Tor vs VPN — Which One Should You Use to Avoid Tracking

Tor uses a schema based on layering encryption via multiple nodes. This creates a perpetual state of private browsing by hiding transmission control protocols (TCP) traffic. Tor routes all traffic through a minimum of three nodes before it reaches its final destination, but packets can hop across several different nodes worldwide.

Tor without vpn

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Мы зарегистрировали подозрительный трафик, исходящий из вашей сети. С помощью этой страницы мы сможем определить, что запросы отправляете именно вы, а не робот. Почему это могло произойти?

Эта страница отображается в тех случаях, когда автоматическими системами Google регистрируются исходящие из вашей сети запросы, которые нарушают Условия использования. Страница перестанет отображаться после того, как эти запросы прекратятся. До этого момента для использования служб Google необходимо проходить проверку по слову.

Источником запросов может служить вредоносное ПО, подключаемые модули браузера или скрипт, настроенный на автоматических рассылку запросов. Если вы используете общий доступ в Интернет, проблема может быть с компьютером с таким же IP-адресом, как у вас. Обратитесь к своему системному администратору. Подробнее.

Проверка по слову может также появляться, если вы вводите сложные запросы, обычно распространяемые автоматизированными системами, или же вводите запросы очень часто.

Tor vs VPN — Which One Should You Use to Avoid Tracking?

Tor is touted as one of the best ways to maintain your online anonymity, thanks to what many call ‘three-tier encryption.’ But did you know To’s exit nodes lack encryption? This leaves you open to a variety of malicious attacks, as well as to location and other types of data leaks.

The wrong VPN can pose even greater cybersecurity risks than Tor. Some VPNs, especially free VPNs, are riddled with malware like trackers and viruses. Others don’t have adequate encryption to keep your online activity private, which leaves your location and other identifying information vulnerable.

So, is Tor browser a stand-alone solution to prevent online tracking or can a VPN hide your internet activity better? If you’re looking for anti-tracking and identity protection, the choice of Tor vs VPN isn’t an easy one to make — but maybe you don’t have to choose between the two.

Table of Contents

What is Tor Browser?

In the 1990s, three US Naval Research Laboratory employees modified a version of the Firefox browser to develop The Onion Router (Tor). The initial purpose of Tor was to protect the identity of US Naval Intelligence officers.

Tor uses a schema based on layering encryption via multiple nodes. This creates a perpetual state of private browsing by hiding transmission control protocols (TCP) traffic. Tor routes all traffic through a minimum of three nodes before it reaches its final destination, but packets can hop across several different nodes worldwide.

Tor — The Required Node Layers

  1. Entry/Guard Node: (encrypted) Your IP address is visible to the entry node, but it doesn’t see your destination. Tor randomly selects your entry node and may use the same one for up to three months.
  2. Middle Node: (encrypted) Can see the node after it and the entry node, but it can’t see your IP address or destination. The middle node is always selected randomly and you get a new one each session.
  3. Exit Node: (unencrypted) Can’t see your IP and is chosen randomly from all available nodes flagged as exits. This is the only node visible to the destination server because your traffic isn’t encrypted.

Of course, you can hop through as many nodes as you want — three is just the minimum. Multi-layer encryption and serpentining traffic patterns make tracking a data packet’s entire network journey virtually impossible. The frequent node jumps also help hide your true location.

Is Tor Illegal?

Tor is legal to use, but some government agencies and ISPs keep close tabs on anyone who hosts a Tor entry or exit node. On occasion, government agencies have contacted hosts in regard to illegal conduct linked to an entry node’s IP address.

Though Tor tends to get a bad rap, most people use it for completely legal reasons — the biggest is safeguarding their online identity and protecting their personal information. Law enforcement and other government agencies even use Tor as a way to track suspected criminals without setting off alarm bells or exposing their own identity. Other legal reasons people use Tor browser include:

  • Retain your online privacy
  • Protect sources of information (e.g. journalists, activists, and whistleblowers)
  • Test a companies network security
  • Avoid censorship
  • Work around ISP network outages
  • Research sensitive topics
  • Prevent tracking
  • Circumvent website blocks

The Pros & Cons of A VPN vs Tor Browser

A VPN and the Tor browser each provide added security to online browsing and communications. Tor itself can’t prevent third-party spying, and without a VPN your ISP knows you’re using the Tor browser. So, which one should you choose — or should you use both?

Let’s take a brief look at the pros and cons of each service before going into more detail on which one is safer.

Tor vs VPN — Which One Is Safer?

As you can see, both the Tor browser and a VPN increase your online privacy and use powerful encryption to mask your traffic. However, only a VPN provides you with a more secure connection from start to finish with a completely new IP address.

Tor browser does offer encryption at the first two levels, but your ISP still knows you’re using Tor, and it can easily track your activity at the exit node. Malicious exit nodes are also a problem, mainly because they have no encryption for your traffic when it reaches its final destination. This makes exit nodes prime targets for cybercriminals, who sit and wait to hijack your data or offload malware to your system.

