What Is A Double VPN?

What Is A Double VPN?

Updated: 08-02-2021

As the global internet connection grows rapidly every day, cybersecurity threats are also becoming more rampant. Such threats have increased the demand for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), but there’s still more to be done to protect user files and information, such as using a double VPN.

A double VPN isn’t so different from a regular VPN connection, only that it encrypts your traffic - twice. Additionally, this VPN will channel your traffic through two VPN servers, making your online identity more anonymous. A double VPN is also referred to as double-hop, multi-hop, cascading, nested, or chained VPNs.

Even before venturing into using a double VPN, it is crucial to understand how they work. This article reveals everything you need to know before you opt for a double VPN.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll learn from this article:

  • Why a double VPN is necessary
  • Whether you can use a VPN on top of another
  • How onion routing relates to VPNs
  • Benefits of using a double VPN
  • Whether a single VPN is enough instead of a double VPN
  • Best VPN providers for a double VPN

What Is a Double VPN, and Is It Necessary?

Generally, a single VPN will encrypt and secure your device and destination server tunnels. On the other hand, a double VPN will encrypt the tunnel twice, thus adding more security. A double VPN arrangement can be in the form of:

A VPN provider offers at least two hopping servers: Some commercial VPN providers have introduced a unique feature of a double VPN, which allows using two servers together. This feature routes your traffic between its source and destination using a round-robin format. Your second VPN server becomes the default IP address, and the first one remains hidden.

Once connected, the second VPN server becomes your default IP address, and the first one remains hidden one layer deep. You can still use a double VPN even though your VPN provider doesn’t have this feature.

Two VPN providers with different VPNs: You can use two VPN servers from various providers sequentially. To enhance privacy, you’ll need to hide both of your VPN servers from their respective providers.

Use your first VPN provider to get a new IP address and then download a different VPN service. Ensure that the IP address of the first VPN reflects on the second one.

Connect to the latest VPN and start surfing the internet. But, with this option, you may experience slow browsing speeds. Additionally, purchasing two commercial VPNs may turn out to be quite expensive.

A standard VPN with an extension: Using a regular VPN alongside a VPN extension or a browser proxy is an efficient way of achieving a double VPN. For example, you may download a uVPN (Chrome extension) after beginning a remote protocol on your standard VPN. The uVPN is free, and its connectivity is much more reliable. Although your first IP address will remain hidden, you will also get a new one from the Chrome extension.

A standard VPN with a VPN-installed virtual machine: The best way to increase your anonymity is by using a VPN installed on a virtual machine. A VPN used on a virtual machine will completely isolate your online activity from the actual system encrypted by another VPN server. The main advantage of this option is that both the real and virtual machines can use the same VPN provider.

A regular VPN with an onion router: To avoid buffering that comes with a double VPN, you can use the onion router on your VPN for better results. Onion routing refers to a technique that facilitates anonymous communication over a computer network. An example of an onion router is the TOR network.

ISPs can track you when entering or exit a TOR node, but you will be anonymous with a double VPN arrangement.

A double VPN may be unnecessary for some online activities but crucial when transferring sensitive information. For example, a journalist who works in a country with strict censorship laws may find it necessary to encrypt the IP address using two servers to communicate with the world.

In the case of torrenting, a standard connection from a reputable VPN provider is ideal.

If you travel or reside in a country with strict censorship policies, a double VPN may protect you from government surveillance. Similarly, a double VPN is ideal when you desire to protect other parties you interact with online. With no apparent protection, your messages, emails, and video chats are accessible by eavesdroppers, and a double VPN proves vital to protect your communications.

Can You Use a VPN on a VPN?

Using a VPN on a VPN is possible. You can use one on your router and another on your surfing device. You may even decide to use one on your device and the other on a virtual machine but the same device.

Whichever set-up you opt for, two different VPNs help enhance maximum security. The following are ways you can use a VPN on a VPN to achieve a double VPN connection.

Installing a Virtual Machine on Your Device: Use a free virtualization tool to install your virtual machine’s operating system. Your computer’s operating system and that of the virtual machine may be different.

Installing a VPN on Both Systems: Install your VPN on your device and virtual machine to ensure that you do not exceed the number of devices your VPN can support.

Establishing Your Double VPN: You can launch your VPN by connecting it to a server in a particular country and then start your virtual machine. Launch this VPN again but on your virtual machine and choose a different country’s server.

Using Your Double VPN: Any traffic from the virtual machine travels through the first VPN server to the second one, and that’s it! A VPN on a VPN!

How Is Onion Routing Similar to a Double VPN?

Onion routing is a technique that encapsulates messages in encryption layers similar to the layers of an onion. This is done to communicate anonymously through a computer network.

For example, you may send an HTTP request to a particular server; but when someone intercepts the request, they won’t know what the message entails as it’s been encrypted.

When using regular web browsers, such as chrome, you send GET requests to the servers to get webpages with no apparent intermediary.

In layman’s terms, sending a GET request refers to the process of requesting information from a particular server. For example, you are reading this article because you sent a GET request either by typing a specific keyword into the search engine or clicking on a link.

Since this is direct communication between you and your server, someone might be sniffing on your network to find the server you are contacting. 

