The benefits a VPN puts on the table are clearly no news. Yet, what is Onion over VPN (or Tor over VPN), and why would you combine such advanced technology like VPN with another anonymity solution?
Curious much?! That’s great.
The Internet has its dark sides (and also a dark web) you need to be aware of, so knowing everything about what options you have to avoid online dangers is a must.
Combining Tor with a VPN is not a bad idea since using Tor as a stand-alone anonymity solution could cause you trouble.
Did I arouse your curiosity even more? Let’s dig deeper into the subject and see the bright side of the dark side of the web.
What is Onion over VPN? The Transylvanian explanation.
In the little spare time, TomBat and I (Vlad) have, we like to share stories and memories. TomBat enjoys the stories of the trips that I took, the people that I met, and the beauty of the cities I visited, while I am delighted by his adventurous childhood memories. I am not sure if you are aware, but bats hang out with their friends too, and so did TomBat anytime he could escape GrandMaBat’s possessive attitude.
His favorite childhood game was “hide and seek”. TomBat and his best friend, AnonymousBat, liked to make the most out of the caves in the neighborhood and used the winding galleries as their perfect hiding place.
One day, the two friends decided to take their hide and seek game to the next level by exploring Castlevania for new caves where they could play.
I am sure you all know the importance of the perfect hideout. That place where your friends can’t find you that easy, and the one that assures you that, at the end of the day, you will be the winner no one was able to find.
After a few minutes of flight over the colorful fields of Castlevania, they were in front of two new caves ready to be explored. TomBat entered one cave, and his friend entered the other.
The cave that TomBat entered was like a straight gallery and, no matter how far you went ahead, you were still able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. From TomBat’s point of view, this cave was great, as there were enough cracks on the walls where he could hide.
On the other hand, the cave AnonymousBat entered was like a labyrinth. The deeper he went into the cave, the scarier the feeling was. No light, not enough air, and lots of spider webs. Yet, this could be the ultimate hiding place, since TomBat is really skittish, so there will be no change he could enter too deep into the cave. However, TomBat and AnonymousBat enjoyed the fair play.
So, when they met outside to draw the conclusion if this new place will take their hide and seek adventures to the next level, they concluded that they should keep on searching until they will find a cave that’s more like a combination of the two things they just explored.
Therefore, they would need a cave that keeps them in the shadow, but that is not too dark or deep, where they could feel safe and away from the ones looking to find them.
This perfect hiding place is something like Tor over VPN.
The VPN is a legal, valuable, and easy-to-use tool, capable of hiding your IP address and encrypting your Internet traffic. At the same time, Tor is an anonymity solution but is not as secure and safe as the VPN. Even so, combining Tor with VPN helps you enjoy the perks of these two technologies all at once, providing you an out-of-the-box solution to take your online activities to the next level.
What is Tor?
Before digging into the core of the subject, we should dissect the two components of the Onion over VPN solution that helps you stay anonymous online.
Tor is a free, open-source, software that helps you enable anonymous communication between your device and the world wide web. Tor is an acronym, and the original name under which this software has been developed is The Onion Router.
The whole history of the onion routing is pretty interesting as it has its origins in the U.S. Naval Research Lab, where such a solution would help people in the NRL to enable a secure, encrypted, and private means of communication that no one would be able to detect. In this equation, the whole network implies a series of servers to handle the data and encrypt it each step of the way.
From a solution developed by the U.S. Navy for anonymous browsing, Tor turned up into a non-profit organization. And this is pretty much what has changed, as Tor works exactly as it did back then.
How does Tor actually work?
The Tor network uses a series of Tor servers to disguise your real online identity. So, anytime you enable a Tor connection, your online data is encrypted and carried around the Tor network via the Tor servers. This whole infrastructure consists of more than seven thousand relays.
When you enable the Tor connection, this is what happens:
- You connect to the entry node, which sees your IP address.
- Your data reaches the middle node, which acts as a middle man and prevents the exit node from seeing your real IP address.
- At the end of the whole process, you reach the exit node which knows the destination on the web, but does not know your online identity.
By following this path, the internet activity generated from your computer will appear to be generated from random nodes of the Tor network so, theoretically, none of your internet activities can be directly assigned to you.
Why would I use Tor?
The first reason why you would use the Tor browser is to access onion websites, as such websites are accessible only via this software. From journalists to net neutrality activists, and maybe people in the U.S. Navy, anyone can use Tor to ensure their online anonymity, as it’s free and available in almost all countries worldwide. Actually, Tor gathers almost 2 million users daily.
