I had been struggling to find privacy and anonymity. So I eventually discovered something interesting, the onion over VPN, or as you may call it, Tor over VPN Magic. Where privacy is a must, traditional methods of evading surveillance can not be sufficient. Using a VPN to remain anonymous on the internet is a fairly safe method. Using the Tor network is also a good idea, since it routes your link through multiple random nodes, making it difficult to track it back to you. Although these two methods can be used individually, they can also be combined, which is known as Onion over VPN (or Tor over VPN). The following are a few things you need to know.
What exactly is Tor and how does it work?
Tor stands for The Onion Router, and it was originally a global network of servers created in collaboration with the United States Navy to enable users to access the internet anonymously. It is also a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and advancement of online privacy resources. By encrypting your traffic and routing it through various Tor relays within the network, the Tor network hides your true identity.
Tor is a free and open network that anyone can join, add to, and use. Routing the data through the network anonymizes it, but this is a time-consuming and inefficient method. Although a malicious Tor node can keep restricted logs, the network does not collect any user details. You don’t have to trust the network, but you should be aware that parts of it might be monitored.
What is a virtual private network (VPN)?
Virtual private networks (VPNs) allow you to create a private network from a public internet connection, giving you online privacy and anonymity. Behind a VPN, your internet protocol (IP) address is hidden, making your online activities virtually untraceable. Using a VPN service, you can create secure and encrypted connections to increase your privacy.
A VPN client routes all data across its network, including peer-to-peer data (as with file sharing). As VPNs encrypt data to prevent unauthorized viewing, a user must trust that they do not keep logs of any kind, since everything that goes over the VPN’s servers is not kept. At the very least, a VPN would have to obtain certain user information, such as payment information.
Why and When would I use a VPN?
Typically, a VPN is used for the following reasons:
- Bypass geo-restrictions.
- Change your IP address. Once you have established a VPN connection, you’ll be given a new IP address. This IP address belongs to the server you choose for your link.
- A VPN aids in the encryption of your connection. VPNs allow you to add an extra layer of protection and encryption to your connections, ensuring that your data is encrypted.
- Encrypt your connection.
- Unblock streaming websites. You can access streaming services and even games from any part of the world if you use a VPN and a few clicks.
- Secure your torrenting activities.
- Avoid IP leaks/DNS leaks. With a good VPN, no sensitive data will leak, allowing you to enjoy secure, anonymous, and private internet access.
Why Onion Over VPN Then?
When you use a VPN with Tor, you get all the protection and privacy you need to protect your online activity from snoops, hackers, ISPs, and government surveillance.
Even if Tor Browser makes your internet traffic anonymous, hackers might intercept it at the entry or exit nodes and see what you’re doing. With military-grade encryption, a VPN makes you invisible.
Tor Browser encrypts only the web traffic that passes through it. Outside of this, any applications or places you visit put your privacy and security at risk. If you’re surfing, downloading, or simply scrolling through social media, a VPN uses system-wide encryption to provide anonymity and protection.
How Then Does Onion Over VPN Work?
The most straightforward way to use a VPN with Tor is to set up Onion over VPN, which simply means connecting to your VPN before opening the Onion Network. It may sound complicated, but I’ll explain what it means below.
Here are simple steps on how to use Onion Over VPN:
- Register with the VPN service of your choice.
- Download and install the VPN software and log in.
- Select a server and verify that it is linked.
- Download and install The TOR Browser
- Start the Tor browser.
- You’re all set to go online.
An alternative is to use a VPN over Onion configuration, which requires first connecting to the Tor browser.
In the end, what happens is determined by the websites you visit. For instance, “Onion” websites (often associated with the Dark Web) can decrypt your data until it reaches its destination. Your data will be decrypted at a Tor exit note and redirected to the website if you visit a daily website. Since you’re using double encryption with “Onion over VPN,” you’re guaranteeing that no one would be able to track your online activities.
When Should You Use an Onion Over VPN Connection?
If you’re serious about protecting your online privacy, you can use Onion over VPN. Journalists, political activists, and others commonly use this technology.
As you can see, we’re dealing with a very complicated mix of technologies. That isn’t to say that ordinary home users shouldn’t rely on it. Even so, you should be mindful of the disadvantages and limitations that will become apparent as soon as you connect to an Onion over a VPN server.
The most significant disadvantage is the effect of this Web flow configuration on your Internet connection speed. Because your data will be encrypted twice, you will see major delays.
Onion over VPN versus VPN over Onion
The above steps show you how to set up Onion over VPN, which is usually preferable. Nevertheless, both setups have their pros and cons, and it’s good to be aware of them.
Onion over VPN
You connect to the VPN then Tor. The Tor network and the VPN both encrypt outgoing traffic. It then goes to the VPN server before going through the Tor network.
VPN over Onion
You connect to Tor then the VPN. Although the outgoing traffic is still encrypted by both, it now goes through the Tor network before going through the VPN server.
Which VPNs have Onion Over VPN Built-In Functionality?
Not all VPNs do. Bear in mind that when we talk about Onion over VPN, we’re talking about a variety of setups. Some VPNs have built-in support for this technology. They have servers that have been pre-configured to encrypt the data twice; using their servers and then using the Tor network.
Here is a list of some of the VPNs:
- ExpressVPN — Fast and safe VPN with its .onion domain. The server offers RAM-based security and anonymity, as well as blazing-fast speeds.
- Nord VPN — My best VPN for Tor. It has a large network of high-speed servers and many security features. Bitcoin is accepted, and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Proton VPN –Using a GUI client, Proton VPN supports Tor and indicates what servers are best for Tor.
