While the recent (and not so recent) social media blackouts have been attempts to curb the spread of fake news, it has also caused a fair share of problems for businesses that operate on social media platforms. Tech savvy people switched to VPNs but in the end, those were blocked as well. Curious to find a solution, I decided to try out an app suggested by a friend called Orbot.
What exactly is Orbot?
The first thing I found out about Orbot is that it’s not a VPN app. Rather, it’s a proxy app that enables other apps to use the internet more securely. It uses TOR to encrypt all internet traffic on a device and then hides this traffic by bouncing it off a collection of computers across the world. If you are unfamiliar with TOR (The Onion Router), you can read up on it here.
In addition to being a proxy app, Orbot also has a built-in VPN functionality. This is what piqued my interest. The walkthrough of setting up the app is relatively easy. Once I swiped through the initial feature description, I was ready to browse the web securely.
Setting up and using Orbot
As I said, using Orbot is rather easy. Once the app opens, I was greeted by a button which looked like a large onion. This is of course to hint that the app is powered by TOR. Clicking the button initiates a connection to the TOR network. Once a successful connection is made, the button becomes green. The process took a bit of time but that was in order to provide a truly secure experience.
Once Orbot’s proxy was up and running, I started playing around with the VPN settings. This is where things got interesting. While it is primarily a proxy app, it can actually work as a fully-fledged VPN as well. In addition, because it’s powered by TOR, apps running through the VPN cannot be tracked or blocked. Given the social media blackout we faced in Sri Lanka, this was especially handy.
It should be noted that while enabling Orbot means the proxy is active, the VPN will have to be activated manually. You can select a preferred location for your device and then enable VPN Mode. Once the VPN mode is enabled, you can choose the apps that you wish to run through the VPN.
Thus far, I’ve been running YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram through Orbot’s VPN and I haven’t had any issues thus far. If you want even more confidentiality and privacy, you can install Orfox. This too is developed by The TOR Project and is their official web browser since 2015. It will soon be replaced by the Tor Browser for Android once it comes out of Alpha stage.
Why did I pick Orbot over any other VPN app?
Well, for starters, because Orbot and its VPN is powered by TOR, there is no real way that it can be blocked. It will just bounce off another computer to establish the connection. Added to that was the fact that it is completely ad-free. So there are no annoying popups when you start the app or close the app or anywhere in between. In comparison, Turbo VPN, which was the app I used before Orbot had ads popping up each time opened the app
Orbot is also able to maintain the connection at all times. With Turbo VPN, the connection would drop every 30 minutes or so. This was because of the limitation of being a free version of the app. There were one or two instances where Orbot stopped working when I switched from mobile data to Wi-Fi and vice versa.
But apart from that, I’ve been using the app for about 2 days now and it hasn’t disconnected a single time. If you’re using a rooted device, Orbot can actually be configured to proxy all of your Internet traffic through Tor.
The bottom line
If you’re looking for a VPN app that is fast, secure and has no ads popping up every 10 seconds, then I will definitely recommend Orbot. Because it uses TOR, you can be assured that your data is safe from prying eyes. If you want to learn more, you can click here.
Have you used Orbot? Love it? Hate it? We would love to hear from you.