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It is becoming increasingly apparent that not only are companies watching our every move online and gathering data about our behaviors, but government agencies are too. Increasingly, the internet is becoming a surveillance state in and of itself, with many different agents attempting to follow and control data. Because knowledge is power, this is very dangerous.

If you are fed up with others spying on your internet movements, then you should look to a solution that anonymizes your traffic so that no one can spy on what you are doing.

While you may think, “I’m doing nothing wrong, though,” the information that is gathered on you is priceless, and giving it away for free is nonsensical.

The solution to obscuring your movements is Tor. We also cover what a VPN is, how it relates to privacy, and how to use both safely.

What is Tor and how is it used?

Tor is an internet browsing software that involves adding anonymization layers around your internet requests and returning data. Because the internet is made up of many servers that relay information over links, your traffic can be routed over Tor servers, which add an encryption layer at each server so that the payload within cannot be read by others.

You can use this encryption network via the Tor browser.

What is a VPN and how is it used?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a secure, encrypted connection between you and an external server. This encrypts data between you and that server. This means that the only computer that third-parties can see is the VPN, and not your own computer. Not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see what you are doing with an encrypted VPN connection.

A VPN is used for security practices, and also to access region or ISP blocked content. Accessing regionally blocked content is possible if your VPN is located in a country where the content is not blocked, as ISPs are the ones that handle the regional content blocking.

Should you use Tor and a VPN together?

It generally makes sense that adding two layers of security would be better than one, similar to adding a door latch to a key locked door. Previously, it was theorized that using a VPN over Tor would be a good way to do this. However, the general consensus among the Tor and anonymity savvy is that the two combined can actually make you more likely to have your data uncovered.

So, how is this so? Well, firstly, even though they say they do not, many VPNs keep logs of traffic. That means that now your traffic can be identified. If an agency requests that data from the VPN, there are numerable possibilities that may compel them to hand it over. In other words, the data is not guaranteed to be kept anonymous.

But how can they tie it back to you? Well, if you paid for the VPN, and you weren’t careful to do it 100% anonymously, then it’s traceable. If you did, in fact, pay for it anonymously, and you ever connect to the VPN accidentally without using Tor first, then you have uncovered yourself anyway.

How do I use Tor and a VPN safely?

The best answer to this is to use Tor alone, and make sure to follow all the Tor warnings. This is currently the most anonymous form of browsing.

If you would like to use a VPN for other reasons, to circumvent your ISP seeing your data, such as file torrenting, or bypassing sites blacklisted by the ISP, then look to find one of the safest VPNs for the region that you are interested in obtaining content from.

Both Tor and VPNs are very useful, but are generally used in isolation for their given purposes.

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