What is Onion Over VPN – A Guide to Safe Set-Up & Use

It pays to be super vigilant about your data privacy these days. Every ISP, search engine, cloud company, and website is looking to make a quick buck off your personal information and online habits. Not to mention cybercriminals, surveillance agencies, and the governments they work for.

hostie warding off all types of internet surveillance

You’ve probably come across the term “Onion over VPN” in your research. Perhaps you’re wondering what it is, what it does, and how it works.

If so, this article aims to help you grasp the Onion over VPN basics and how to use it to claim maximum privacy protection in the mass surveillance age.

What Is Onion?

The Onion Router (Tor) is a free anonymity service, famous (or notorious, depending on your persuasion) for helping people from around the world evade censorship and access the entire internet, including the dark web.

Like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, Tor is a web browser. It’s open-source, free to use, and a sure-fire way to dodge most trackers: ISPs, cybercriminals, websites, advertisers, or government surveillance operations.

Tor onion graphic device used to illustrate its multilayered security features.  

Tor encrypts your traffic three times before bouncing it through random volunteer-hosted servers on its way to its final destination. You travel under an anonymity cloak and look almost identical to any other Tor user. Tor makes it almost impossible for trackers to ‘fingerprint’ you based on your browser and device information.

When you use Tor, no one watching your Internet connection can see what sites you visit, and the sites can’t identify your physical location.

After every session, Tor erases your browsing history, including all cookies and form data. What’s more, Tor changes your IP address and lets you access censored or geo-restricted websites in your location. It also allows you to access the dark web, the hidden, unregulated part of the internet. Tor’s association with the dark web’s less legal activities has led some countries to block Tor entirely.

Pro tip: Use CyberGhost VPN along with Tor. That way, no one can see you’re using Tor, so you avoid raising any suspicions.

What Is a VPN?

Similar to Tor, a VPN encrypts your data and sends it through a secure virtual tunnel before it reaches its destination. Unlike Tor, the VPN provider manages its servers. Who’s to say some ‘volunteers’ who run Tor nodes don’t work for governments or have personal objectives for keeping an eye on what’s passing through? At least with a VPN, you know who’s behind the scenes.

A VPN encrypts your data even after it leaves the Tor network. This way, malicious Tor exit nodes can’t expose you and third parties can’t track your location. It also prevents your ISP or anyone else from seeing what you’re doing. This is crucial in countries where merely using Tor raises a flag.

A good VPN, combined with the Tor browser, provides you with extra encryption layers and privacy. It protects your entire connection from your ISP, cybercriminals, governments, and anyone else snooping on you.

What Is Onion over VPN?

Onion over VPN, also called Tor over VPN, is when you connect to a VPN and then open Tor browser. This approach protects your digital identity and data better than using either alone. You get the VPN’s security and privacy with Tor’s anonymity.

Isn’t anonymity the same as privacy? Not exactly. Anonymous means you look a lot like any other user, but anyone interested can still have a closer look at your activity, (say someone running a Tor entry or exit node?). Privacy means nobody can see you because you’re shielded inside the private VPN provider’s virtual tunnel. You have to trust your VPN provider because if they wanted to, they could peep behind their curtains.

Internet traffic in onion over vpn setups.  

Here’s the route your traffic takes when you use Onion over VPN:

  1. Your data is VPN-encrypted.
  2. It’s then Tor-encrypted.
  3. The VPN server receives your data.
  4. The VPN decrypts the data before sending it to Tor, but it’s still Tor-encrypted.
  5. Your data bounces through the Tor network, losing an encryption layer at each node.
  6. Your data arrives at the destination site completely unencrypted.

On its way back to you, your data takes this route:

  1. A website, app, or service sends you some data.
  2. Tor encrypts the data.
  3. The Tor network relays the data.
  4. Your VPN encrypts the data again.
  5. The VPN server sends the twice-encrypted data to your device.
  6. Tor decrypts the data.
  7. The VPN decrypts the data again.

Why Should You Use Onion over VPN?

Onion over VPN adds another layer of encryption security to your browsing activity and your entire connection. This prevents any snoopers from seeing what you’re up to online.

Without a VPN, your ISP can see when you’re using Tor and may disconnect or report you for suspicious activity. Also, the entry node to the Tor network can see your IP address. Some surveillance agencies run entry nodes which could get you into deep water.

