websites of any country easily.
VPN helps you beat the censorship employed by the government on certain websites. VPN develops a safe connection when you connect your device to public Wi-Fi.
Virtual Private Network vs The Onion Routing
Both VPN and Tor effectively protect your identity and have areas of expertise. Tor safeguards your privacy when you try to access the websites blocked by your country. VPN helps you surpass the regional restrictions, hence letting you stream your favorite shows.
Tor servers can not be detected and hence they can be used to access the dark web. In contrast, VPN offers no such service. Instead, it hides your identity from the traditional websites you are accessing. This stops the websites from accumulating your data and selling it.
Tor ensures no one can find a single trace of what you've accessed. Whereas, VPN protects your data from getting hacked when using public Wi-Fi.
However, Tor and VPN both excel at protecting your identity in different ways. This proves that it is safe to use Tor without VPN. In fact, Tor's official website doesn't recommend the use of Tor with VPN. Tor asks its users to make no such attempt unless they are experts. You can jeopardize your safety by using the two tools together without adequate knowledge.
Though Tor is capable enough of protecting your identity online, know that nothing is hundred percent secure. Several security concerns have been raised in the past decades.
Anyone Can Become A Tor Node Operator
While this decentralization is an advantage, it can quickly turn into a major disadvantage. Since Tor node operators can see your IP address and data, they can easily steal it. One hacker named Dan Egerstad started operating Tor nodes. In a short period, he gathered a significant amount of personal information.
You Are Easily Recognizable When Using Tor Via Public Wi-fi
Eldo Kim, a Harvard student, used Tor to send out bombing threats. When he accessed the Tor browser with the university's internet connection, he became easily traceable.
Government Agencies Can Regulate Tor Nodes
One report reveals that some Tor nodes are run at hefty costs. Let's say thousands of dollars. No ordinary person would pay that much for nothing. So it is believed these Tor nodes are owned by the government. They use them to collect information about Tor users.
Existence Of Malicious Tor Nodes
A decentralized system of Tor works on the belief that every node volunteer is 100% true to the cause. That is to protect the identities of all its users. Unfortunately, the truth is quite contrary. In 2016, few researchers came up with their discoveries in a paper named "HOnions: Towards Detection and Identification of Misbehaving Tor HSDirs“. The objective of this paper was to illustrate how the group identified 110 malicious Tor relays.
Now that you know the good and bad of Tor, it is on you to decide whether it is a good browser for you.