- Astrill VPN — In addition to the fast network of super-powerful dedicated servers, Astrill VPN promises smooth service without lags or waiting.
All the above VPNs provide instructions on how to use it with Tor on their websites.
So which VPNs Work Seamlessly with Tor?
The following VPNs can work well with Tor, Although most of them don’t have the onion over VPN built-in functionality.
- Nord VPN – My best VPN for Tor. It has a large network of high-speed servers and many security features. Bitcoin is accepted, and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- ExpressVPN – Fast and safe VPN with its .onion domain. The server offers RAM-based security and anonymity, as well as blazing-fast speeds.
- Surfshark – the most cost-effective alternative. Offers a growing network of servers with no software restrictions.
- CyberGhost – A quick, private VPN with a large number of server options.
- PrivateVPN – A cheap, but, very secure VPN for Tor.
- Private Internet Access – Built-in Ad and Malware Blocker
- IPVanish – High-Speed Obfuscated Servers
- SaferVPN – Pay With Cryptocurrency for Total Anonymity
- Hotspot Shield – Hydra Protocol for Increased Speeds
- Windscribe – Unlimited Connections to Use Tor
Pros and Cons of using Onion Over VPN
- Encryption with several layers
- Even if the Tor network is hacked, your true IP address stays hidden.
- VPN features such as a kill switch remain active, ensuring your safety while you search.
- Since many ISPs block Tor networks entirely, the only way to reach them is via a VPN.
- You can’t see what you’re doing and neither your ISP nor your VPN provider can see what you’re doing.
- Because of the long chain of intermediate servers, your speeds will be extremely slow.
- Tor exit nodes may be blocked at any time, causing your link to be lost.
Onion over VPN vs. Double VPN
Keep in mind that using Onion over VPN is far from the only way to stay anonymous. Tor isn’t the only way to link many safe connections together. It’s also possible to use several VPNs at the same time. Your traffic will be routed through multiple servers and encrypted twice this way.
A double VPN is a method of securing internet traffic. On a user’s smartphone or device, data is encrypted twice. The traffic is routed to a VPN server, which decrypts the first layer. Before being sent to a destination, the secure data is sent to an exit server, where the second layer is removed.
This built-in functionality is referred to by different names by different VPN providers. Multi-hop, double VPN, nested VPN, and other terms are used to describe it. There’s also the possibility of trying to set it up with two separate VPN providers on your own. You can, however, run into software compatibility issues. It’s also possible that you’ll have to pay two monthly fees.
So why use a double VPN if there’s only a minor gain in privacy, a slight reduction in performance, and only marginally more safe?
Benefits of Onion over VPN:
- First hop protection Since everyone can run a Tor node, putting a trusted VPN server in front of the chain would mix your traffic with that of other users. The true origin of the traffic is unknown to the Tor entry server.
- VPN exit hiding Similarly, the VPN service provider is unaware of the final destination of your internet traffic. A good VPN service does not log traffic, but adding a random Tor entry relieves them of this responsibility.
- Access Tor When Tor is blocked by your school, workplace, internet service provider, or government, you can bypass the filtering by using Onion over VPN.
Benefits of Double VPN
- Safety. If you’re looking for a VPN, look for one that has a double VPN option. This alternative, also known as double-hop or multi-hop VPN, is not common among VPN providers. Mullvad, ProtonVPN, and NordVPN all give subscribers double VPN. For tech-savvy users, a double VPN setup can be achieved by integrating two different VPN services, but the resulting link would be slower.
- Speed. The communication speed of a double-hop VPN connection from a single virtual private network provider is similar to that of a single-hop connection.
- Privacy. When provided by the same provider, both a standard VPN connection and a multi-hop VPN connection have comparable privacy. When you use your VPN server plus a commercial VPN company, or two separate VPN companies, you get better privacy protection. As long as you choose service providers with a no-log policy, you should be secure. This directive states that no data, metadata, or link information passing through a company’s servers will be registered or saved.
The Botton Line
When using Tor over VPN, you first bind to a VPN and then to Tor. This approach has more benefits than the opposite. For starters, it’s much simpler to connect to, as you just need to select a server and then launch Tor Browser. It also ensures that before you reach the Tor network, all of your data is encrypted.
It can appear that using Tor instead of a VPN is excessive. If you’re a journalist or political activist working under an authoritarian government, however, depending solely on a VPN or Tor leaves might not be enough. With just a VPN, you’re entrusting your entire data to your service provider. With just Tor, encryption may not be enough, and the collaborative nature of Tor places too much trust in each node to be trustworthy, which isn’t always the case. When these services are used together, however, Onion over VPN is one of the, safest options available, which should be appropriate for whistleblowers and activists.
Not all virtual private networks (VPNs) are created equal. You must be certain that the VPN service is a no-logs VPN. Don’t believe what the provider says. Third-party audits, as well as records of failure to cooperate with law enforcement, will effectively prove whether or not you can trust a service. Your privacy claims are invalidated if the VPN holds your logs, and it’s one of the possible risks to your anonymity.
The greatest disadvantage of the Onion network is that it is community-based, and everyone can set up a Tor node. It indicates that there are some rogue nodes controlled by hackers that could be spying on you. De-anonymizing your relation isn’t as easy as it sounds. It would almost certainly necessitate funds available only to national governments. It’s a possibility to consider, even if it’s a far-fetched one.
The best thing about using Onion in conjunction with a VPN is that your privacy is protected by two different entities. And if there are risks and possible failure points, the chain is long and there are more additional safety measures than if you used the service on its own. Furthermore, the VPN encrypts certain internet traffic that Tor does not, such as ICMP traffic. Furthermore, if you just use the Tor network, your ISP would be able to detect this. It’s hard to say without a VPN.