Using Onion over VPN eliminates these threats to your privacy.

Instead of your IP address, the entry node sees the VPN server’s IP address, so you remain anonymous. Your ISP might still be able to see you’re using a VPN, but not Tor, which raises fewer suspicions.

Onion Over VPN Advantages Onion Over VPN Disadvantages
    • 💪 The Tor entry node can’t see your IP address.
    • 💪 Your ISP can see you’re using a VPN, but not Tor (you’re less suspicious).
    • 💪 Your VPN can’t see the sites you visit or your activity while there.
    • 💪 Access dark web /.onion sites.
    • 💪 Surf anonymously.
    • 💪 Use Tor on corporate networks like schools or in countries who ban Tor.
    • 💪 Switch to a normal browser for non-critical tasks, while still keeping the VPN protection on.
    • ❗ Can cause a noticeable drop in connection speeds
    • ❗ Websites and apps can see you’re using the Tor network and might report or block you
    • ❗ Your VPN can see you’re using Tor and can see your IP address
    • ❗ Not great for torrenting

How to Set Up Onion over VPN

It’s pretty straightforward to connect to Onion over VPN. All you need to do is:

  1. Connect to your VPN. I recommend CyberGhost VPN because it’s easy to use and fast enough to offset some of Tor’s latency issues.
  2. Launch your Tor browser (it’s free to download from the official Tor site).
  3. Start browsing with double the security and privacy.

Some VPN providers offer built-in support for Onion over VPN, which means you don’t need to launch a Tor browser. Instead, you connect to a Tor-over-VPN server, and the VPN will automatically route all your traffic to Tor. Your entire connection, not just your browsing traffic, will become anonymous.

This mode has its drawbacks. You won’t get key Tor browser benefits, like script and tracker blocking. Your normal browser will still store cookies and other identifiers so websites can still track you all over the web. You’ll also want to make sure your VPN provider doesn’t log your data. As they can see everything, they could report your Tor use to the authorities. It’s known to happen.

When shopping for a VPN, look for one you can trust with your deepest, darkest secrets. Look out for a strict no-logs policy, meaning they will never report your Tor activities to the authorities.

Here at CyberGhost VPN, we stand by Tor’s founding principle: “everyone has the right to enjoy private access to an uncensored web”.

We also would never condemn the dark web as all bad. You may have very legitimate reasons for seeking the dark web’s anonymity and confidentiality. Whether you’re a journalist, someone living under a repressive regime, or a researcher dealing with sensitive information, we believe you should have the right to communicate in complete confidentiality.

Onion over VPN Safety Precautions

Mum’s the Word

Tor keeps you anonymous on websites but it can’t stop you from filling in forms or signing in anywhere. If you submit any personal information like your name, email, phone number, etc., you’re no longer an unknown entity.

Tweak Tor Settings

If you’re looking for maximum privacy and security, hike up your Tor settings to ‘Safest.’ This will keep you anonymous even if Tor gets hacked. It also almost eliminates all online tracking. Some websites won’t work as well, but that’s the trade-off for iron-clad privacy these days.

Get a Robust Antivirus

The dark web teems with cybercriminals, scams, viruses, and malware. Neither a VPN or Tor can keep you safe from any and every eventuality. Protect yourself with an up-to-date antivirus program.

Check Your URLs

The Tor Browser uses HTTPS Everywhere to force encryption, but not all sites support it. You should always check the URL bar to ensure the websites you visit are safe. Do they have a padlock or onion icon in the address bar? Do they start with https://? Does the domain name look correct?

Think Before You Click

Avoid clicking on links you don’t recognize. This is the best way to avoid scams, malware, and viruses roaming the dark web.

Use a VPN

Protect yourself with extra security layers with a VPN. A VPN encrypts and anonymizes all your traffic, even beyond the Tor network. Your ISP or anyone else has no way of knowing what you’re up to, third parties can’t track your location, and malicious exit nodes can’t expose you.

A quality VPN like CyberGhost hides all your online activity from ISPs, cybercriminals, governments, and any other prying eyes.

