VPN vs Proxy vs Tor
Comparing VPN, Proxies, and Tor
Protecting your online privacy typically means hiding your IP address and location from web servers and sites that you visit. Ideally, it also means encrypting your Internet traffic so your Internet Provider can’t read your data. If you have been reading our series, then you’ve already read about three of the top options, VPN, Proxy, and Tor.
In most cases, each of these options is suitable for slightly different reasons, and you might want one or the other based on your privacy needs and your personal preference.
How Do These Technologies Work?
While VPN, Proxy, and Tor use slightly different methods to achieve the end result, all of them direct your internet traffic through another server before allowing you to access the web, effectively hiding your IP address and location. In each case, the end result is very similar, with some basic differences.
However, no online privacy technology is infallible. If you do something illegal, police can still track your data back to where it came from. VPN’s, Proxies, and Tor are best used to hide your Internet usage while you do legal activities, so that anyone looking casually or using technology to collect data (for example, your ISP) cannot see where the data is coming from. This affords you more online anonymity, but it is not infallible.
So, Which Should I Choose?
In most cases, there is no right answer to “which VPN you should choose“. Each option has its own pro’s and con’s, and each is suitable for a slightly different purpose. For example, if you’re looking for networked security that works with your antivirus, using a VPN is a very good option. In some cases, you may also be able to find a VPN through your antivirus software as many top security companies provide VPN service as part of their antivirus packages. However, the ultra paranoid should favor using a 3rd party VPN.
A web proxy is the simplest and easiest way to set up online privacy by hiding your IP address. In some cases, options like Hide My Ass don’t even require you to create an account to start surfing the web anonymously. However, because all of your traffic is redirected through a port which can be busy, this option will slow your Internet the most.
The Tor browser is relatively easy to set up (Tor itself is slightly more difficult) and allows you to surf the web anonymously without a monthly fee. For this reason, it’s the best option if you’re on a budget, want a high quality solution, and don’t mind not having Google or web applications running.
|Cost||Free to Expensive||Free to Expensive||Free|
|Technical Knowledge Needed||Low||Mid||Mid|
|Protection||Mid to High||Low to Mid||High|
|Suitable For:||Hiding your location, web security, accessing private network files||Hiding your location||Hiding your location, getting around web blocks, accessing the entire web, hiding your Internet usage|
|Disadvantages||Slows Internet, your provider may sell your data if it is not explicitly included in your contract, some websites will block access||Slows Internet, your provider may|
sell your data if it is not explicitly included in your contract, some websites will block access
|Slows Internet, does not include filters for illegal content|
When Should I Use Private Browsing?
While some ISP’s will collect and profile your data for advertising purposes, many do not and many allow you to opt out. This means that you may not have to bother with taking extra steps to protect your privacy, especially not if you aren’t doing anything but normal web surfing. However, if you do want to protect your privacy, you can consider using secure browsing options when performing searches, sending email, looking for jobs, accessing your bank, and when buying or downloading content.
However, if you are using Google or Facebook, these applications will already collect a significant amount of data from your activities for advertising purposes. For this reason, if you want your searches to be safe, you should close these applications and clear any cookies in your browser before continuing.
Protecting your privacy online is becoming increasingly more difficult, but it is relatively simple to set up a VPN, use a Proxy, or to download and install the Tor browser. In each case, it is your responsibility to use an antivirus on top of anonymous browsing, and to remember that anonymity