How easy is it for the ISP or other party to see online movement of someone using the Tor browser without the Tails OS, as well as without a VPN?

From what's written Tor doesn't automatically come with VPN nor as an option to turn on, so does that mean even the ISP or the wifi host would readily be able to see a user browsing .onion domains?

In other words, how well does onion routing hold up in preserving anonymity on its own without the help of Tails or VPN?

1 Answer 1


Here's what your ISP can see:

This person is using Tor. They can't see what you're doing using Tor. They can only see that you are using Tor.

If you're using a VPN, they can see that you're using a VPN service, but they can't see what you're doing with that VPN.

Here's the difference: The VPN provider can see everything you do with the VPN. They may say that they don't log what you do, but you have to take them at their word.

The Tor network is segmented in such a way that no one using Tor can see what you are doing. The person running an exit node can see that "someone" is going to the website abcxyz.com but they can't see who.

The person running the website that you are visiting can see that "someone" is visiting them using the Tor network. In the same way, they can see that "someone" is visiting them using a VPN. They just don't know who. The upside of the Tor network is that every time you visit that website, you will appear to be a different "someone". You are more anonymous.

More information: Is Tor Like a VPN?

  • do ISPs actively monitor (auto-screen) their clients' traffic in any way, given that the ISP is not a state official, but a for-profit organization with really no incentive to curtail and catch strange activity that keeps the client subscribed to them in the first place? If so, your answer says it wouldn't matter whether they are monitoring as long as Tor, by itself, is used. And about the VPN provider (not the ISP), it seems that they can see more details about Tor activity than ISPs can, meaning why risk using VPN then. Tor by itself is good enough?
    – user610620
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 14:36

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