Ology For Assessing A VPN With Tor
If youre using Tor to keep your browsing incognito, online privacy and security are likely your top concerns. This makes the VPN that you use to protect your Tor Browser activities an important consideration.
These are the most important features to consider when considering a VPN for use with Tor:
Check out more information about my VPN testing methodology.
What Is Onion Over VPN
To step up from double VPN, we can use Tor which builds on the same concept of layering encryption around your internet data.
Definition Break: What is Tor?
Tor or The Onion Router is a free VPN software that connects to volunteer-operated VPN servers. A users internet traffic is wrapped in 3 layers of encryption, with each layer only revealing where next to send the traffic. VPN nodes are chosen at random and can change over time, anonymizing the origin.
Linus over on the Techquickie channel does an excellent job in this video explaining Tor.
As Linus mentioned in the video, we can combine Tor with a standard VPN to achieve an Onion over VPN or Tor over VPN connection.
Security On Public Wi
Public Wi-Fi is convenient but comes at the expense of security. When youre answering emails at a local coffee shop or absent-mindedly scrolling through social media at the airport, someone may be tracking your online activity.
Using a VPN protects your data while you are on other networks, hiding your browsing history, banking information, account passwords and more from ill-intentioned internet strangers.
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Is VPN Or Tor Better
Tor is better than VPN when more anonymity is desired. VPN is better than Tor when connection speed and securing traffic from public WiFi or internet service providers is more important. Users should consider the expected threat and match it using the onion router network, a VPN, or both.
With the combination of the two, Onion over VPN does not add a meaningful amount of privacy or security for the average user. You may find that Tor over VPN is overkill. But in that case, how do you choose whether or when to use a standard VPN or Tor?
The Hated One on YouTube has this comparison video to help you decide.
Data Privacy From Your Government
While many ISPs, apps and internet data hubs suggest they dont sell your browsing data to governments, the information nonetheless finds its ways into their handseven in the U.S.
Since 2013, when Edward Snowden first revealed that Verizon had been selling users internet and phone data to the NSA, Americans have become more aware of the different ways the government surveils and collects their data. Following the Snowden leaks, and subsequent outrage, several laws were enacted to curb government surveillance.
However, as recently as January of this year, the Defense Intelligence Agency bypassed a law demanding that government agencies produce warrants before compelling phone companies for their user data by paying third-party data brokers for that same data, according to the New York Times.
If you have qualms about governmental overreach, a VPN is a good investment in protecting your data.
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Onion Over VPN Vs VPN Over Onion
Besides Onion over VPN, there is also VPN over Onion. This configuration is not the same where the VPN starts and Tor follows. The setup may look similar at first glance, but it has different pros and cons and serves different purposes. Also, setting it up is a bit challenging and beyond the extent of this article. However, we will compare it with Onion over Tor.
- Your ISP can see your Tor connection but not the VPN
- Your VPN provider can track the sites you visit and even your data
- You cannot visit dark web .onion sites but only clear websites
- You can access apps and websites that block Tor connections
- Reduce susceptibility of compromised exit nodes
- You will need the VPN providers help to set up the configuration
- Eliminates packet discrimination by Tor exit nodes
- Tor entry nodes will see your real IP address
As you can see above, Onion over VPN provides more utility and is easier to set up than VPN over Tor. However, both options have their places.
How Do I Install Tor
Convinced you want to get Tor? Installing Tor on your device isnt difficult at all. Follow the next few steps and youll be able to use the browser in a matter of minutes.
Step 1: Go to the website and click on the download button in the top right corner of your screen.
Step 2: Youll find yourself on the download page. Select your operating system by choosing one of the four icons shown below. As you can see, you can opt for either Windows, Mac, Linux or Android. If you want to download the browser in a specific language, you can click Download in another language or platform.
Step 3: A file will be downloaded onto your computer. Open this file to start the installation process. Choose your preferred language, then press OK.
Step 4: The Browser Setup will appear. Choose the destination folder and press Install.
Step 5: During the installation process, you can opt for Tor to start automatically once youre done installing it. If you didnt do this, youll have to open it yourself by looking up the program. The first time the browser opens, youll see the screen shown below. In most cases, you can just click Connect and get started. However, are you currently in a country that actively censors Tor, such as Turkey, China or Egypt? Then its best to click Configure first. The software will help you configure your browser so you wont be bothered by your countrys online restrictions as much.
