Onion over VPN: All about it, and is it better for online privacy?

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: September 11, 2022 Read time: 15 minutes Disclosure

Combining Tor with a VPN is a brilliant security technique that helps improve your online privacy significantly. Check out this guide on how Onion over VPN works and how to achieve it.

Sneak peek at Onion over VPN

The rising online security threats and cybercrimes directly increase the need for strong protective measures while using the internet. Many technologies and workarounds are now available to achieve worry-free internet surfing. VPN and Tor are the two noteworthy tools among them. A VPN encrypts the online traffic, while Tor provides anonymity during browsing. Combining the two will help you get the double-layered protective shield. In the Onion over VPN feature, the VPN will encrypt the online traffic and mask your IP. After connecting with the servers, it will pass via Tor relays, then finally arrives at the destination. In this way, tracing the online traffic route will become impossible. In short, this workaround is the best to enhance online security and privacy.

Clearly, people keep seeking better ways to improve their online privacy. There are many reasons for this, such as government surveillance, snoopy ISPs, and hackers stealing data. The Tor network is one of the best options if you want to keep your browsing activities private. But, unfortunately, it provides only a single anonymity layer, which can expose some of your traffic, especially at exit nodes.

If used with Onion (Tor), a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will add an encryption layer to your Tor connection and keep your entire traffic completely anonymous. So, the Tor VPN combination is a dynamic duo that will strengthen your online security and privacy.

In this guide, we’ll give you a detailed explanation of Onion over VPN, the best VPNs for Tor, how Onion over VPN works, and more.

What is Onion over VPN

We will have to look at how the different components involved function separately so as to illustrate how Onion over VPN works. Let’s look at each briefly first and then we’ll cover the duo.

What is a VPN?

Standing for a Virtual Private Network, a VPN is a technology that passes your web traffic through intermediary servers. It encrypts the connection between your device and the server, making it impossible to intercept your information. Also, the VPN will disguise your actual IP address when you connect to the server.

There are two primary ways you can get a VPN. First, you can create a VPN server, which is a time-consuming and complicated process. On the other hand, you can purchase a subscription from a VPN service provider. The latter option comes with an extensive server network allowing you to connect to any country you want. So, for example, you can be in the UK and connect to a server in the US. This will make you seem like you’re within the country, yet you are not.

What is Tor?

Tor is the short name for The Onion Router, meaning either the Tor browser or the Tor networking system. The system is open-source, and anyone can join for anonymous communication. It functions by routing and encrypting internet traffic through multiple users’ computers. 

A singular re-routing point is called a relay or node, and it receives and forwards the data. By default, the Tor network has three relays or more between your device and the final point. This will help to encrypt your data and conceal your IP address behind several layers.

Onion over VPN explained

Onion over VPN brings together the encryption of a VPN and the anonymity of the Tor network. Hence, it adds intermediaries between your device and the server you are contacting.

First, the VPN will encrypt your connection and mask your real IP address when you connect to a server. Second, the request is routed through at least three Tor relays before reaching the destination. As a result, it becomes impossible for anyone to trace the connection back to the source.

Related read: VPN vs. Tor detailed comparison

How to set up Onion over VPN?

It is straightforward to use Onion over VPN. All you need is a Tor browser and VPN service. A tool like Tortilla can come in handy if you want to route your entire traffic through Tor. First, however, you will still need to use the Tor browser. The following steps will help you do it.