Whenever you browse through browsers or apps, the traces of data you leave around are selling you out. That’s why people who are vested in internet anonymity or want to escape the government an ISPs’ oversight opt for the Tor Browser. Tor had a significant surge in popularity when Bitcoin first became a household term. Everyone who wanted a bite off the exponential growth of the currency back then would also have been well acquainted with this anonymous browser. Sure, it’s built to protect, but how much can you really entrust with it?
What Is TOR and Why Do I Need It?
TOR stands for ‘The Onion Router’ and it is a type of browser developed to maximize your security and privacy on the internet. The browser was created with a military-grade level of security, allowing the secure transportation of data between different nodes in your internet server.
In essence, what the TOR browser does is:
- Send your data through an entry node which is the point at which you try to access the internet.
- Take the data through a middle node which effectively masks the data, ensuring the exit node doesn’t know where your entry is from.
- Sending the masked data to the exit node, allowing you to access the website of choice without unraveling your data
How about normal internet browsers?
Those are built more for speed and aesthetic appeal than they are for security. Thus, they will be prone to leaking your cookie data, vulnerable to browser fingerprinting, and pose such other threats to you.
The Weakness of Using Just TOR
As amazing as the offering of the TOR browser sounds, there are some shortcomings that are not to be overlooked.
A major slip on the part of TOR comes in the entry node which stores your IP before the middle node changes it. Say someone is interested in your traffic data and they had the necessary skill set (as well as a toolbox), your entry node could be the Achilles heel to uncover your anonymity.
Another limitation with TOR is in-region access. As much as many would love to use the services the browser provides, they are behind region-based firewalls which prevent them from doing so.
Perhaps the most disgusting weakness that the browser packed was a tracking ‘bug’ back in 2013. This is, unsurprisingly, so government agencies like the FBI could snoop on you at a time when you thought you had the maximum security. It’s evident that the browser is not a magic bullet to online anonymity.
Using a VPN with TOR is the Solution
The good news is that all hope is not lost yet. You can still use TOR to attain a maximum-security level when on the internet. To make this happen, you would need to layer TOR over a VPN.
Using TOR over a VPN is recommended above using a VPN over TOR. For the former, your entry node is masked under a virtual IP address before you start transmitting data at all. Going for the latter mode of connection though, you will have exposed your actual IP address before going onto the TOR network.
Connecting on a secure VPN service also ensures protection even when you’re outside of the browser. Thus, you don’t just mask your IP on browsers while risking the broadcast of the same IP from your connected apps. That would just be plain futile.
Most people have lost hope in the concept of online security. With the vulnerabilities of the TOR browser, many have almost reached the conclusion that it would be impossible to keep your privacy online.
Layering the browser over VPN though, you stand a much better chance of beating any system threatening your security.
Who wouldn’t want that?