Tor is an incredibly sophisticated tool for accessing the Internet with iron-clad privacy, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re on the market for an effective Tor alternative for anonymous browsing, read on.
There are many reasons to use Tor Browser: to access the dark or deep web, to break through harsh censorship, or to publish leaked documents or report sensitive information abroad. However, it comes with significant downsides as well: it’s not particularly user-friendly, and it’s Slow with a capital “S”.
If you’re looking for a way to download torrents anonymously or unblock another country’s Netflix, for example, you’ll want to pass on Tor Browser. In other words, unless you have a very specific reason to use Tor, you probably shouldn’t. Today, we’ll show you some solid alternatives to The Onion Router.
1. Virtual private networks
Any conversation about privacy is simply incomplete without mention of virtual private networks, or VPNs. If you’re unfamiliar, a VPN acts as a gatekeeper between your device and the rest of the Internet. Every packet of data you would transmit first goes through your VPN’s server network, where it is encrypted and relabeled with a “spoofed” IP address. Anyone viewing your connection will thus only see unintelligible nonsense coming from a server shared by thousands of users, making if very difficult (if not impossible) to pinpoint which user is making what request.
We recommend the following two VPNs for privacy-conscious users looking for a turnkey alternative to Tor:
ExpressVPN represents the apex of the VPN market, not least of all for its focus on speed. Why is this a big deal? The encryption and routing process necessarily adds some overhead to your connection, slowing it down sometimes to barely-usable levels and making it a poor alternative to the already-slow Tor.
ExpressVPN sets out to solve precisely that issue, offering incredible speeds thanks to its robust network of 3,000+ servers in 94 countries worldwide.
256-bit AES encryption is bona-fide military grade cryptography that is virtually impossible to break through, and ExpressVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol to balance this incredible security with good performance. What’s more, you’ll never have to worry about your VPN tattling on you, as ExpressVPN maintains an impressive no-logging policy. With dedicated software available on basically any device you can think of, ExpressVPN is the go-to privacy solution for users all over the world.
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NordVPN is an industry stalwart which has never been content to rest on its laurels. This is most apparent in its perpetually growing server network, which at the time of writing numbers 5,700+ servers in 60 countries worldwide. Additionally, there are numerous specialty servers fine tuned for optimal P2P filesharing, anti-DDoS protection, double VPN encryption, and even obfuscation.
Over the years, it seems like NordVPN has always been right there with the next big innovation to keep up with the rapidly changing cybersecurity landscape, and it doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.
NordVPN boasts an impressive array of privacy provisions, with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and one of the industry’s best no-logging policies (they even had the guts and integrity to conduct a third-party audit to verify their claims). If you’re looking for a full-featured and performance-oriented VPN, it’s hard to do better than NordVPN.
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Among the best Tor alternatives, FreeNet combines both OpenNet and Darknet technologies. It functions by collecting data in peers, then the uploaded content is sent on through to its various nodes. This P2P security software is more than capable of blasting through censorship, making it handy for many of the same tasks as Tor.
One of FreeNet’s most distinctive features is that it doesn’t utilize a central server, making it difficult to hack. To wit, even people responsible for system maintenance cannot access FreeNet users’ details.
FreeNet is not necessarily better or worse in terms of privacy than Tor, it’s simply different, namely in the way it stores user data which essentially renders it immune to hijackers and attackers.
So, if you want to browse websites while keeping your identity secure, definitely give FreeNet a try.
3 – Yandex Browser:
The Russian Yandex Browser is a viable Tor alternative primarily due to its plethora of privacy-oriented plugins. The most useful of these include ad-blockers and flash disabling extensions, as well as those which alert users when they visit unsafe and unprotected websites. What’s more, Yandex features built-in Kaspersky anti-virus, which scans each downloaded file for malware before you open it.
Yandex maintains full compatibility with all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Even better, Yandex Browser is free, allowing its impressive suite of cybersecurity tools to be available to more people without charging an unfair premium.