So, if you want to keep your ISP, advertisers, or another third party away from your online information, you could give Tor a try. But do it, just after you finish reading this article, as Tor has its dark sides and moreover, countries like China blocks Tor traffic.
Is Tor legal and safe?
Tor offers an alternative for anonymous browsing and even access to the dark web. Tor is legal in almost every country around the world, BUT the constant use of this browser can mark you for surveillance by your ISP.
We all know that the dark web is called dark for some good reasons. Not only the cybercriminals but also real-life criminals can find the Tor network as a perfect hideout, where they could perform illegal activities like selling hard drugs and weapons.
Keep in mind that even if your intentions are good, you can get marked for surveillance. That’s why you need an extra layer of security for your Tor traffic, and you’re just about to find out how you can accomplish that.
Besides its legal aspects, Tor has a few disadvantages you need to be aware of:
- Tor is slow. Tor is an open-source project, meaning that there is not a considerable amount of money invested in the servers’ infrastructure, and that’s why using Tor can end up in internet speed reduction.
- The final Tor exit nodes can be exposed. As its name suggests, this node is the last one that handles your request, before your data reaches the final destination on the web. If this final exit node is exposed, that means there’s no encryption, so your information is exposed to the operator running that exit node.
- The Tor nodes can be compromised. Not only the exit node can be compromised or exposed, but the whole onion network, meaning that your data is not as secure as you would expect. Plus, some Tor investigators have found exit nodes that interfere with users’ traffic to perform certain kinds of attacks like MITM attacks.
- Major Internet services can block Tor users.
What is VPN?
The VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the most popular security and privacy solutions these days.
By enabling a VPN connection, you will create a private network over a public network, which is a private means of communication for your data.
The VPN tunnel uses a high encryption standard, which grants you military-grade encryption for your data. That’s the reason why the VPN is the top pick of internet users seeking to encrypt their data and surf the web anonymously and privately.
How does the VPN work?
Compared to Tor, the VPN uses fewer servers, but its security is incontestably superior.
In order to work, the VPN combines a VPN server, with an encryption standard, and a VPN protocol. No matter if the VPN connection is enabled manually, or by using a VPN app (aka VPN software), you are automatically connected to the VPN server which, helped by the VPN protocol and the encryption standard, encrypts your data and securely transports it to the destination on the web. As this process works back and forth, the whole Internet connection is completely secured and encrypted, so you can rest assured that your online activities are private and anonymous.
Why would I use a VPN?
Hold my glass of Transylwine, as the list of things you can do with a VPN, is impressive.
- Bypass geo-restrictions. Internet censorship is taking the Internet by storm, but since you can use a VPN service, you can overcome all the restrictions and unblock websites.
- Change your IP address. Hiding your real IP address is mandatory, especially when you want to browse anonymously. A VPN will help you accomplish this, as right after the VPN connection is established, you are assigned a new IP address, corresponding to the server you choose for your connection.
- Encrypt your connection. As already mentioned, a VPN helps you encrypt your connection. Plus, with advanced featured like Double VPN, you can add an additional layer of security and encryption to your connection, meaning that your data will be encrypted twice.
- Unblock streaming websites. Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or Hulu are geo-restricted and this is no news for anybody. With a VPN, advanced obfuscation options, and a few clicks, you can access streaming websites and even games, from any corner of the planet.
- Secure your torrenting activities. Just like Tor, torrenting isn’t legal by default. Therefore, as long as you don’t download or share any copyrighted materials, torrenting is completely legal. Still, you need to secure your connection with a VPN, and, trust me, there are a lot of VPNs for torrents that do a damn good job.
- Avoid IP leaks/DNS leaks. A VPN provides peace of mind when it comes to IP/DNS leaks, meaning that you can rest assured that no sensitive data gets leaked, and you will enjoy secure, anonymous, and private internet access. The great thing is that you can check your VPN by performing an IP/DNS leak test anytime you consider that things don’t work as expected. Keep in mind that the VPN is software that has its flaws, so for maximum security, testing VPN performance is mandatory anytime you go online!
Tor vs VPN vs Proxy.
As for now, things are pretty clear when it comes to Tor and VPN. Yet, what is a web proxy, and what does it do?
The proxy technology is an anonymity solution developed to help internet users easily hide their IP. Compared to the VPN or Tor, the proxy uses no encryption at all, meaning that it is a tool meant for achieving basic online purposes such as unblocking streaming websites or bypassing internet censorship.
