If you’re very concerned about your privacy and security when you are using the internet then combining the anonymity of Tor with the security and privacy offered by a VPN is a great way to make sure that you stay safe when you are browsing the internet. In this article, we will look at the approaches that you can take to combine Tor and a VPN to ensure maximum privacy on the internet. We will explain the different approaches that can be taken and explore the pros and cons of each. We’ll also tell you what you need to know about setting up a secure connection to the internet and suggest a few of the best VPN services that you can use to do it.
Using Tor is a great way to protect yourself online, but it is a slightly technical beast and it’s worth making sure that you understand exactly what it is and how it works before you start using it. You may have heard Tor mentioned in connection with ‘The Dark web’ in news reports – this is a crude explanation of what it is and while Tor can be used for nefarious purposes, it is no more responsible for what you do when you are using the internet than your internet service provider is.
This is by far the most common and most straightforward way of using Tor in conjunction with a VPN service. It is popular as it does not require any special software, infrastructure or setup on the VPN side. All that you have to do is connect to your chosen VPN service, launch the Tor browser and use the internet as normal.
If you connect in this way, your ISP will be able to see that you have connected to a VPN server, although it will not be able to parse the data that is sent back and forth between you and that server. Websites that you connect to and anyone else on the internet will only be able to see the Tor exit node.
Apart from the inherent simplicity, the main advantage of this method is that your ISP will not be able to detect that you have connected to a Tor server. This means that it cannot pick up the websites you are browsing if you are visiting sites that are exclusive to the Tor network (also known as .onion sites). Your entire internet connection will also be routed through the VPN network, meaning that emails, system updates and other services that are not normally routed over the Tor network will also benefit from its protection.
The main disadvantage of this approach is that your ISP will know that you are connecting to a VPN server. Although, with VPNs becoming more and more popular among all sorts of users, this is unlikely to be a major drawback for most people. The other major drawback is that you won’t be able to hide the public Tor node that you are using to anonymise your internet traffic. Since lists of public Tor nodes are widely available and distributed, a lot of streaming sites and other websites that host premium content block these nodes and, unless you use some other type of scrambling mechanism, you won’t be able to access them.
If either of these drawbacks is a particular concern to you, then you may wish to consider connecting to a VPN via Tor instead.
This is the best choice if you want to enjoy total anonymity with your VPN provider (although for maximum anonymity, you’ll want to ensure that you use an anonymised payment method such as a cryptocurrency so that you don’t inadvertently create a financial paper trail that ties you to the VPN). It doesn’t stop the VPN provider from being able to see all of the normal things that it can see but this shouldn’t be a concern for most users. All of the VPNs that we mention on this page operate a ‘no-logs’ policy which means that they do not keep any information about the websites that their users visit or the servers that they connect to. At the end of the day, we only have the VPN providers’ word that this is actually the case but any company that was found to be lying about this would quickly embroil itself in a major scandal and would likely lose a large proportion of its customers to rival services, so it is unlikely that they are not telling the truth about this.
The other advantage is since your endpoint connection to the internet will be through the VPN server, you can take advantage of all of the location-shifting benefits that usually come with using a VPN service. This means that you will be able to watch content from around the world that would normally be unavailable in the country you are in.
The short answer to this is yes. Any steps that you can take to further enhance your privacy and security when you are using the internet are a good thing, especially if you live in a country that is known for monitoring the internet activities of its residents. Whether this level of security is actually necessary for most internet users is a different question however, and one to which the answer varies depending on who you ask. It would also be wrong to claim that using a VPN in conjunction with Tor provides complete anonymity as there is always the risk of an end to end attack or some other form of encryption breaking technology being used to unmask the person who is sitting behind the internet connection. Your internet security is only as good as the protocols that it is built on and governments and cyber criminals around the world are constantly working to undermine the security protocols that many people rely on. That being said, unless you are carrying out activities that would be of particular interest to these hackers and there is a real reason why they would want to compromise your security, using a VPN and Tor is probably sufficient for most internet users.
