What is Onion Over VPN, and Is It Better for Online Privacy?

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: May 25, 2023 Read time: 21 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.

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.

A quick list of our top VPNs 

  1. ExpressVPN: The provider recently introduced an onion site for improved anonymity. In addition, it supports Tor over VPN setup, eliminating exit node tracking.
  2. NordVPN: A reliable VPN with inbuilt Onion over the VPN setup and dedicated servers for Onion over a VPN connection.
  3. Surfshark: This is a budget-friendly VPN that supports VPN over Tor configuration. It also supports unlimited simultaneous connections.
  4. Private Internet Access: It has a large server network ensuring you can find a server near you to reduce latency and server overload cases when exploring the dark web.

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 a free, open-source anonymity tool used to get around censorships to access all layers of the internet, including the dark web. To access the Tor network, you must use a Tor browser which is almost similar to regular browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Tor uses a sophisticated, multilayered security system to protect you from government surveillance, ISP monitoring, and cyber criminals. Tor’s multi-layered security protects your anonymity by;

  • Encrypting your traffic: Tor routes and encrypts your data through a series of nodes to protect your anonymity.
  • Masking your IP address: Tor hides your real IP address from third parties, making it difficult to target you.
  • Blocking trackers: Tor isolates every website you visit to prevent third-party trackers from following you on every site you visit.
  • Blocking Fingerprinting: Tor Browser makes your digital fingerprint look similar to that of other users.
  • Binning your history: Tor permanently clears all your browsing history after closing tabs.

The Tor network encrypts your data thrice before routing it to a series of random volunteer-hosted servers until it reaches the intended website. This conceals your identity while giving you a digital fingerprint like other Tor users. Therefore, trackers cannot fingerprint you based on your device or browser information.

Additionally, Tor prevents anyone monitoring your internet connection from seeing the websites you visit and your physical location. It also changes your IP address and enables you to bypass geo-restrictions. Moreover, Tor allows you to access the dark web, which is the unregulated part of the internet. Also, it automatically deletes all your browsing history after closing the tabs to provide further privacy.

Is a Tor Browser necessary to access the Tor Network?

Regular browsers cannot open Onion sites hosted on the Tor network, so you must use a Tor browser. Additionally, you should subscribe to a VPN with an Onion over VPN feature and combine it with a Tor Browser for maximum anonymity. However, there are only a few VPNs that support Onion over VPN.

Onion over VPN explained