It is actually possible to combine Tor and VPN together. Using the web is an indispensable part of life for a majority of people nowadays, but it is no longer as simple as it used to be even a decade back. You cannot just rely on the firewall and antivirus for safety. Various Internet watchdogs and snooping authorities are tracking your online activities albeit without your knowledge.
Besides, you also need to ensure the safety of your precious data online. All these factors compel a lot of web users to adopt stealthy measures and mask their online identities and still fulfill their objectives. That is where services like VPN and Tor come into the picture. There are different ways you can combine VPN and Tor to achieve an even higher level of anonymity, privacy and security online.
How to Use Tor and VPN Together
What is VPN?
VPN is a service that lets you mask the real IP address assigns you a virtual IP instead. When you use a VPN, even your ISP cannot trace what data you are sending or receiving because encryption covers it. This makes VPN the preferred weapon for web users who want to stay anonymous online. From political activists who seek to evade snooping by governments to people in countries with restricted web access provisions, VPNs are used by millions to bypass web usage restrictions.
What is Tor?
Tor, on the other hand, is a network that enables users to access the generally hidden section of the Internet, known as the deep web. It also offers a decent amount of online anonymity- though not as good as VPN services. The Tor browser is used to access the Tor network, and with it, you can find the hidden section of the web easily. Tor network routes data, though various servers and this makes tracing the IP address of users very difficult.
Why use Tor and VPN together?
You may want to use both the services together when your need for online anonymity is greater than others. If you are living in a country ruled by an oppressive government (such as Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and so on) or belong to an activist group that operates undercover ―adopting this approach is necessary.
Those exchanging crucial government or research data online may benefit from using this method as well. If you want to stream and download content from online resources that are geo-restricted, combining two methods can be helpful too.
Tor vs VPN
- Tor is slower than VPN.
- VPN is better for P2P/torrent downloading.
- Some VPN services keep logs of your browsing activity, jeopardizing your anonimity in the process.
- Your VPN provider can see your real IP address.
- VPN is better suited for geo-spoofing.
- Some websites block Tor.
- In some cases, Tor exit nodes might infect your device with malicious software.
Both Tor and VPN have some unique benefits, and when you use them together, these can be combined. In other words, you don’t have to choose between using one or the other when you can use them both simultaneously.
Method 1 – Using Tor through VPN
In this method, you have to connect to your VPN server first and connect to the Tor network after that. If you use this method, even your ISP will not know that you are using Tor and accusing the so-called deep web. The Tor entry node and the ISP both will see the VPN server’s IP. However, your VPN service provider can figure out you are using Tor. Interestingly, few VPN services like NordVPN use OpenVPN configuration file to offer Tor through VPN.
- ISPs, NSA, or other government agencies cannot detect that you are browsing the web through Tor.
- Tor entry nodes will not see your real IP address.
- You can access hidden Tor services i.e. .onion websites
- You will still be vulnerable to malicious Tor exit nodes.
- Any non-encrypted traffic entering and leaving Tor exit nodes can be monitored.
- Some Tor exit nodes might be blocked.
Method 2 – Using VPN through Tor
In this method, you first connect to your ISP and then log into the VPN account through Tor browser and network. You have to setup your VPN client for working with Tor. The ISP can see you are connected to Tor network, but has no way to see which data you are exchanging through VPN. When you connect to the web through Tor, the IP can be tracked as Tor does not use end to end encryption like VPN. Another factor is that this method can take a toll on your Internet speed.
- Your VPN provider cannot see your real IP address – only that of the Tor exit node.
- You are protected from malicious Tor exit nodes.
- Using this approach allows you to Bypasses any potential blocks on Tor exit nodes.
- You can bypass regional restrictions by changing server locations.
- All your Internet connection is routed through Tor.
- Your VPN provider monitor see your browsing activities.
Tor Over VPN or VPN Over Tor – Which Method is Better?
If you want to obtain true anonymity online, we suggest using VPN through Tor. In this case, not even your VPN provider can see your real IP address. You are also protected against malicious Tor exit nodes.
On the other hand, your VPN provider can still see your real IP address if you use Tor through VPN. If you are using a reliable, trustworthy VPN service which doesn’t keep logs of your browsing activities, you should not worry that much about that fact though. Keep in mind that you are not protected against malicious Tor exit nodes if you use this approach.
Best VPN Services to use with Tor
Regardless of which method you choose to use, you have to make absolutely sure that you are using a VPN that respects your online privacy. A ‘No logs kept’ policy is a must. Take a look at the list of best VPN providers you can use with Tor below. ExpressVPN offer their users a Tor Onion Service, Expressobutiolem.onion, which basically protects you against malicious Tor Exit Nodes and helps citizens living in countries which high censorship to access the Internet freely.
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Tor and VPN Combo – Additional aspects to keep in mind
Both the methods we have illustrated above offer you reasonably decent levels of anonymity, but they also have their downsides. Based on aspects like VPN server location and simultaneous usage of both services, Internet speed slowdown is what you possibly cannot evade. It is also critical that you use a VPN service that does not log user data.
Not all VPN services offer this and check this out before using a VPN, if true online anonymity is what you seek. For staying absolutely untraceable when using the web, you may also use Tails, a live Linux distribution that runs off a USB drive and offers full access to the Tor network. It is also vital to use the updated version of Tor browser. This will ensure you get maximum protection online along with anonymity.
Regardless of whether you choose to use VPN through Tor, or the other way around, combining Tor and VPN is always recommended.