The Anonymous Internet: How the Tor Network Can Make You Virtually Disappear
By Mindaugas Caplinskas, NordVPN
No one likes to be stalked online, have their access restricted, and be exposed to hackers and identity thieves, especially when it’s the very provider you trust your personal information with. A virtual private network (VPN) can provide a safe way to gain unrestricted Internet and complete privacy, but is your privacy really private? Perhaps you need to summon Tor.
The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that enables anonymous communication. "Tor over VPN" moves the privacy and security to the next level. It is supported by a number of VPN service providers and is designed to hide the information of which computer actually requested the traffic.
Tor over VPN solutions send encrypted traffic over the Tor network. From there, it takes the “scenic tour” around the world, making it impossible to trace back to the source. A VPN provider that supports Tor (The Onion Router) is imperative if you want to truly fly under the radar.
How Des Tor Work?
Tor users engage the network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, which allows organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy. The Tor Network hides information of which computer actually requested the traffic. Routing traffic through different nodes, it makes it difficult to say whether your computer initiated the connection or is just acting as a relay.
Tor is also an effective tool against censorship because it allows its users to reach otherwise blocked destinations or content. Tor can also be used as a building block for software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features.
Anyone can use Tor free. You just need to install and launch the program at https://www.torproject.org/. The program initially connects your system to the Tor network. Once the connection is established, the Tor browser will automatically launch a modified and configured Firefox browser. It's also easy to configure and des not require advanced technical skills.
With privacy and censorship a concern of many Internet users, the Tor Network is growing in popularity with an estimated 2.5-plus million users daily. The Tor program itself is free, but the total number of servers that transmit information has a high cost ($2 million/year for developing the project and funding the servers). Tor project members often launch appeals for funding, asking for monetary contributions from users. Financing also comes from large donations, some from the American government who fund 60 percent in order to support freedom of expression and scientific research.
Who Uses Tor and Why
TOR des three things that make it attractive for a wide range of users. It protects the analysis of traffic; lets you surf the Internet anonymously and securely; and allows access to a sometimes controversial part of the Internet. In addition to surfing securely and anonymously on the traditional and classic network (clearweb), Tor also offers a selection of hidden services (deepweb) for its users, sites with addresses with the suffix “.onion” which are only accessible through Tor.
Tor uses include:
• People who seek anonymity to protect their identity from marketers
• Hiding sensitive information from identity theft
• Sensitive or classified subject research
• Whistleblowers and activist groups who share sensitive information
• Journalists and bloggers in countries where content is blocked
• Military and law enforcement, surveillance
Tor Over VPN – The Next Level of Privacy and Security
Tor can protect the origin of your traffic and encrypt everything within the Tor network, but it can't encrypt your traffic between Tor and its final destination. Tor only offers one layer of encryption.
Tor over VPN takes privacy and security to the next level because it encrypts your information before it enters the Tor Network. Many of the leading VPN service providers are compatible with Tor. When using Tor with your VPN service provider data will first go to the VPN server where it gets encrypted. The data then travels to the TOR network where the data packets are randomly transmitted to multiple servers inside the network. The data is encrypted there again and sent out through different TOR exit nodes.
The number of relays is an essential part of Tor. It’s what gives the Tor network its power. The more relays, and more pathways available on the network, the more security. After all this process, the request reaches the Internet - mission accomplished and your private life is protected from prying eyes and free from tracking or logging. Because Tor encrypts everything between you and the Tor network, your connection speed can be slower than normal. But, it’s a small price to pay to protect your privacy.
Both VPN and Tor can be used to bypass Internet censorship and to protect your privacy. Why go online with people potentially looking over your shoulder every step of the way? With Tor and a VPN that supports the network, you do not have to be a magician to perform an Internet vanishing act.
Mindaugas Caplinskas is Business Development Manager for NordVPN, a Panama-based Virtual Private Network provider that keeps its clients private and secured. Caplinskas has over ten years of experience in advertising and marketing, along with a stint at a leading ISP in Lithuania, and is a former member of the board at the Lithuania Marketing Association.