The whole principle that lays behind the proxy technology is just a proxy server handling all your requests.
|Encryption||Yes (end to end encryption)||Yes (but only to the exit node)||No|
|Hides your IP address||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Unblocks websites||Yes||Not all websites||Not all websites|
|Suitable for streaming||Yes||Not all websites||Not all websites|
|Suitable for torrenting||Yes||Most exit nodes block torrenting traffic||Yes (Socks5 proxy)|
|Suitable for gaming||Yes||No||No|
|Slows down your speed||Not as much as Tor||Yes||Not as much as Tor and VPN|
|Ease of use||Very easy to use via VPN apps||Requires setup and further configuration||Very easy to use via browser extensions|
What is Onion over VPN?
Now that we made an idea about what are Tor and VPN, what VPN protocols do, and how you can connect to Tor, it’s time to discuss the most important topic – what is Tor over VPN and how can you use Tor and VPN all at once.
Onion over VPN (or Tor over VPN) is a solution specially developed to secure your Tor connection with the help of a VPN. In the VPN provider’s features list, you will find this solution as an Onion over VPN server.
As already mentioned, VPN software is more powerful and secure than Tor is for some good reasons such as the level of encryption, the severs infrastructure, and the complexity of the protocols used when you connect to the VPN. Therefore, we can easily say that Tor offers anonymity, while the VPN brings security in the whole equation.
How does Tor over VPN work?
Usually, the Tor over VPN servers comes as preconfigured servers in the server list of plenty of VPN providers, so you can easily connect to such a server via a VPN client.
When you use Tor over VPN, you will first connect to the VPN before Tor, meaning that the VPN will encrypt your traffic before it is sent to the Tor network. This grants you complete security, so the entry node in the Tor network will not be able to see your real IP address.
Anytime you enable a Tor over VPN connection, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will not be able to see that you’re accessing Tor, as your connection is encrypted by the VPN software.
Advantages and disadvantages of using Onion over VPN.
Opting for the Onion over VPN feature has its ups and downs you need to be aware of before deciding if connecting to a Tor over VPN server is the right solution for your needs.
Advantages of using Tor over VPN:
- You will be able to enjoy two layers of encryption.
- Your ISP is not aware that you are accessing onion websites.
- You will rest assured that even if the Tor network can be compromised, your real IP is not exposed, as your traffic is firstly encrypted by the VPN.
- You will be able to use Tor while enjoying VPN features such as Automatic Kill Switch or leak protection.
Disadvantages of using Tor over VPN:
- Your speed will be significantly reduced. The speed of your connection can be double reduced since Tor is slower than the VPN. Yet, performing a series of VPN speed tests is recommended before drawing conclusions.
The best VPN providing Tor over VPN solution.
As you know, I am not the guy who likes to create false expectations, that’s why I always say that there’s no such thing as the best VPN. After all, when it comes to the performance of certain software, it all sums up to a series of factors that can influence the way a program works for me, and the way it works for you. The situation with VPNs is no different, so my recommendations are always based only on the experience I had while using certain providers.
It’s no news that one of my favorites VPNs is NordVPN. The reason why I like NordVPN? Because it’s a fair and square provider. For only a few bucks per month, you will receive a fully-featured program with a no-logs policy, that comes with great options and features that you will use smoothly.
One of these options is, of course, Onion over VPN. In NordVPN’s list, you will find 2 locations Tor over VPN servers (Netherlands and Switzerland), ready to use as soon as you successfully installed the app.
I strongly encourage you to give NordVPN a try, especially that it provides a 30 days moneyback guarantee policy. I am sure you won’t regret the time invested in testing this provider.
Peeling off each layer of the Onion over VPN solution.
After spending a few couples of minutes looking for the perfect online privacy solution, you will be amazed by all the possibilities. VPN, Tor, or Proxy are only 3 good examples of popular anonymity tools.
With an impressive list of options, you need to make sure you pick the right solution for your needs.
When it all comes to Tor, I have to say that it is a great anonymity solution. Even so, it is a free tool, meaning that you can’t trust it 100% when it comes to performance and reliance. As I am not the only one looking at things from this perfective, VPN providers found a solution to maximize users’ level of security when using Tor, by combining it with the VPN.
Tor over VPN is a great, modern, and easy-to-use solution that can make the difference between surfing the web and surfing the web as a guru.
Online privacy is as important as real-life privacy, so being in the know is mandatory, especially if you’re preoccupied with these aspects.
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