If you’re already using the Tor system to anonymise your internet activity, then there is a fair chance that you’re concerned about protecting and enhancing your security when you use the internet. A VPN service can do this in many ways.
As a baseline, all VPN services offer high-grade security to your internet connection. This means that you will be protected by 256-bit security regardless of the security systems used by the website that you are browsing or other internet services that you are using. This means that your ISP and any other authorities will not be able to snoop on the websites you are visiting or your activity online. This is vital if you are worried about the risk of anyone building up a profile of your online activity. This is something that the US government has been forced to admit to doing, even when it comes to citizens who were not of interest to the police. Its cybersecurity programs have involved collecting the data and cell phone records of millions of internet users and storing them in large databases. At the same time, many ISPs in the US and other countries have started to track their users’ browsing habits in order to build up profiles of their likes and interests that can be used to target advertising at their users. In many cases, it is impossible to directly opt-out of this type of tracking as your consent to it is buried in the terms of service of your ISP. If you want to avoid having this type of profile built about you and your browsing habits, then your only choice is to encrypt your browsing data using a VPN.
The other major reason that many internet users, both those who use Tor and those who do not, are turning to VPNs is to access content that would otherwise be unavailable to them. This is possible because most VPN services operate servers in many countries across the globe. By connecting to these servers, users are able to make it appear as though their internet connection originates in the country that the service is based in. This means that streaming media websites such as the BBC iPlayer in the UK and Hulu and HBO Go in the United States will identify your system as being eligible to access their service.
Some streaming service providers have attempted to block users of VPNs and proxy servers from accessing their service by blocking access from IP addresses known to belong to these companies. In general, though, this strategy is only possible with free VPN services which offer basic security protections and have few protections. The paid-for services that we will be covering on this page offer more advanced forms of encryption such as IP address scrambling that allow them to overcome these blocks and restrictions.
There are hundreds of VPN services out there and it can sometimes feel like a new one opens for business every week. In order to save you having to compare all of these services yourself, we have cut the number of services down to a more manageable number. We have looked for services that are specifically designed for Tor users or which have a particularly good reputation among the Tor using community. While, in theory, any good VPN service should be suitable for use in conjunction with Tor, the reality is somewhat different. Some VPNs deliberately make it easy and will help you to protect your identity by using the VPN and Tor in combination with one another. On the other hand, some other will block ports and make it difficult to get started with the Tor service due to their fear that people will misuse the service on their platform. We have churned through the reviews and the VPN websites and chosen some that we know will be a good choice for you if you want to use Tor.
After that, we have looked at all of the normal things that internet users consider when they are choosing a VPN service. These include the speed of connection that is possible to achieve when using the service (using Tor on your computer will generally slow your system down and you definitely don’t want to compound this significantly when you add a VPN on top). We’ve also considered the customer service that is available, the maximum number of devices that it is possible to connect to the VPN at the same time and the overall pricing policy. Since many Tor users are particularly concerned about privacy, we have noted the VPNs that allow their users to pay using a cryptocurrency or other anonymous means. There’s no point in using a VPN and Tor in combination in order to totally protect your privacy online if you then leave a paper trail with your bank in order to pay for the VPN service.
We have put NordVPN at the very top of our list for a number of reasons. First there is the fact that it is one of the biggest and fastest-growing VPN services currently in operation. This gives you the security of knowing that you are using a well-respected and regarded service that has worked hard to establish a record of excellent data privacy.
Setting up the VPN is very easy to do. All that you have to do is sign up for one of the plans on their website, download its software to your device and you will be ready to get started. Software is available for Windows, macOS and Linux if you’re on a desktop and for iOS and Android on a laptop. There is also the option of using an extension for various popular browsers in order to access NordVPN, but this service is not available for the Tor browser.