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VPN + Tor = Best For Security
Tor is an incredible privacy tool. When it comes to achieving anonymity on the internet, it is currently unbeatable, and it may be the only thing that can thwart the surveillance of a well-funded and sophisticated adversary.
Using Tor over VPN only increases your privacy. Connect to your VPN, then open the Tor Browser to gain access to the Tor network without your ISP being able to identify you as a Tor user.
Which Should I Use
Still not sure? Lets break it down one more time.
Tor has one goal: to keep you anonymous while you use the internet. Everything else is a secondary consideration, or not considered at all like speed and performance. You arent going to use Tor for everyday online activity, but youll be glad its there should you ever decide to organize a revolution, leak sensitive political or corporate data, or engage in other activities within the spectrum of national security.
For all other instances where privacy and security are concerns for you, use a VPN. Youll still hide your IP address, and youll gain the benefits of encryption on all your traffic. VPNs are great for logging into your email, checking your online banking accounts, or buying things with your credit card. And if you pay for a good one, your VPN will be fast enough to let you stream video content and play games.
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How Does Tor Work
When you use Tor, your traffic connects to the Internet through a Circuit, a collection of three computers, or Tor nodes that is changed every ten minutes. Your traffic is protected by multiple layers of encryption. This prevents anyone from snooping on your it, including most of the Tor network itself. Each computer in a Circuit peels back one layer of encryption, to reveal information that only it can see. They work like this:
Data Privacy From Your Internet Service Provider
While connected to your home Wi-Fi, you are less likely to be attacked by strangers than on a public connection. However, your data is still vulnerable.
Your ISP or internet service providerComcast, Spectrum, Verizon or other company who you pay for Wi-Fi each monthcan access all your internet data. Your ISP can see when, where and how you browse.
This data can be collected and sold to advertisers even if youre using the private browsing function, and it can be dangerous in the wrong hands in the case of a data breach. A VPN can help obscure your IP address from your own ISP.
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People With Sensitive Data
With the Onion over VPN setup, your ISP can see that you are using the configuration but not your activities. This is because the VPN will secure your connection and prevent any third party from tracking what you are doing online. Therefore, you will get complete privacy and confidentiality to wander the internet freely.
How To Use Tor Over VPN
Using Onion over VPN is simple. You’ll need a VPN service and the Tor Browser. If you want to route all of your traffic through Tor, you can use tools like Tortilla. This tool will route all your web traffic through Tor nodes. However, in most cases, you’ll likely be using the Tor Browser. Here’s how you can do it.
Your browser connection is now under two sources of encryption: the VPN, and the Tor Browser. If you used Tortilla, this would apply to all your traffic. Keep in mind that such a setup would depend on many intermediary servers, so the network’s maximum speed would be very low. Hence, it’s better to stick to the Tor browser for truly private activities and use just a VPN for everyday usage.
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Double VPN Vs Onion Over VPN
Remember that the Onion over VPN configuration isnt the only solution if you want to increase your online anonymity. There is also an option to use several VPNs simultaneously. As a result, your connection will be passed through multiple servers, and your traffic will be encrypted twice.
Fortunately, different VPNs have integrated this feature on their apps but name it differently. Some of the common names include double VPN, multi-hop, nested VPN, etc.
Moreover, you can try to set up the connection manually with two different VPN services. The problem is that there might be software compatibility issues. For example, the Windows operating system is susceptible to TAP driver errors. In addition, you may also need to pay for two different subscriptions.
Why Should I Use A VPN For Tor
When you use Tor, your traffic is encrypted and routed through several anonymous nodes, run by volunteers. Whenever an info request is made, the route the connection takes is changed, making it nearly impossible to trace the user. However, Tor entry and exit nodes are well documented, so both your Internet Service Provider and the destination server can easily find out if you’re using Tor.
A VPN encrypts all of your traffic. By using a VPN to access Tor, you prevent anyone from detecting that you are using Tor, as your connection is encrypted from end-to-end.
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Data Privacy From The Apps And Services You Use
Your ISP isnt the only potential liability that youve brought into your own home. Unfortunately, many of our favorite apps and internet serviceshave been called out for the way theyve used the data of their users.
