Last updated: December 31, 2022
A question that my readers often ask me concerns theuse of Tor browser with an VPN. As you know, the two tools protect your privacy but in different ways. So, is it better to use a Tor network with a VPN to protect internet privacy?
Tor and VPN: what are the differences?
The first thing to consider is the difference between Tor and a VPN. Specifically, Tor and VPN are not the same.
- Tor is a anonymous communication network which routes internet traffic through a global network of nodes, protecting your data in the Tor browser and the Tor network.
- Un VPN encrypts your network connection, tunneling all your data through the VPN provider's server. Your internet traffic appears to be coming from the VPN server's IP address, rather than your actual location.
Should you use a VPN with the Tor browser?
Now that you know the differences between Tor and VPN, you might start to see how they fit together. Tor encrypts your traffic in the Tor browser. VPNs encrypt your network connection, capturing everything else.
The question remains: do you need to use a VPN with Tor browser ?
La documentation official of Tor indicates that you don't need to use a VPN with Tor to increase your privacy. The configuration of the Tor network is secure.
However, theusing a VPN with Tor has some advantage over your connection.
Tor by VPN
Here you connect to your VPN server first, then to the Tor network before accessing the internet in this order: your device -> VPN -> Tor -> Internet
In this configuration, the input node of the digital network will receive theIP adress VPN service as the origin of the data, instead of your real IP address. Your ISP will not see that you are connecting to Tor, which could protect your privacy or even allow you to escape TOR network blocking in some countries.
This method is known as Tor Over VPN. It contains a few caveats regarding your VPN provider. If you use a good log-free provider, this can provide a significant additional level of security.
Otherwise, you are simply transferring the trust of your ISP to your VPN provider. If your VPN provider logs your data and works with the authorities, you should avoid using Tor with a VPN.
Advantages of this method:
- Your ISP will not know that you are connected to the Tor network.
- The Tor network entry node will not see your real IP address.
- Your VPN provider will not be able to see your traffic.
Disadvantage of this method:
- Your VPN provider will see your real IP address.
- Your VPN provider will also be able to see that you are connected to the Tor network.
- Tor exit nodes - including malicious exit nodes - will still be able to see your traffic.
VPN over Tor
This option works in reverse: it involves connecting to Tor first, then to the Internet through a VPN server in this order: your device -> encrypt with VPN -> Tor -> VPN -> Internet
The main advantage of this method is to access some sites that do not allow connections from known Tor exit nodes. Another advantage: because you connect to the VPN server through Tor, the VPN provider cannot “see” your real IP address, only that of the Tor egress node.
However, this method is considered more difficult to use because you need to configure your VPN for use through Tor. It can provide more anonymity, protecting your traffic as it passes through the egress node and returns to the VPN provider's server, but it also makes Tor even more difficult to use.
Advantages of this method
- All of your VPN traffic goes through the Tor network, not just your web browsing.
- In addition to the benefits of Tor, you also get the advanced features of your VPN.
- If you need to use resources .onion, you can access it through another browser (not just the Tor browser) through your VPN.
- Tor exit nodes will no longer be able to see your traffic.
Disadvantages of this method
- Using a VPN over Tor might make your VPN slow.
- VPN over Tor will usually require additional configuration. You may need to install a specific client, or change your settings – which require technical knowledge and patience.
Whichever method you choose, combine TOR and VPN will improve your anonymity and security, and partially address weaknesses in using either technology as a standalone solution.
As with any security and privacy concern, you should use a reliable, log-free VPN. If you don't pay for the service, you are the product. So avoid the services Free VPNs.