If your technical skills are up to it, you also have the option of reconfiguring your router so that it can connect directly to a NordVPN server. This is a fairly technical operation and involves flashing the software on your router in order to replace it with software that is provided by NordVPN. If this operation goes wrong, you may be left with a router that does not work at all. It’s also worth keeping in mind that doing this will almost certainly void your router’s warranty, even if the operation does work. On the positive side, there are detailed instructions explaining how to perform this operation on the NordVPN website and the company has a 24-hour live chat support service available if you do encounter any problems. If this does all sound like a step too far for you, you also have the option of buying a router that comes with the NordVPN software pre-installed. Do factor the cost of this into your purchasing decision though.
One of the main reasons you may want to consider the option of replacing your router software with the alternative provided by NordVPN is because of the limit the company places on the number of simultaneous connections you may have to its servers. At the time of writing, that limit was six connections. This will not be a problem for the vast majority of users who only want to use the service to protect their own browsing and data but may be an issue if you wish to share the connection with your family or other people in your household.
From a security point of view, NordVPN has all sorts of features that can help to keep you safe. These include a ‘kill switch’ which constantly monitors the state of your connection to the VPN server in order to ensure that it is working properly, if it detect there is a problem with your connection to the VPN server, it will shut off your Internet connection until the connection to the VPN server is restored. This means that there is no chance of any of your personal data is being sent to and from your computer without the protection of the VPN. You will also benefit from 256-bit encryption of all of the data that is sent to and from the VPN server and a number of other security features that are there to keep you and your information safe. When you use these features in combination with the Tor network, you will benefit from the highest possible levels of internet security.
Pricing for NordVPN is fairly standard for a VPN network, although there are a number of quirks and special offers that you can take advantage of in order to reduce the overall cost. The first of these is paying for a substantial amount of service in advance, doing this can reduce the cost of using the VPN service by as much as 75%. You will have to pay for all the service in advance however so make sure that you know what he will use it for before you make that payment. If you are worried about committing for a long period of service upfront then keep in mind that there is a 30-day money back guarantee available. If, at any time during your first 30 days of using the service you decide it is not right for you, then get in touch with the customer support team using the live chat facility and let them know. They will refund all the money that you have paid and cancel your account.
If you are the type of internet user who wants total control over their connection and their network, then AirVPN may be for you. This VPN service has some of the best Linux support of any VPN that we have covered. However, it is probably one of the most technically complicated and therefore is probably best suited to users who know their way around a computer and networking technology. If the pretty GUI and easy signup process of one of the other VPNs that we have covered sounds appealing, then you are probably best-off sticking to one of those services. On the other hand, if you want some of the best security that is available on any VPN and the ability to totally control the way that your VPN connection works and the information that you sent to him from the server then this may be the right choice for you. Read on for full details of how the service works and what it will cost you.
Setting up AirVPN is a little bit more complex than some of the other services that we have covered. Instead of offering a recurring subscription service like some of the others we have covered, the service allows you to buy specific periods of service in advance and these will not renew until you decide to buy another. This is good news if you are worried about the chance of your VPN subscription renewing when you do not intend it to, but may be a problem if you forget to renew before your service expires because you will then have to visit their website without the protection of a VPN in order to renew it.
The software offered by AirVPN is less pretty than some of the other VPN services we have covered but that is probably because they have focused on adding features to it rather than polishing the GUI. Linux users will be pleased to know that this is one of the few VPN options that offers a GUI, This means that if you are on Linux, this is probably the easiest choice of VPN service to get up and running, especially if you are not comfortable with using software that only runs in the command line.
This is the only VPN that we have come across that offer OpenVPN through Tor. This means that if security and privacy are your ultimate concern, then it’s the obvious choice of VPN service to go for. You can further enhance your security by paying for your VPN using a crypto currency such as bitcoin. If you choose this method, no paper trail will be created showing that you have paid for a VPN service. It’s also worth noting that this VPN company has a strict no logs policy which means that it does not retain any information about the websites that its users visit or the service that they connect to.
