Tor Over VPN – How to Maximize Your Privacy
By Nick Anderson 6 minutes
We all know about VPNs by now – they are a tool that lets you spoof your virtual location with a different IP address. The growing popularity of VPNs is fueled by general concern among the masses over privacy and digital streaming services such as Netflix.
There is another tool that achieves the same, and it’s called Tor. VPN and Tor are quite similar in the purpose they achieve, but at the core, they are different. What many people don’t know is that they can be used together to achieve an even greater level of privacy.
Here’s everything you need to know about using Tor over VPN.
What is Tor?
Tor stands for The Onion Network. It was a project by the U.S Naval Research Lab (NRL) to develop a way to secure communications. The basic principle involves multiple nodes in a network that relay information until the request reaches its destination – and back.
Years later, two people from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began working on Tor with the Onion network as the framework. There have been multiple implementations of the Onion network, but Tor is the most popular and widely-used project.
Tor vs VPN – Understanding the Differences
Connecting to a VPN service hands over the responsibility of routing your internet requests to the VPN server instead of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). It effectively makes you anonymous on the internet with the IP address lent to you by the server.
Tor works similarly but different in execution. Tor is a network of many nodes that are people who have volunteered to be part of it. These nodes are actual people around the world who have set-up their devices to relay requests to the next node in the network. In total, there are three nodes that work to serve you.
Tor is accessed via browser called the Tor Browser. It’s not complicated to set-up Tor, which makes it accessible to the average user.
When you open a website through Tor, the request is encrypted and sent to the first node (Entry Node). The Entry Node checks the requests sends it to the second (Middle Node), which passes the request to the third node (Exit Node). The Exit Node unwraps the encrypted request and sends it to the correct address, then returns it back.
This process of request traveling several layers represents a layer of an onion – hence, the name Onion Network. The downside of using Tor is speed. Because requests have to travel back-and-forth several nodes, latency takes a hit.
Advantages of Tor Over VPN
The request travels encrypted in Tor’s network until it’s decrypted at the Exit Node. The Entry Node cannot see your request but it knows your IP address because you establish a direct connection. Connecting to FastestVPN will establish a connection to a VPN server and request will travel – encrypted – first to the server then enter the Tor network. The result is that the Entry Node neither see your identity nor know what you are trying to visit.
It comes down to the matter of trusting your VPN provider in its ability to keep your activities private. FastestVPN has a zero logs policy; a policy that dictates user activities will never be recorded or sold to third-parties.
How to Setup Tor Over VPN:
- Download Tor Browser for your platform from here.
- Follow through the setup process and complete installation.
- Download FastestVPN app for your device.
- Run the setup, and launch the VPN app once it has installed.
- Connect to any server. It’s recommended that you connect to the nearest server for better performance.
- Launch Tor Browser and start browsing
You can head to www.whatismyipaddress.com to check your IP address. If the address shows a different location than your physical one and the VPN server you are connected to, you are successfully routing through the Tor network.
Is Tor Over VPN Safe?
Tor and VPN are built for privacy. When used together, they can give you a level of anonymity, unlike any other software. Tor over VPN allows you to mask your identity from the entry node of Tor for maximum privacy. Internet traffic goes to the VPN server first before entering the Tor network.
Can You Be Tracked on Tor with VPN?
While Tor is built for anonymity, it has some weak links. The first node in the network connects to you directly, and thus knows your IP address. Using Tor over VPN eliminates that concern by protecting the IP address from the entry node.
Law enforcement agencies have been known to set up Tor nodes to take advantage of this weakness. Once you connect to a VPN, you cannot be tracked on the Tor network. Your ISP can see that you are connected to a VPN but cannot see your internet activities.
Is Tor Better Than a VPN?
Tor’s strength is also its weakness. Because the Tor network passes data through multiple nodes before reaching the destination, it introduces latency. Browsing or streaming videos on Tor will be much slower than on a VPN because not only does the data travel through multiple nodes, it also has to travel the same distance from the destination and back to you.
With FastestVPN’s “no logs” policy, you do not have to worry about your privacy. Even though Tor is free to use, a VPN is much faster and allows you to connect to your preferred regions.
Because of its ability to keep you anonymous online, Tor is notorious for illegal activities. The Dark Web is that part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines. Using Tor can potentially raise an alarm that you are doing something illegal, even if you are just using it to get around geo-restriction. Using VPN will prevent that by blocking the ISP from knowing that you are Tor.
FastestVPN is a zero-logs VPN that ensures your privacy. Using VPN with Tor is the best way to cover small drawbacks in Tor’s function.