Tor Browser – What is it and how does it work with a VPN service

If you have ever wondered what Tor Browser is, then you are at the right place. Tor is short for The Onion Router (the meaning of the name will be explained later). The first thing you have to know about Tor is that it is a way to hide your “Internet footsteps”.

Tor is a gate to the Deep Web/Darl Web. What data can normally be found when using a search engine on the regular Internet is just the tip of the ice berg compared  to what can be found on the Dark Web. This could be websites that can not be found on normal search engines due to an error. But this could of course also be websites that had the intention to not be available for the normal Internet. A good example of this is Silk Road, a website for drug dealing that was cancelled years ago.

Tor is very popular with journalists and activists that work or live in countries where the Internet is restricted. With Tor it is possible to circumvent these restrictions, and for whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, to spread information.

How does Tor Browser work?

To use Tor, you first have to download and install a Tor browser, that you will use instead of your current browser. Everything you do on this Tor browser is hidden from the government, ads and hackers. What Tor does, is encrypt the data that you enter in such a way that sensitive information such as dates and location are removed from the data. Tor then forwards your data to multiple layers of servers to remain as anonymous as possible while Tor itself can still find out where the data is coming from. This is another reason why it is called the Onion Router – due to it working with multiple layers, like the layers of an onion.

Disadvantages of Tor Browser

One of the most well known disadvantages, and also one of the disadvantages you as a user will probably experience immediately, is the huge delay in speed. The fact that the data has to go through multiple layers makes the entire process of browsing very slow, especially for audio and video. What should certainly also be important for the user, is knowing that you are not 100% invisible for everyone when you use Tor. Some claim that Tor is reasonably easy to hack, especially when you go to websites that do not use SSL encryption (“https” instead of “http” in the address bar). Furthermore, the government can see that you use a Tor browser, even if they can’t see what you are doing. This can certainly seem as suspicious activity.

Tor Browser screenshot

Using Tor with a VPN service (private network)

Tor can be used with a VPN service (also read: Why a VPN service when you download torrents?). What you need to know as a user is that the use of a VPN service through Tor or the other way around can cause a lot more delays. A private network and Tor slow down the speed of transmitting data, and this effect is only magnified by combining the two. You have the option to choose between the methods “Tor via VPN” or “VPN via Tor”. The first method provides some anonymity, but can not entirely ensure for your activities to be untraceable. Encryption is in this case also not of the best quality. With the second option, you have more security and you can ensure that as few damaging files as possible end up on your computer, while you also almost make perfect invisibility available for yourself. Therefore, the second method is clearly the best option here.

How to use Tor?

The first step to use Tor is, as discussed previously, downloading the Tor browser. This browser is technically speaking nothing more than a modified version of Mozilla Firefox. When installing the Tor browser, you will soon notice that the installation process does not adhere to the traditions of a normal installation process for Windows files. This program is automatically installed to the desktop, and can be launched from any medium (such as a USB stick).

When the browser is installed, a folder will be created in the location of the installation, called “Tor Browser”. When you open this folder, you see a file named “Start Tor Browser”. When you click on this file, you will be asked whether you want to make a direct connection with the Tor network, or whether you want to change the proxy settings first. For most people, the direct connection will of course be sufficient. When you are connected, we recommend you to only go to websites that make use of https (as discussed earlier).

Tor has become popular among people who regard personal privacy as very important. Do you want use Tor too, and do you want to remain 100% invisible? Then you should try one of the aforementioned methods of using Tor with a VPN service. We have tested the best VPN services for you and created an overview. Click here to view the best VPN’s.

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Written by

Kees van Vliet

Kees van Vliet

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