Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a popular way to increase privacy and security online by encrypting traffic and masking your IP address.
Tor is another privacy tool that uses internet traffic to anonymize activity through a worldwide volunteer network.
It is an excellent alternative to a VPN service or VPN provider, as it operates differently using a distributed server network instead of a centralized one.
This unique VPN feature sets Tor apart from traditional VPN services. It is an excellent alternative to a VPN service or VPN provider, as it operates differently using a distributed server network instead of a centralized one.
Some people think using a VPN with Tor will increase their security and anonymity but actually, it’s not. where’s Why You Shouldn’t Use a VPN with Tor :
- Tor already provides anonymity, so a VPN is redundant
- VPNs log user activity, jeopardizing privacy
- VPNs add an extra point of failure
- VPNs slow down Tor connections
- VPNs can bypass Tor entirely
The dark web and encryption play a crucial role in this debate. According to Tech Port: The Dark Web Contributes Only 3% of Traffic on the Tor Network.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a VPN with Tor?
Navigating the online world safely is crucial. While both VPNs and Tor are tools designed to enhance privacy, combining them might seem like doubling up on security. However, “more” sometimes doesn’t mean “better.” Here are 6 reasons why using a VPN with Tor might not be the best idea:
- Overkill: Think of Tor as a super-secure vault. Adding a VPN is like adding another door in front of that vault. It sounds good, but it’s only sometimes better.
- Trust Issues: With Tor, your data jumps through several random nodes, making it super private. A VPN is just one company. Do you trust that one company more than the random, multiple stops Tor gives you?
- Slows You Down: Speed matters on the internet. Using both Tor and a VPN can slow down your connection. It’s like driving on a road with extra speed bumps.
- Money: Most good VPNs aren’t free. Why pay extra when Tor is already giving you strong privacy?
- Complexity: Setting up a VPN with Tor can be tricky. It’s like adding extra buttons and switches to a device. More chances of things going wrong.
- False Security: You might think you’re double-protected using both. But if you set it up incorrectly, you might be less secure than using Tor.
In short, while using a VPN with Tor sounds good, it’s not always the best idea. Stick with Tor on its own for more straightforward, strong privacy.
Tor Already Provides Anonymity
The core purpose of Tor is to provide online privacy by masking your IP address and location through a VPN server.
It is an effective tool for maintaining anonymity. It can be used in conjunction with a VPN provider or VPN service.
It does this by routing online traffic through a global network of volunteer servers called relays, provided by a VPN service.
The VPN provider also offers Tor VPN for enhanced privacy and security. As traffic passes through multiple relays, the connection to the VPN server is established, and the originating source of the traffic is obscured. This ensures privacy and security when using a VPN provider.
Additionally, for added anonymity, consider using the onion network. This makes it very difficult for a VPN provider to trace the connection and provide a reliable service. The VPN provider may be unable to reply to the original user’s traffic.
Since hiding your IP and location is already baked into what Tor does, adding a VPN connection on top is unnecessary when using the Tor browser.
The VPN doesn’t provide any additional privacy or anonymity benefits when using the Tor browser or Tor network; it just adds potential points of failure that could compromise your anonymity and the use of onion routing.
VPNs Log User Activity
One of the biggest privacy concerns with using a VPN browser is that many collect logs of user activity, including browsing history, bandwidth usage, IP addresses, and connection timestamps.
This is especially true when using a VPN onion. VPN providers often don’t log user activity on the Tor network. Still, there have been multiple cases of VPNs covertly logging users despite claims of a “no logs” policy.
Using the Tor browser and onion routing can help enhance privacy and security.
- Popular VPN Hola was caught selling user bandwidth and connections through the Tor browser and Onion network.
- NordVPN disclosed a server breach that leaked user connection logs while using the Tor browser.
- HideMyAss, a VPN provider, handed over logs to the FBI to identify a Tor browser user.
If you use a VPN with Tor and the VPN provider logs your usage, those logs can identify you and be seized or hacked. This completely defeats the purpose of using Tor to stay anonymous. Tor does not log any user activity, so adding a VPN increases your exposure.
VPNs Add an Extra Attack Surface
Tor offers anonymity by distributing trust across an extensive network of globally distributed volunteer relays. This makes it very difficult for a single entity to compromise the Tor browser network and de-anonymize users.
However, adding a VPN to Tor concentrates trust into a single additional point that could be compromised. Suppose a malicious actor gains access to your VPN provider. In that case, they can discover your IP address and internet activity, compromising your anonymity through Tor.
A VPN, like the Tor browser, can potentially leak your IP address in other ways, such as through WebRTC data leaks if the VPN software is not configured correctly. More components in the chain mean more opportunities for de-anonymization.
The core strength of Tor is distributed trust to avoid single points of failure. Routing through a VPN first negates this strength by adding an extra attack surface that could be exploited to break anonymity.
VPNs Reduce Tor Speeds
Routing traffic through a VPN server before it enters the Tor network adds extra latency and bottlenecks that slow down connections.
|Tor Network Speed (Mbps)||With VPN Speed (Mbps)||Speed Reduction|
The table shows examples of Tor network speeds before and after routing through a VPN. In each case, the VPN causes a significant 60-70% reduction in speed.
Some key reasons VPNs reduce Tor speeds:
- Extra hops – Traffic must route through the VPN server first before entering Tor, adding network delay.
- Bandwidth throttling – Many VPNs throttle bandwidth, which slows throughput.
- Server load – VPN servers can get overwhelmed with users, slowing speeds.
- Encryption overhead – VPN encryption increases processing load, introducing latency.
Slower Tor connections enable more timing-based deanonymization attacks by making it easier for attackers to correlate traffic going into the Tor network versus out. Speed and performance are crucial for preserving anonymity.
Avoiding a VPN removes a speed-sapping hop so your Tor connection can operate as fast as your bandwidth allows.
VPNs Can Bypass Tor Entirely
Some VPN software allows web traffic to bypass the Tor network, exposing your IP address directly to websites and internet providers.
For example, Opera VPN and CyberGhost VPN browser extensions can enable leaking web traffic outside of Tor if settings are not correctly configured to shut off network access outside the VPN.
Accidental misconfigurations of VPN software can also direct traffic outside of Tor, especially if “kill switches” are not enabled that cut off internet access when VPN connections drop.
It’s also possible for VPN providers to deliberately route select traffic outside of Tor against user wishes.
In 2019, ProtonVPN (which provides the VPN software for the ProtonMail email service) admitted they route some traffic outside Tor for “usability” reasons.
Bypassing Tor negates all the privacy and anonymity benefits. VPN misconfigurations provide a loophole that leaks traffic. Sticking to Tor alone avoids the risk of leaks.
FAQ About Why You Shouldn’t Use a VPN with Tor?
Using a VPN with Tor is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Tor already anonymizes internet traffic by obscuring your IP address and encrypting connections.
Adding a VPN provides no additional privacy benefit and has several downsides:
- VPNs log user activity, which can compromise anonymity.
- VPNs concentrate trust into a single point of failure outside Tor’s distributed network.
- Routing through VPNs first slows down Tor connections significantly.
- VPN software can accidentally or deliberately bypass Tor, leaking traffic.
The core value of Tor is distributing trust across many relays to avoid surveillance and de-anonymization. Routing through a VPN first negates these protections. Tor is the safest and most effective for anonymous browsing when used independently.