A VPN will prevent apps and websites from attributing your behavior to your computers IP address. It can also limit the collection of your location and browser history.
What Is Tor And How Does It Work
Tor is a free software program developed by The Tor Project, a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts. Tor allows users to anonymize their Internet traffic, making it a useful tool for journalists and human rights defenders who may be targeted online. Today a lot of people use Tor every day, from victims of domestic violence to high-profile whistleblowers and activists. Edward Snowden used a combination of Tor and PGP to communicate classified information about the NSA with The Guardian.
With Tor, you can also connect to hidden services known as onion sites, which are only accessible via the Tor network. ProtonMail, for instance, has its own onion site. These can be useful for bypassing regional censorship.
When you connect to the Tor anonymity network, your Internet connection is encrypted and bounced among multiple Tor servers operated by volunteers around the world. Unless the entire Tor network of it is being monitored, a third party will not be able to identify the real IP address of the Tor user. Websites that you visit only see the IP address of the Tor exit node , and not your actual IP.
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What Is Better VPN Or Tor
The choice of which technology is better is determined by your threat model, which is will vary from one person to another. Broadly speaking, you can expect Tor to be slower than a VPN, but more secure against a wider range of threats, including threats that many Internet users are unlikely to encounter.
A good VPN service that uses the latest VPN protocol and provides multiple servers can offer speeds that are fast enough for gaming or video streaming, while bypassing geo-blocks, masking your IP address, and protecting you from rogue WiFi hotspots, ISP logging and other similar threats.
What Is Tor Over VPN
You can easily utilize Tor over VPN by connecting to Virtual Private Network and accessing the dark web through Tor. Here, your network traffic is encrypted by Tor as well as VPN before leaving any device.
Here is how your network traffic passed with Tor over VPN:
Your device -> Encrypted by Virtual Private Network and Tor -> VPN server -> The Onion Router network -> access the Internet
- Your Internet Service Provider cannot see that you are using the Tor browser.
- It has an easy to set up process.
- You can easily access .onion sites.
- Provides flexibility to use Virtual Private Network with a normal browser for the task that is not critical.
- Tor browser entry nodes canât view your real IP.
- Sites can block network traffic from Tor exit nodes.
- Virtual Private Networks can see the real IP address.
- It can expose your web traffic to compromised exit nodes of Tor.
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Introduction To Tails And Tor
The Amnesic Incognito Live System, or simply known as Tails, is a Debian-based Linux operating system whose ultimate goal is to preserve your privacy and anonymity. To achieve this, Tails forces all your internet traffic to route through Tor software that lets you browse the internet anonymously. Tails is also equipped with an instant messaging client, an email client, and an office suite all pre-configured with security in place.
Tails is simple and easy to use, even if youre a novice user. With Tails OS, you can prevent third-party applications from tracking your online activities.
To learn more about Tails or Tor, follow either of these links:
- Tails Operating System
- Tor Browser
We assume you have some working knowledge about VPNs. So in this guide, well focus on how to use VPN with Tails to keep you secure.
Is Using Tor And VPN Combination More Secure
I have been reading more about Tor and its risks to personal data leakage to the exit nodes in the chain. This last node can snatch encryption keys or log in information of websites I may have accessed.
Then i thought what if I used an encrypted VPN to access Tor to give me a secure form of anonymity. Security is my main concern but for example if I’m downloading a car the Tor anonymity will hide my location while using a VPN can protect me from the very nodes that comprise the Tor chain.
Is it safe and more secure to use a combination of Tor and VPN then just using Tor? What is more secure, routing VPN through Tor or Tor traffic through a VPN tunnel? Is there a more secure way to browse the internet and download content? What is the optimal way to securely surf the web? What is the best way to safely download content? Am I overthinking this?
- By the way: When you have more questions about Tor, there is another stackexchange site specifically about this topic.Oct 4 ’15 at 9:22
- Here’s a similar question on Tor.SE: tor.stackexchange.com/questions/1067/tor-vpn-or-vpn-tor
In theory yes, In practice maybe not but also yes at the same time.
If you were to use VPN and a tor network you remove one of the security layers in the tor network. tor uses relays and your path changes every time you use tor by using a VPN you would be using the same end point
Hopefully I kept mainly to the point in my answer.
Stay safe )
When not using TOR, VPN or HTTPS :
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