The range of servers offered by AirVPN is more limited than some of its competitors. This probably won’t be a problem for you if your main motivation for using a VPN is the enhanced privacy that is available. On the other hand, it will limit the amount of content that you are able to stream from other countries. Essentially, AirVPN is the right choice if privacy, security and control are the reasons that you are choosing a VPN service. If your priorities lie elsewhere, then this may not be the right VPN service for you.
Pricing for AirVPN is fairly normal by VPN service standards and discounts are available for users who pay for large amounts of service upfront. There is no option of a money-back guarantee or free trial service but AirVPN does offer a €2 three day trial that should give you plenty of time to get to grips with how it works and decide whether it is the right service for you or not.
At the other end of the spectrum, if your main priority when choosing a VPN is to find one that offers great customer service and very fast connection speeds then it is well worth looking at SurfShark. This company is a fairly new player in the world of VPNs but has managed to quickly establish a great reputation as a VPN company that is trusted by users from all over the world.
The simple experience starts as soon as you sign up for the service. All that you have to do in order to get SurfShark working with the Tor browser or any other is sign up for an account on the website and download the appropriate software for your operating system. There are easy to use apps for Windows and macOS on the desktop as well as an option for Linux. The Linux option relies on the command line however, so make sure that you are comfortable with using software that functions in this way before you decide to sign up for a long period of service. On mobile devices, you have the option of apps for iOS and Android that will protect your browsing. While SurfShark does not place a limit on the number of devices that you can connect to its servers at any one time and there is, therefore, nothing to be gained from installing new software on your router in terms of device connections, this is still an option if you would like the protection of placing your VPN interface directly onto your router.
In terms of server selection, SurfShark has you covered. Servers are located in over 50 countries around the world, although it is worth noting that some of these are virtual servers. All of them should be perfectly suitable for connecting to and using the internet through the Tor browser.
All of the security features that you would expect from a good VPN service are there. One that goes above and beyond what other VPN services offer is known as CleanWeb. This works by scanning any web pages that you visit at the point that it is passed through the VPN server and removing any ads or tracking scripts that could be used to monitor your journey around the web. This will probably be less important to you if you are already taking advantage of the anonymity that is offered by the Tor browser, but it is an interesting example of why SurfShark is on our list and how they go above and beyond to offer something a little extra to their customers. SurfShark also operates a strict no logs policy, which means that it does not collect or retain any information about the servers that you connect to or the websites that you visit when you are using its service.
In terms of pricing, SurfShark’s offering is fairly similar to most of its rivals on a month-to-month basis. Where things get a little bit more interesting is in terms of the discounts that are available to customers who can sign up for long periods of service in advance. These are amongst the longest available in the industry and can reach as much as 80% for users who sign up and pay for two years of service when they first join. A wide range of payment methods are available, including the option of paying for your VPN service with a cryptocurrency if you are worried about the chance of a paper trail being created that identifies you as a user of a VPN service. If you are worried about signing up for a long period of service before you have had the chance to fully evaluate SurfShark and work out whether or not it is the right service for you, then keep in mind that the service offers a 30-day money back guarantee to all of its customers. This guarantee means that if you decide that SurfShark isn’t for you at any point in your first month of using the service, then all that you have to do is get in touch with the customer support team via live chat. They will then cancel your service and refund any money that you have paid so far – this includes the amount that covers the service which you have used so far.
Hopefully, you’ll have decided that one of the VPN services that we mention above is right for your needs. Combining Tor and a VPN service is the ultimate way to improve your security when you are using the internet and now that many VPN service providers have easy to use software that makes the set up process easier than it has ever been before, using one should be an absolute no-brainer. The main thing that you need to remain conscious of is that combing Tor and a VPN will slow down your connection speed and add a little latency to all of your connection. If privacy and security are your main priorities, then this shouldn’t be a showstopper for you at all. On the other hand, if you are playing games online or using another service that requires quick pings and rapid response times from the servers that you are connected to. If you have decided that this is the right option for you though, then one of the services that we have covered should be ideal for your needs. We hope that you are able to take full advantage of the privacy and security offered by these services and browse the web with the safety that you and your family deserve.
Head of content