How to Use NordVPN with Tor Browser (Updated for 2023)
Internet users are daily on the lookout for better ways to stay secure while using online services. Several combinations of online security services are available, depending on what kind of activities the user is involved in and the specific data type that has to be protected.
This article will be considering the manifold benefits of combining the security features offered by Tor browsers and one of the best VPNs in the market – NordVPN. But since we’re more particular about your online security, the article shall equally discuss the potential bottlenecks that come with using this combination.
How Does the Tor Browser Work?
The Tor browser is a product of The Onion Project initiated by a group of developers. The backbone technology of Tor is ‘Onion Routing,’ giving birth to the name – ‘The Onion Router.’ Onion Routing technology was conceived by the United States Naval Research Laboratory. The work initially focused on protecting classified information communication in the mid-90s.
Tor browsers are prolific for protecting the privacy of users on all online services. Tor helps users maintain online anonymity by using technology comparable to this analogy: “maneuvering your car through traffic on a busy street to lose a trailing vehicle and occasionally changing the car’s color coat (on the go) to confuse the assailant.”
The Onion Project uses the open-source Tor browser and a global network of volunteer servers to hop packets of encrypted data from one network relay to the other. As the data randomly bounces around the network, layers of encryption are peeled off at each node to reveal the next stop. So, in effect, no single node on a Tor network can tell the original source or final destination of an encrypted data packet.
The traffic mash generated by the Tor network makes it almost impossible to trail any single user of the service. However, since the Tor browser uses scripts and plugins like any other browser, hackers may exploit vulnerabilities that arise through them. It is also worthy of note that though the personal information and activities of Tor browser users are kept private, online services, your ISP, and government agencies like the FBI and NSA can tell that you’re browsing via Tor. That brings us to the idea of combining Tor browsing capabilities with a reliable VPN service. Read a guide to using Tor here.
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How to Use NordVPN with Tor Browser
Though Tor and VPN utilize different types of technology in ascertaining user privacy online, it is possible to use them together. Forthwith, we shall be considering the possibilities of using a VPN service and a Tor browser simultaneously.
Internet users can implement a Tor browser and VPN synergy in two different ways, vis:
- VPN over Tor
- Tor over VPN
1. VPN over Tor:
This implementation of the Tor-VPN synergy involves the user connecting first to the internet via a Tor browser. Afterward, the user configures a VPN application that supports VPN over Tor manually. This protects the Tor browser traffic and internet service.
By default, Tor browsers may be susceptible to data compromise from the Tor network’s exit node. Exit nodes are honey pots for hackers because attackers on the Tor user’s trail are aware of the futility of hunting them down on the elusive Tor network. Instead, they ‘listen’ for outgoing data packets at exit nodes that have been compromised – malicious exit nodes. The data output at the Tor network exit nodes is usually unencrypted; thus, it may expose the personal data and information of the originating user.
VPN over Tor eliminates the malicious exit node vulnerability by encrypting the traffic exiting the Tor nodes before forwarding it to the final destination. This implementation is the best of the two. However, note that your ISP and government agencies may still know that you’re assessing the internet via the Tor network.
2. Tor over VPN:
With this implementation, the Tor browser is protected by the VPN. This is similar to how devices connected to a VPN-protected router enjoy its umbrella of protection.
First, you have to set up and connect the VPN application to a remote server. Then you can open your Tor browser and start surfing the internet incognito. With these direct steps, the Tor over VPN implementation is easier to set up. The Tor over VPN route covers all applications accessing the internet on your device. This is unlike in the VPN over Tor implementation, where you have to manually configure the VPN to protect traffic from the Tor browser solely.
For NordVPN, the Tor Over VPN service does not require manual configuration. This is because NordVPN comes with an embedded Tor service feature. Thus, it is unnecessary to download and configure a Tor browser to work with your VPN.
Now, NordVPN’s Tor Over VPN works by encrypting all user traffic before it enters the Tor network. With such precautions, administrators of the Tor network’s servers do not have access to the traffic’s content. Likewise, the ISP and the government will be unaware that you are browsing via a Tor network.
Advantages of Using NordVPN with Tor Browser
Here are the benefits users stand to enjoy when browsing with a combined network of Onion routing and VPN.
1. Protects Tor users who love to torrent: For Tor users who torrent frequently, you should know that torrent traffics are not encrypted over the Tor network. So, a combination of a VPN and Tor browser will offer privacy for your Torrenting activities on the Tor network.
2. An added layer of protection: Using a VPN or the Tor browser individually provides some measure of online privacy separately in both cases. For individuals who deal with sensitive information, there is an added layer of protection when you use the two services together.
3. Tor browser is free: To get the added layer of protection, all you need is a premium subscription for NordVPN; the Tor browser is open-source and free to use.
If you plan on using Tor browser or use it already, you may want to plug all the vulnerability holes. One key way to do that is by subscribing to a reliable Tor-supporting VPN service like NordVPN.