Linux-based iPrediaOS isn’t so much a solution for secure browsing as it is an all-encompassing desktop environment with a strong focus on privacy. iPredia makes use of native encryption services which effectively guards users against attackers and hijackers. Similar to a VPN, this Tor alternative encrypts all network traffic to ensure not a byte gets read by snooping third parties.
As an operating system, iPrediaOS is fast, robust, and stable. It is also compatible with many must-have applications and methods, including BitTorrent, IRC chat, secure mail, P2P, and many more.
5. Globus VPN Browser:
Globus offers many of the same benefits as a VPN in a convenient, attractive browser package. With its VPN functionality, you can effectively spoof your IP address to appear as though you’re in another country (great for bypassing light forms of censorship and geoblocking). What’s more, your browsing activity will be completely veiled with strong encryption, keeping your business firmly your own.
Please note: Globus ONLY encrypts browser data, so you’ll still need a dedicated VPN for your device’s other applications.
A nice feature of Globus is that it doesn’t even necessarily have to replace Tor, and instead can work alongside it. To wit, each Globus download also includes the Tor Browser, allowing you to easily access the Tor network within an easy-to-use interface. Yes, Globus works with all major OSes, so you don’t need to feel excluded just because you prefer one platform to another.
6. Comodo Ice Dragon
Another free Tor browser alternative, Comodo Ice Dragon is dead-simple to install and use, and even has the benefit of full compatibility with Firefox’s full range of plug-ins. In fact, Comodo Ice Dragon is essentially a more versatile, faster, and more secure version of Firefox, which showcases security, performance, and feature enhancements over the core build.
Comodo’s unique secure DNS service automatically sets a preference for the fastest and most authoritative answers to your DNS requests, essentially putting your browser on auto-pilot to avoid sketchy sites and malware.
7. Disconnect Browser
Disconnect Browser has a unique twist on cybersecurity: it traces the tracers. This refers to the fact that most malicious websites are rather aggressive tracing their visitors through various means (cookies, scripts, etc.), and Disconnect makes a point to proactively identify these bad sites and steer its users away from them.
Disconnect can do this automatically, but it is rather transparent about the whole process. Users who prefer to stay in the driver’s seat will appreciate the clear warning prompts Disconnect serves up, allowing them to make their own decisions about what to block. After all, some of these requests can be beneficial to the user, as they help tailor the experience (this is true of sites like YouTube and Flickr).
8. Subgraph OS
If you are looking for a tor alternative which provides excellent privacy and a user-friendly environment, then you should consider Subgraph OS. In fact, Subgraph OS makes use of the Tor network, offering all the versatility and privacy without the obtuse user interface.
Being an entire operating system, Subgraph OS offers a sophisticated array of security features that dig deep into your device, including a firewall, a hardened kernel, and meta-proxy.
Freepto will make you feel like a secret agent, and here’s how: rather than securing a single computer, you essentially load up your entire OS workspace onto a USB, which you can then plug into any PC and use as though it were your very own. If you’re on the go and like to travel light while retaining ultimate control over your cybersecurity, this is a pretty great option.
All data flowing between said PC and your USB stick gets automatically encrypted, so you can be sure that nothing slips out for prying eyes to seize upon. This is ideal for activists, journalists, or anyone facing oppression as a way to guard your access to the free and open Internet while keeping a low profile.
Update as of September 10, 2019: Freepto is now discontinued. For a similar tool, check out Tails, listed below.
10. Whonix Browser
Another comprehensive security environment, Whonix is a free and open-source operating system based on Linux which operates under the guise of “security through isolation.” Let’s break it down.