Sure, the Tor browser is open-source, but the same can be said for some VPNs. PIA is open-source just like the Tor browser — you can view our client apps’ source code anytime on GitHub. Most respectable VPNs also have strong no logs policies to protect your digital identity, which you don’t get from Tor.

A no logs policy ensures the VPN doesn’t collect information on your online activities, so it has nothing to share if authorities make a request. Tor only protects what you do inside its browser, a VPN covers your apps, browsers, and other connections.

The Tor browser covers most operating systems (OSs) but it doesn’t work on iOS. Luckily, you can find plenty of VPNs with dedicated apps for iOS, so you can protect your iPhone and iPad along with the rest of your devices.

Free may seem better, but you can get a trustworthy VPN without paying a fortune. You’ll get better results from a premium VPN, as free VPNs often include malicious software with their downloads and rarely have adequate traffic encryption.

In terms of speed, your choice of VPN is the determining factor. While it’s true both Tor and a VPN slow your internet speeds, Tor is significantly slower than most VPNs – you definitely won’t be able to stream anything on it On the other hand, PIA’s NextGen network has 10 Gbps servers, so you can still stream buffer-free in high resolution and protect your online privacy.

Does a VPN Prevent Tracking Better Than Tor?

Yes, a VPN does a better job of preventing tracking because it protects all your connections, not just the ones established by your browser. However, not just any VPN will do. It’s vital to choose a VPN with strong security and privacy features, as well as an iron-clad no logs policy. If you can get one with a built-in tracker blocker, even better.

A VPN masks your origin IP address with secure IP, routing your traffic through its servers. Once you connect to a VPN server, your ISP is in the dark. They know you’re using a VPN, but can’t see what you’re doing or what sites you visit.

VPNs can also make your Tor browser more private. When you use a VPN in combination with Tor, the only IP address the entry node sees is your new IP from the VPN — provided you connect before opening the Tor browser.

Similarly, a VPN can protect your sensitive information at exit nodes, as it provides traffic encryption to make your data unreadable to anyone who could be snooping around. Again, websites you visit can only see the VPN IP not your real IP address, so you won’t need to worry about location tracking.

How to Use the Tor Browser with PIA VPN

Step 1: Get the PIA app for any of your devices. Or for all of them, your choice.

Step 2: Log into the app and connect to a server in your target region.

Step 3: Open your Tor browser and browse in private.

Final Verdict — Use Tor With A VPN

While it provides better anti-tracking features than most browsers, Tor isn’t a standalone solution for protecting your digital identity. Your ISP and government agencies can still see when you’re using Tor and your IP address is visible to the entry node. Exit node traffic also isn’t encrypted, so they are often an offloading site for malware like trackers and viruses.

The solution? Use Tor with a VPN, to hide your origin IP address and prevent tracking.

Get PIA VPN to stop trackers and others from spying on you while using Tor. When you connect to our NextGen servers, you receive a new IP address for private browsing. Our VPN allows you to choose between 128-bit and 256-bit AES encryption for customized protection. It also includes an all-in-one ad, malware, and tracker blocker (MACE) to keep malicious software at bay.


Is Tor Dangerous?

Tor is dangerous, but that’s also the case with any browser. You put your privacy at risk each time you use any browser, including Tor. Tor is more secure than most, but it isn’t without its flaws. It’s easy for your ISP to determine you’re using Tor. Additionally, the exit node doesn’t offer traffic encryption and may be tapped by cybercriminals waiting to offload malware.

Always connect via a VPN service first. Trustworthy VPNs like PIA mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic to increase your online privacy — regardless of which browser you use.

Is Tor Better Than A VPN?

No. Tor doesn’t provide a new IP address when you open the browser, so anyone watching knows you’re using Tor and could track your true location. It does encrypt your traffic on most nodes, but it doesn’t offer encryption at the exit node. This leaves room for malicious software to creep into your system.

A VPN routes your traffic through its servers to cloak your IP address, so no one will even know you use Tor — or what sites you visit. It masks your traffic from the moment you connect to the server until you disconnect.

Should I Use A VPN If I Use Tor?

Absolutely! Tor is an excellent browser to use if you want to protect your online identity, but it isn’t a standalone solution. When you connect to PIA VPN before opening the Tor browser, it helps mitigate the risks of using the browser solo.

You can choose between 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption to encrypt all your traffic. Our No Logs policy is court-tested, too — we’ve never had any information to hand over to authorities on request because PIA never collects usage data.

Can You Be Tracked On Tor?

Yes. Though Tor does hide your online activity and location, your ISP knows when you use the browser and may report your usage to the authorities, so interested parties can keep a sharp eye on you. Stop allowing them to spy on your connection and stay safe online by using PIA VPN with Tor browser.