Tor, an acronym coined from “The Onion Router” as termed by its creators, can in the most straightforward language be defined as; an open source software that enables anonymous communication among computers connected to the internet.
Tor is a unique and popular browser with people for several reasons; with most revolving around data privacy. The most common reasons include: to circumvent censorship, to research on sensitive topics, to protect children online, to skirt surveillance, to protect their communications from irresponsible corporations and also to protect themselves from identity thieves.
Of course, those are the most legitimate Tor uses. So, who uses Tor? The most basic answer would be anyone with the enlisted interests. Well, that is a topic for another day, today we consider the security of this Tor user.
Yes! Even for this anonymizing network, an added level of security would not harm. Furthermore, despite the high degree of anonymity that Tor offers, it is not exactly watertight! Research(University of Denver) has shown that Tor can be compromised under certain conditions. Specifically, a well-orchestrated attack can unveil all Tor nodes in a circuit, thereby undermining its degree of anonymity. Therefore, even for Tor users, an extra layer of protection is necessary.
A VPN – an extra layer of protection
Virtual private network (VPN) refers to a connection of a private network that includes links across a shared or public network. VPNs are mainly used to encrypt and encode its users’ Internet traffic and disguise or rather mask their online identity by concealing their IP address.
In short, they help the user stay private and secure when browsing on the internet, but not anonymous. Unlike in Tor where data packets are sent to at least over 3 randomly selected relays before reaching their destination, VPN providers may at will retain your browsing data regardless of any contravening promises.
Fortunately, a combination of the two (Tor + VPN) has been proven to offer the perfect blend of security that anyone could deserve. Tors’ anonymity capability can be enhanced using VPNs masking and privacy proficiency, making your browsing ‘as anonymous as it can get.’ At present, there are several VPN networks available.
However, not all work best with Tor. So far, the most trusted VPNs that support Tor include TorGuard, NordVPN, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and TunnelBear. You may ask why, well, this is why!
The best VPNs compatible with Tor
TorGuard: offers online privacy protection services. TorGuard offers anonymity and encryption services of all your internet data through private VPN services. Moreover, it allows one to bypass DPI firewalls and VPN blocks using its stealth VPN feature. TorGuard also facilitates private email communication with OpenPGP email encryption.
NordVPN: Nord has Onion over VPN servers that enable its users to run Tor over VPN with no extra effort. Besides, Nord offers to protect your privacy online and allows its users to access media content with no regional restrictions. It has strong encryption and no-log policy with 5000+ servers in 60+ countries making it among the best VPN that can be coupled with Tor effectively.
IPVanish: This stands as one of the flagmen in the VPN industry. It is a user-friendly and feature-rich application with good performance for torrents. It offers great connection performance. Also, it supports Tor, but at times at the cost of your internet speed. Nonetheless, it supports all major platforms. On the upper side, IPVanish is so far the only VPN provider that has Linux application ready.
ExpressVPN: This VPN network stand out as being the fasted there is in the market. Additionally, it offers unlimited speed, server switches, and bandwidth. ExpressVPN have high-speed servers in over 90 countries which make them among the most reliable and efficient.
CyberGhost: This is a great VPN provider. It offers more than 3000 server locations. CyberGhost is famous for its fast speeds reinforced with strong encryption. CyberGhost is a user-friendly software that also allows split tunneling. Better still, it supports Tor!
TunnelBear: This VPN provider allows you to stream from anywhere, assures you of your online privacy and allows access to unlimited websites; at excellent browsing speeds at affordable premiums. TunnelBear offers OpenVPN, IPSec VPN Protocols and tunnels in over 20 countries. In addition to supporting Tor, TunnelBear can support 5 simultaneous connections.
Altogether, anyone who uses Tor needs a VPN. The reasons aforementioned validate this statement as well as suffice it as a recommendation. A combination of the two creates a reliable network solution that offers the end user optimum anonymity in either: Tor over VPN or VPN over Tor connection. The latter is however not preferred and at times not supported by the VPN provider as it demands the user to tweak the virtual machine in use.