Attempts to ban or block anonymous web surfing programs like TOR are on the rise. A recent article in Japanese newspaper Mainichi detailed how the Japanese government is attempting to ban TOR in the country in an effort to crack down on Internet users who participate in illegal file sharing or illegal activities such as the distribution of child pornography. While these are certainly valid reasons to question TOR’s usage, it also serves as a good example of why you should choose a private VPN over a free anonymous web browser like TOR.
What is TOR?
TOR is actually a software platform which was originally developed for the US Navy, but now they program is readily available for civilian use. It can be integrated into many browsers, such as Firefox, via extension and has been a popular choice for those who want to surf anonymously.
It works on the principle of masking your IP address and uses a complex method of routing your signal through different servers. The idea sounds really good, but because TOR has been used by hackers, data thieves, and other unscrupulous individuals the program now has a target on its back. Japan is just one of several countries that have spoken out against the program and are actively seeking to ban its use.
One danger of using TOR is that it depends upon volunteers to run so-called “exit-nodes” as a part of the signal routing process, something we’ll talk more about later. If you happen to become one of these volunteers your IP address can be linked to the browsing activity of whoever used you as an exit-node. If all of this sounds confusing, all you really need to know is this: TOR has numerous security vulnerabilities that a VPN does not.
A VPN is a better option than TOR
Let’s look at the similarities between the two options. The main one is that both a VPN and TOR are often used to spoof one’s geographical location and also to enable anonymous web browsing. In most other respects, the two options are very unlike one another. Here is a side-by-side comparison which reveals the advantages of using a VPN:
|Very fast—no notable difference in connection speed||Extremely slow—caused by signal routing through multiple nodes|
|Easy location-spoofing—a VPN such as the one we provide offers servers worldwide||Inefficient location-spoofing—too slow to stream geo-restricted services like Netflix|
|Legitimacy—VPN’s are considered a legitimate option for security-conscious users||Poor reputation—Tor has been used for too many questionable activities|
|Support—a personal VPN provider offers technical support||Limited support—most support must be obtained through other TOR users via messageboard|
The biggest security concern regarding TOR relates to those exit-nodes we mentioned. Anyone can offer to provide a node via TOR, and anyone includes people who want to observe your browsing activity. You have zero control over how your signal is routed along the TOR network. When using a VPN you remain safe and secure behind the VPN tunnel. Your true IP address is never completely safe when using TOR because the service depends upon a human element to make it work. That human element allows for the introduction of many security loopholes which can reveal your true IP address and make you an easy target for those who are trying to gain access to your personal data.
One final word about speed. The bandwidth of a VPN is top-notch, so VPN users pretty much get the same speed as when using their own personal network connection. We mention this again because connection speed is important when you need to stream media from a service like Hulu. The slowness of TOR makes it an unworkable option for trying to access streaming media in geo-blocked locations.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Some users seem to prefer combining the use of TOR and a VPN, but this solution does not ultimately increase your security and the speed of your connection becomes unbearable.
Why do some countries want to block anonymous surfing?
To use the example we gave at the beginning of the article, some officials in Japan believe that anonymous surfing assists criminals in posing a threat to other individuals online. One Japanese hacker known as Demon Killer evaded and embarrassed the Japanese authorities for months because they were unable to pinpoint his location via IP address. It was subsequently revealed that he had been using TOR the entire time to conduct his activities.
We’re not trying to give TOR a bad rap, but the fact is that anonymous surfing programs are the first targets in efforts to prevent access to restricted content. Countries and media services are more concerned with these because they are so readily available. Unfortunately, those users who have become dependent on them for anonymous surfing will ultimately find themselves without an option unless they have a VPN.
Getting around blocks on anonymous surfing with a VPN
The primary way to ensure that you will be continue to be able to surf anonymously and access geo-blocked services like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber is by using a VPN. Your web surfing is also protected because of the encryption a VPN account that VPN-accounts.com offers. In addition, it is the integrity of a VPN which makes it the only viable long-term solution for anonymous surfing. While some anonymous surfing programs like TOR may eventually fall, the personal VPN will remain available because the concept is not one designed to help users break the law.
VPN’s are designed to protect data through encryption. Period. True, they can be used to avoid geo-blocks and there is nothing illegal or wrong about that. VPN users are not typically trying to carry out questionable activities. They simply want the peace of mind that comes from knowing their browsing is not monitored and the ability to enjoy an Internet free of censorship. Therefore, no substantial efforts are being directed toward banning the use of a VPN.
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