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Is Tor safe to use?

Over the years Tor has become a synonym for anonymous browsing, used by millions of people around the world. Since users are more and more concerned about online privacy, the popularity of Tor is growing. But what is Tor capable of? And is Tor safe to use?

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez

Jun 14, 2021 · 3 min read

Is Tor safe to use?

How does Tor work?

Tor (The onion router) is an open source software designed to help users browse the internet anonymously. It encrypts your traffic and moves it across different relays (also called nodes) run by volunteers. At every stop an extra layer of encryption is added (that’s why it’s called an onion).

When you browse the internet using Tor, nobody can see what you do online, link your browsing activities to your identity, track your location, and snoop on your data. This includes your internet service provider (ISP), government agencies, hackers, and other interested parties.

Apart from providing users with anonymity, Tor also allows you to access the dark web, which you can’t do with regular browsers. Tor is legal to use in most countries, except those known for online surveillance and censorship.

Advantages of Tor

  • Free to use. Tor browser is free on Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows.
  • Open-source. Since Tor is an open-source project, you can download the source code and modify it as you like.
  • Independent. Tor is run by volunteers, so it doesn't need to invest in building its own infrastructure. Since it’s not developed for profit, government and law enforcement agencies can’t impact its services.
  • Encryption. Tor provides you with enhanced online privacy and encrypts your traffic, so your activity can’t be traced directly back to you.
  • Hides your IP address. The default settings of Tor will hide your IP, so nobody can see your real location.
  • Access to .onion sites. Tor allows you to access the invisible part of the internet and browse the dark web.

Disadvantages of Tor

  • Reputation. Tor is used not only by people concerned about online privacy but also by criminals. Some services block Tor because of its bad reputation and you might bump into restrictions while trying to access legitimate sites.
  • Speed. Since your traffic moves around different nodes and is encrypted multiple times, your connection will be slower than normal.

Is Tor browser safe?

Tor strengthens your online privacy, but it won’t protect you from all the dangers of the internet. While browsing the web with Tor is a much safer option than with no protection, Tor is not 100% secure.

When traffic passes through Tor nodes, it has to be decrypted before reaching the open internet. This is where one of the biggest Tor weaknesses lies. The person who is operating the “exit node” could monitor your traffic and intercept sensitive data. Bad actors, restrictive regimes, and other snoopers can run their own node and spy on users.

Is using Tor safe? Just like any other software Tor also has bugs, and in the past errors in JavaScript code were exploited to reveal users’ IP. If you want to hide your identity from an authoritarian government, this type of flaw could get you in trouble.

What’s the difference between Tor and a VPN?

While Tor and a VPN are both designed to protect users’ privacy, they also have key differences. When you connect to a VPN, your traffic is redirected through one of the servers of the VPN provider. NordVPN allows you to choose from more than 5,500 servers in 59 countries, hopping between them with one click.

In theory, a hacker or government could be running multiple Tor nodes and spying on users. With NordVPN, your privacy is guaranteed, so it's a much safer option.

A VPN is also faster than Tor and is much more suitable for daily use. With one NordVPN account, you can protect up to six different devices: laptop, routers, smartphones, tablets, and others. NordVPN encrypts all your internet traffic, while Tor is designed specifically for anonymous browsing. Our Tor vs. VPN article will explain more about their differences.

NordVPN iOS and Android apps even have the Dark Web Monitor feature, which will notify users if they’re personal information is uploaded to the dark web.

How to use Tor securely

If you want to use Tor securely, combine it with a VPN. NordVPN has the Onion Over VPN feature, which enhances security for Tor users. That way you can use regular NordVPN servers to protect yourself and a Tor browser with no extra effort.

When you combine a VPN with Tor, people who operate exit nodes can’t access your traffic. Your ISP and other parties won’t even be able to see that you’re using Tor.

NordVPN is considered the best online VPN service for Tor, so look no further if you want to browse the web privately and securely.

Online security starts with a click.

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