Pros and Cons of Tor, VPNs, Proxies and More

by Tracy Knauer •

Tor, VPNs, Web proxies and other strategies for circumventing censorship all come with pros and cons. Here’s a list of the advantages and disadvantages of various methods for accessing blocked websites.

Tor

Pros: Free of cost. Difficult for censorship authorities to block. Relatively easy to install if using the Tor browser.

Cons: Usually only works for Web browser, not other apps. Upload and download speeds are slow.

VPNs

Pros: VPNs provide access to virtually any website. You can choose which country to appear to be connecting from by selecting a VPN server in that country. Bandwidth is usually not limited.

Cons: Good VPN services cost money. Some VPNs limit the amount of data you can transfer. The VPN company itself can monitor your traffic. Some countries (especially China) are now trying to block VPNs (although they have not succeeded in blocking them all).

SOCKS Proxy over SSH

This is a way to use an SSH server as a proxy to access banned websites. Here are more details.

Pros: Free if you already have an SSH account somewhere. Relatively easy to set up. Encrypts all of your Web traffic, in addition to providing access to banned websites. Hard for censors to block.

Cons: You need to connect to an SSH server in a country without censorship in order to access blocked sites. SOCKS proxy performance may deteriorate as bandwidth increases.

Free Web Proxies

Pros: They’re free. They sometimes get around censorship.

Cons: Many Web proxy services spy on users. Censors try to block Web proxies, and they usually do a good job of it. But some proxies will work on occasion.

Google Cached Sites

You can use Google’s cache to access sites that are blocked if you try to connect directly.

Pro: This method usually works because Google is almost never blocked. (However, China has blocked Google in the past.)

Con: You get outdated versions of the site because you are accessing the cache. This won’t work well for sites that involve real-time interaction, like social networking.

Internet Archive

You can use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to view cached versions of sites from previous points in time. This is a variation on the Google cache strategy. It comes with the same pros and cons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.