Which is best to protect my anonymity, is it Tor or a VPN?

Question asked 7 months ago by onion (email hidden)

Tor and VPNs use different underlying technology and are useful for different things. Yes, they both claim to allow anonymous web browsing and enhanced privacy and security.

Tor is a free project and distributed network. When you install the Tor client on your computer, you yourself become an exit node for other Tor users. When enabled your Internet traffic is routed over Tor - encrypted and sent to an exit node in another location, before hitting the Internet. Your requests will come from dozens of IPs while other Tor users use yours. It is a good technology to protect your privacy as long as you keep your Tor client software updated. There are stories of poisoned exit nodes which may attempt to track or subvert some or all of your Tor traffic, a risk you take when using a P2P distributed network. Also used in this way it is notoriously slow.

VPNs use exit nodes provided by the commercial VPN provider. This gives you more control over how your traffic is routed (by choosing which country to use). A trusted VPN service will not log or attempt to manipulate your Internet traffic. Furthermore the VPN can be configured over port 443 which is impossible to distinguish from normal encrypted web traffic, making it impossible to detect.

Unless you intend to use Tor-only services (the "deep web") I would recommend a VPN. Tor will not protect you from actors with significant control over a country's Internet infrastructure - aka government surveillance. China is increasingly detecting and shutting down Tor exit nodes. A VPN is a much faster way to protect your anonymity online.

Answered by Xander (staff)