Why Choose CyberGhost VPN

Apart from our stance on online freedom, you have these solid reasons to trust CyberGhost VPN when you want to use Onion over VPN:

Beginner-Friendly

CyberGhost VPN is an easy-to-use VPN, perfect for first-timers. CyberGhost automatically chooses the best VPN protocol for you, without you needing to fuss with fancy configurations! Simply connect in a click to your preferred server location and get your all-access pass to a restriction-free world wide web.

Military-Grade Encryption

On top of Tor’s encryption, CyberGhost VPN applies bank-grade AES-256 encryption to hide your online activity from your ISPs, bad Tor entry and exit nodes, search engines, Wi-Fi owners, proxy servers, surveillance agencies, cybercriminals, and everyone!

Global Server Network

Connect to one of our 7200+ servers in 90 countries, and replace your IP address with one of ours, so your Tor use can’t be linked back to you. Tor may not be any good for torrenting, so we made our servers especially optimized for fast, safe, and anonymous torrenting.

Zero Logs

We’re based in Romania, which is outside any Eyes alliance, so we’re not compelled to log your data. This means we can stick to our strict No-Logs policy and state without reservation we don’t know what you’re up to on our servers, and neither does anyone else.

A VPN for Every Device

We have the VPN app you need, whether you’re on an iPhone, Android, Windows, or macOS device. You probably have multiple devices, right? No problem! A single CyberGhost subscription gives you up to 7 simultaneous connections, protecting you wherever you go.

Super-Fast Speeds

A slow VPN paired with Tor(toise) will be an uphill battle. Take our super-fast servers for a test drive and your Tor trip will be a breeze. Enjoy unlimited bandwidth and zero throttling. Pages load in a snap for your pure surfing pleasure.

Wrapping Up

The Onion Router can help you protect your anonymity, evade censorship and access the entire internet, including the dark web. Paired with a VPN, though, (Onion over VPN) you get even better protection. A VPN encrypts all your data, even after it leaves the Tor network. This prevents malicious Tor exit nodes from exposing you, and third parties from tracking your location. As a bonus, when you use Onion over VPN, no one can see you’re using Tor, so you avoid all suspicion!

Download CyberGhost VPN so next time you use the Tor browser, you wrap your entire connection up in multiple layers of security and privacy protection.

FAQ

Is Tor and Onion the same thing?

Yes, Tor is short for The Onion Router, so in the context of ‘Tor over VPN’ or ‘Onion over VPN’, they’re the same thing. Do not confuse it with “.onion” websites, which are dark web sites only Tor browsers can access.

Should I use Onion over VPN?

It depends. Are you a casual browser who just wants to avoid annoying ads and cookies? Then Onion over VPN is likely to slow you down and you’re probably better off just using a VPN. It’s faster.

If you find yourself working with sensitive information, go right ahead and max out your privacy with Onion over VPN. Safety first! Speed second.

Install CyberGhost VPN and reclaim your right to privacy, risk-free with our 45-day money-back guarantee.

Is Onion over VPN safe?

You’re safer using Onion and a VPN together than either alone, and far safer than browsing the web unprotected.

Onion over VPN patches up any privacy gaps you may experience using Tor alone. For example, even if Tor encrypts traffic through its network, malicious actors could still intercept your data at the entry or exit nodes. Connect to Onion over a VPN to stay completely invisible with system-wide, military-grade encryption. A VPN also prevents your ISP from seeing you’re connected to Tor, so they won’t block you or report you to the authorities.

Need help using Onion with CyberGhost VPN? Reach out to our friendly customer support team. They’re available 24/7 via email or live chat.

Why can Onion over VPN be slow?

Both Tor and a VPN can slow down your connection. Used together you should expect some latency issues. It’s because both technologies need to encrypt your data and then route it through virtual tunnels, sometimes through servers continents apart. For optimal speeds, go with a fast VPN like CyberGhost with a high-speed server network, and pick a server close to your actual location.

Is the Onion network the same as a VPN?

The Onion network works similarly to a VPN, where it encrypts your data and sends it through a virtual tunnel. A VPN only sends it through one extra node, while Tor sends it through at least three volunteer-run nodes around the world.

A VPN relies on its proprietary servers, so it has more control over who has access to your data. Some VPN providers have a reputation for selling your data or handing it over to the authorities. CyberGhost VPN has a strict No-Logs policy which means we never log your data, so have nothing to hand over to the authorities.

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