Both VPN service and Tor technology were developed for people looking for better online privacy, but it’s quite rare that people know the difference between the two. Both shield your true IP address and give you a new one that they claim cannot be traced back to your location. Before using one or the other to secure yourself while working from home, a situation much more common these days in these times of uncertainty created by COVID-19, take a look at what each technology may offer or lack.
Most of us have seen commercials all over the internet about VPNs, which is an acronym for virtual private networks. All of those ads look great, especially since most of them are affordable ways to make more secure this time period when you are working from home. But they have a few pitfalls that should be known before you choose that a VPN will be your form of security.
A VPN reroutes your information through one relay – usually, a network owned by the VPN or rented space on another company’s network. A VPN essentially replaces your IP address when you are online with one from the VPN provider’s servers. In this process, the information you send over the internet is encrypted, but what many don’t understand is that when the information leaves the server of the VPN provider, it’s not encrypted. For encryption to be effective, it needs to be supported on both ends, so this renders a VPN as generally ineffective, strictly speaking, at securing your information.
More than that, VPN providers are not as secure as you may think. There are laws that VPN providers have to abide by if they are located in a place that is governed by the Five Eyes Surveillance Alliance. The law in these locations doesn’t insist on protecting the anonymity of the VPN customer if the government subpoenas the VPN provider for their logs and records of the customer. This situation may make you question what it is that is actually secure and anonymous when using a VPN.
However, there’s another option when it comes to securing yourself more when you are working on the internet; it’s called Tor. Tor is a free, not-for-profit, software that secures your information more than a VPN does. Instead of sending your information to one server to change your IP address, Tor will encrypt your information and reroute it through three relays that are operated independently and chosen at random. What makes this more secure is that each relay does not know the full traffic route, only the entry and exit point their respective segment. Each relay is different and is changed every ten minutes, so they are incredibly difficult to track. Unlike VPNs, Tor has end-to-end encryption which means that the information that is sent is encrypted each time that it’s sent to a different relay and to the end-user which certainly makes it more secure than a VPN in terms of full-route encryption.
So, before you decide to purchase that VPN that you saw in a commercial while you are working from home these days, rethink your decision based on the information in this article. There might be something better out there that is actually cost-free.
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