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View Full Version : Tor or VPN? What's best and how are they different?



ailsalsm
05-14-2015,
I'm new to computers and interested in keeping my searches and internet use to myself. I've heard about Tor and VPN but don't really understand how they differ.

If you use a VPN do you still search via your normal browser (say Google or Firefox) and can your ISP not still see what searches you are making anyway or is the whole thing encrypted?

How does Tor differ from a VPN? Would using a VPN make banking and investing on line safer?

Finally I am interested in anonymous browsing out of bloody mindedness in that I object to the state interfering and poking its nose into other peoples' business on principle especially after the disclosures of Edward Snowden and how they seem to want to spy on even us honest citizens. (rant over)

Any advice most welcome. Thanks.

ajazqoqnvl
05-17-2015,
I pretty much have the same questions regarding the difference and would invite any expert opinion on the subject as well.

Its intriguing

ajcdxgfsic
05-17-2015,
You can search and use the regular internet in just the same way as you normnally would in any other browser whilst using tor and most VPNs. tor comes with a firefox based browser included, so the experience of using tor is much like using normal firefox. VPN systems are designed so your computer can connect to them along a secure link and use this as a tunnel out to the wider internet, they should be compatible with any browser. Websites will usually work fine in these tor or through a VPN hwoever if you want to use flash based or toher plugin based content on the website then you won't be able to do this. This is because if you need to stay anonymous then there are risks that plugins being run might not always connect from your machine trhough tor/the VPN and then to the site you are visiting but might instead connect directly from you to the site. If a plugin did this it would undo everything that tor or a VPN is doing for you, so tor ( and some VPNs probably) will not let you install plugins into the browser.


If you use either tor or a VPn your ISP cannot see what you are doing, all the ISP will know is that you have got an encrypted connection to a tor node or a VPN server, they won't know what you are doing through this so won't be able to see the sites you visit and data you might enter into them. Tor specifically sets up a link from you to a random tor node, then randomly around amongst internal tor nodes, then out from a random* tor node. * You can however set this one to a particular country you want to appear to be browsing from as far as the sites you visit are concerned. The link from you to the first node is encrypted by a secure https like system (any man-in-the-middle snoopers, be they ISP, governements, individuals on the same wi-fi network as you... can only see you have connected to tor and approximately how many megabytes are passing through, they can't see what those megabytes contain data wise), then the internal node links are encrypted, the node out of tor and onto the wider internet is enerypted if you are visiting an https site, but un-encrypted if you are browsing an http site. The encryption is designed such that it should be impossible for any single node within the tor network that you data passes through to decrypt it. VPNs are a bit different in that you connect by secure connection to a VPN server then it goes straight to the wider internet from the VPn server, so you have a faster connection, but lose the extra privacy of those multiple steps within the tor network. VPNs might sometimes keep logs of activity, tor does not.

ajgehwpbkl
05-17-2015,
rp88, on 16 May 2015 - 02:16 AM, said:http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/public/style_images/master/snapback.png (http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/index.php?app=forums&module=forums&section=findpost&pid=3707283)

Websites will usually work fine in these tor or through a VPN hwoever if you want to use flash based or toher plugin based content on the website then you won't be able to do this. This is because if you need to stay anonymous then there are risks that plugins being run might not always connect from your machine trhough tor/the VPN and then to the site you are visiting but might instead connect directly from you to the site. If a plugin did this it would undo everything that tor or a VPN is doing for you, so tor ( and some VPNs probably) will not let you install plugins into the browser.



rp88

If I understand correctly, having plugins like flash installed on the browser and for instance by visiting any site, as soon as one allow flash to activate, say for streaming a content, that would defeat the purpose of having a VPN or Tor browser, or any other strict browser privacy settings for that matter, if the goal one wish tho accomplish is absolute privacy and anonymity.
Would it be the same case for other extensions like WOT, uBlock etc?

Regards,

AizenSousuke
05-20-2015,
rp88

That's a very detailed and helpful response thank you.

You have explained it very well and if I understand properly Tor is probably as good as using a VPN for most purposes.

One thing that puzzles me a little I thought from what little I had read that you could watch video or whatever from sites
located in another country - for example people wanting to watch BBC iplayer who are not in the UK and some movie
sites in the US not available in other countries but if flash doesn't work how can that be? Am I missing the point here?

If flash is enabled, however, it would make your traffic visible to your ISP or anyone else presumably which is defeating the object
of using Tor or a VPN if I understand you correctly?

The bit about banking is interesting I don't use internet banking as I don't trust the free anti virus software I use to protect
me and wondered if Tor would make the transaction safer - not so it seems. Shame!!

Puzzled about the flash/video bit but very grateful for your time and trouble in responding.

Best wishes.

AiqNemn
05-21-2015,
post #4
"having plugins like flash installed on the browser and for instance by visiting any site, as soon as one allow flash to activate, say for streaming a content, that would defeat the purpose of having a VPN or Tor browser"
Correct. However SOME extensions and plugins might work alright with tor, for example tor comes (atleast it did when I last used ti years ago) with NoScript built in, this extension obviously does work well with the tor system or they wouldn't provide it. Noscript does something pretty similar to ublock. Other extensions and plugins probably do exist which respect tor's method of connecting from you to a site you visit via a chain of multiple anonymised links, if you want to run a particular extension or plugin through tor you will need to do some research about that particular plugin/extension.


Post #5:
If a video is flash based and country restricted tor won't usually be able to play it, you could installl flash into tor but doing so would make your anonymity collapse and the site you were visiting would quickly realise you were not from the country your tor IP claimed you were from, and it would refuse to play the content. Some VPNs probably exist which are designed to work well with flash, these would have better success in use for such a purpose. If a video is html 5 based then it might well be able to be played through tor.

If you don't trust your antivirus look into one of these instead: avast, AVG, bit defender free, all are free and should be trustworthy, I use avast, used to use AVG. The type of protection an antivirus offers is quite different to what you need for securely logging into websites (bank/email) and very different to the type of "protection" tor or a VPN offers.
An antivirus keeps your system free of malicious programs, it can be strengthened by running an antimalware tool or some second opinion scanners alongside it, or a scriptblocker in your browser.