There are essentially two main modules in Whonix: the Whonix Gateway and the Whonix-Workstation. The Whonix Gateway manages all data flowing between your device and the Internet by routing it through the Tor network, or else blocking it altogether if it doesn’t play nice. The Whonix-Workstation layers multiple virtual machines on top of your base OS to run your device’s apps, creating an effective sandbox environment which is essentially immune to DNS leaks. What’s more, malware that has managed to attain root privileges will still be at a loss to discover and use your IP address against you.
11. Epic Browser
The Epic Browser‘s unofficial motto might as well be “go big or go home”. Taking a look at their feature page reveals a plethora of privacy provisions that shore up deficiencies most other cybersecurity solutions don’t touch. These include: always-on incognito mode, fingerprint protection, ad blocker, and tracking prevent for downloads, URL checks, error pages, and much more.
Even better, Epic browser signals “do not track” to each site you visit by default while preventing header data from ever being sent, so you don’t have to fiddle with settings to make it just work. There’s an encrypted proxy to hide your IP address, plus auto-deletion of browser history, DNS cache, login data, cookies and so, so much more.
For heavy users of messaging apps, Tox should be one of the first security options to consider. The Tox protocol was created in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks as a way for people to communicate in real time without the need to rely on centralized platforms which can be compromised and monitored by hackers or authorities.
Due to the lack of centralized servers, Tox conversations require two or more communicating parties to be connected simultaneously in order to establish the link, which can be seen as a limitation or a feature, depending on your use-case. However, that decentralization affords users and incredible amount of anonymity. If you absolutely must speak with someone despite censorship, Tox is a great choice.
PeerBlock is a handy tool designed to help you manage your personal blacklist. This blacklist is enforced through a powerful firewall, which discriminates against designated IP addresses. Pre-made IP lists exist to make your life easier if you just want a turnkey solution, but you can also specific individual sites that you want blocked.
To be sure, this is a deep rabbit hole that can be intimidating for the average user. PeerBlock has graciously built a simple user interface, replete with comprehensive (but easy to read) documentation to help you figure out what is useful to block and what is best left open.
Like Freepto, Tails offers you the ability to carry your operating system on the go, enabling you to use any USB-compatible computer as your very own. Based on Linux, it is completely free to use, lightweight, and super secure.
On that last point, Tails makes use of the Tor network to reroute all your data for the ultimate privacy. What’s more, it disallows any application which tries to bypass this routing to access the Internet on an unsecured connection.
While you’re free to use your own applications, Tails offers several native apps fine-tuned for privacy, including a browser, instant messaging, secure email, a complete office suite, editors for both images and audio, and many more. Clearly, they’ve done their homework learning what users demand in an everyday OS.
The Invisible Internet Project (I+I+P=”I2P”) provides an anonymous network which enables anonymous and secure communication between its users. Each user has their own software client, which creates a discrete number of secure “tunnels” through which messages can be passed either “in” or “out”. This doesn’t sound like much until you consider that the I2P client allows users to pass a message through any number of these tunnels, essentially multiplying the security measures that many times, albeit at the expense of some performance.
But that’s just it: you get to choose the balance between privacy and performance far more precisely than most other methods, which can be invaluable in high-censorship regimes or on low-bandwidth connections.
I2P allows users to create their own anonymous websites which position an I2PTunnel in front of a standard webserver, which anyone can access through an “eepproxy”. What’s more, there’s a fully private IRC network for sending messages and files.
Cybersecurity and anonymity online are hot-button topics for good reason. It’s never been more important to secure your identity and activity online with mass surveillance programs, automated trackers, and hackers galore. Thankfully, the privacy community has risen to the occasion, and offers a plethora of effective cybersecurity tools.
The Tor browser is chief among these, but it isn’t the right choice for every use-case. This article has presented 15 alternatives which can be used alongside or in place of Tor to boost your security without sacrificing performance or usability. Whatever tool you go for, we always recommend you use a VPN alongside it to encrypt every packet of data that leaves your computer in addition to your chosen tool’s functionality.
Have you used any of our recommendations? Have a few of your own? Share them in the comments below.