Does My ISP Know I’m Using Tor? Access to information has really never been as easy as it has become today, all thanks to the Internet. The many sources of information available online in the form of journals, websites and even streaming channels makes it easier to share knowledge, and communicate with people from all around the world. One of the biggest problems however that affects this major source of information is the many restrictions & surveillance mechanisms placed by governments throughout the world centered on limiting or restricting what can or cannot be accessed, for one reason or the other.
Does My ISP Know I’m Using Tor?
Vying for an Open Internet
To work around such restrictions, Internet users have tried to consider other methods that may help them encrypt their connections, and surf the Internet without any restrictions preventing them from accessing whatever content they’d want to. One of these measures happens to be using the The Onion Router (Tor). Initially developed in the 1990s, the continued use of Tor has done a lot to make it more difficult for any ISPs to limit or even track user’s data, and has also helped them gain access to parts of the Internet whose access would otherwise be restricted.
Owing to the continuing developments in technology, there have been claims that ISP’s are now able to track whatever Tor users would be up to online, thereby allowing them to identify users who ignore a country’s specific regulations regarding Internet use. With this new development, It seems like the use of Tor alone isn’t enough to guarantee users complete privacy, and therefore there might be a need to consider other effective means of ensuring guaranteed privacy while online.
Why ISPs Track Their Users’ Activity
Data is one of the most valued commodities in today’s world, because it offers a look into the consumer dynamics that govern what people are likely to spend their time, money or energy on. Since ISP’s serve as a go-through for anyone hoping to access the Internet, chances are high that they hold the capability to look into the kind of content being consumed by users online, and since this kind of data is highly valued by companies hoping to target their adverts to people who are most likely to purchase their products or services. Back in 2017, the American government even seemed to be in favor of such practices since it made it legal for US ISPs to collect data such as:
- Age, geographic location and gender.
- Device being used to access the Internet.
- IP addresses and other identifying information.
- Domains and records of sites visited.
- Time spent browsing on a particular site.
- The IP address in use.
Despite the fact that such data collection has now been made legal, it heavily infringes on users’ right to privacy. This is why users are turning to solutions such as Tor and VPN to browse anonymously, and have control over what they can or cannot access.
Tor is essentially a computer network that’s run by volunteers from all around the world. Each one of them runs a computer whose software allows users to connect to the Internet through the Tor network. It makes it difficult to get tracked since before connecting to the open Internet, the Tor Browser connects to various relays, therefore cleaning up any tracks.
If you happen to be using Tor, your ISP isn’t entirely able to track whatever you’re up to while online, but it can however monitor how much data you’re using, and from where you initiated access to the network.
Using Both Tor & VPN
To enhance your level of privacy, and avoid any cumbersome adverts as you browse, it’d be better to boost your online security by using both Tor & VPN. Using the Tor Browser under a VPN encrypted connection allows you to add on another layer of privacy, and keep away anyone hoping to gain access to your personal information. Here are a couple of ways you could use the two tools together:
Using VPN over Tor would mean having to connect through Tor first, then have your data encrypted as it passes over the many entry nodes consisting of your Tor network. Here’s what to expect:
- You get to avoid any blocked Tor exit nodes.
- Your IP address gets hidden such that ISPs can only see your exit node IP.
- You’ll be able to choose your server location.
- All of your traffic gets filtered through Tor.
- Your ISP will only be able to see your data traffic, not what you’re up to.
- You won’t be able to gain access to Tor’s .onion sites.
- Using VPN makes it easier for your traffic to be spotted.
- ISPs can tell that you’re using Tor to browse the Internet.
You could also use Tor over VPN, where you’re supposed to connect to your VPN first, then route your traffic to the Internet through Tor. This allows for your data to get encrypted before it’s rerouted, and adds a layer of encryption over that of anonymity. Here’s what you should know:
- Doesn’t need as much effort to set up.
- Allows for access to Tor’s hidden services.
- Allows for access to Tor’s .onion sites.
- Your ISP won’t be able to detect that you’re using Tor.
- Your ability to connect to the Internet could be restricted by your ISP.
- If your VPN connection drops, your data could be exposed to an ISP.
- Your Internet access can be detected through the exit nodes on your Tor network.
Does My ISP Know I’m Using Tor – Conclusion
The continued increase in government surveillance and Internet censorship makes it quite difficult for Internet users to go about their sensitive work online without fearing for their freedom due to the legal repercussions that may ensue. As we have also tried to prove in this review, the use of Tor by itself is simply not enough to guarantee online protection. The only best way to better your security online would be to use the Tor Browser in conjunction with VPN, since this way you’ll have trimmed down what your ISP is capable of knowing based on your use. We do agree that there are a few areas that will still ultimately be left uncovered, but it would still be best to have your connection anonymized through Tor, and encrypted through VPN.