However, onion routing operates much differently by maintaining the connection of several nodes. This routing technique hops the connection from a server to the other until it reaches the last server on the circuit.

The last server is the one you intended to contact - it processes your request and responds. The requested webpage is then sent back to you through the same nodes in the network.

How Does Onion Routing Work?

The messages sent to a server and the responses received are encrypted with various nodes. Each node comes with unique encryption for every server visited.

You can access all the nodes, but the providers can only access their respective servers. The process is known as an onion router as it wraps your message under encryption layers which must be peeled off at each hop, just like an onion.

Suppose you are browsing the internet through TOR, a web browser that supports onion routing, and you wish to access YouTube, but unfortunately, you reside in China, where YouTube is banned. First, to hide your identity from the Chinese government, you’ll need to contact a particular server indirectly and request a YouTube homepage.

The request is facilitated by various nodes maintained by volunteers worldwide, making the conversation untraceable. The 3 nodes below are just examples; an entire TOR network can contain over a hundred nodes.

Since you can access Key 1, Key 2, and Key 3 encryption keys, you encrypt the message 3 times by wrapping it under the 3 keys’ layers. The encrypted message is sent to the first server, Node 1, which has Node 2 and Key 1 addresses.

Node 1 decrypts the message through Key 1, and after realizing that the message still contains two encryption layers, it passes it to Node 2.

Node 2 uses Key 2 to decrypt the message, and then it passes the message to Node 3.

The exit node will then read your YouTube GET request and forward it to the destined server since there is no further encryption. After the server processes the request, you will receive a response that finds its way back to you reversely through the same nodes.

When the encrypted response reaches you, you can easily decrypt it since you can access all the keys. 

A third party listening in the input node will know you are using TOR to send the request but won’t decode the message. This individual or software will only see the input node’s address, with the triple encrypted message remaining meaningless. The same applies if the third party listens to the exit node.

You may be concerned whether a third party is listening in at Node 2 since they can identify the input and exit addresses to trace you and the destined server. However, this is not quite simple since each node has numerous ongoing concurrent connections, and tracking the right source and destination is extremely difficult. Node 2 is a middle node from the above example, but it can input or exit nodes for another onion router on a different connection.

Vulnerability in Onion Routing

Using onion routing does not necessarily guarantee total privacy. The following are some drawbacks associated with using TOR. 

Exit Node Eavesdropping: Since TOR operates just like other low-latency anonymity networks, it does not protect traffic monitoring in the input and exit nodes. Theoretically, the network is prone to exit node eavesdropping and attacks on traffic analysis.

Slow Connections: The issue of slow connections occurs because the traffic in TOR passes through various nodes.

Restrictions: Websites like Premier CDN service provider, and Cloudflare, tend to block TOR access or require users to fill in Captchas before accessing a site. These security checks help prevent possible articles but can also affect user experience.

Poisoned Nodes: Authorities and hackers can run poisoned nodes for surveilling users or for espionage purposes. Poisoned nodes, also referred to as gateways, are specifically created to monitor traffic in a TOR browser. For example, a sniffer running two poisoned input and exit TOR nodes can analyze the traffic and identify a fraction of users using these nodes.

How Does TOR Provide Online Privacy?

With so many nodes operating on the internet, the possibility of poisoned nodes discovering your identity online is very low. Sometimes individuals who use TOR to commit certain cyber crimes may be found and prosecuted, but the discovery is usually due to human error, not TOR’s weakness. 

Practically, TOR cannot block malicious parties or law enforcement authorities from tracking even though you are being preyed upon. But, this technology can be used together with other privacy tools like OTR, Cspace, ZRTP, RedPhone, Tails, and TrueCrypt to boost your privacy.

Benefits of Using a Double VPN

The main advantage you have when using a double VPN is that none of the VPN servers can identify both the source and your traffic destination. The first VPN server will only see that you are connected to another VPN server, but it won’t identify the website visited.

The second VPN server is only aware of the websites it is connected to. However, it won’t know about any data you might receive from the first VPN server.

This is beneficial to people residing under oppressive governments. Activists and journalists are great examples of such individuals.

By using a double VPN, it is challenging to track their internet usage. Also, if one VPN server is compromised, the user’s information remains protected by the other VPN.

Another advantage is that your data is encrypted twice, making it twice difficult for third parties to access it. Since your connection is between UDP and TCP protocols, the security level for your online activities increases.

A double VPN also changes the first VPN server’s actual IP address so that the second server won’t access your information. Lastly, no one can access your web destination, not even your ISP. Anyone trying to track you won’t succeed but will be aware that you are using a VPN service.

Is a Standard VPN Enough Instead of a Double VPN?

For an average user, a double VPN may not be necessary. A regular VPN strongly encrypted with DNS leak protection will provide much-needed security and privacy. Besides, the double VPN feature is only offered by top-level VPN providers.

The speed of a regular VPN depends on the strength of your internet connection. If you have a strong internet connection, then your VPN speed will be fast and vice versa. Using a double VPN will slow down your browsing speed since traffic will have to travel an extra distance to reach its destination.

For instance, let’s say you’re in Canada and connect to a double VPN service before browsing. Your traffic will travel to the first VPN server in Greece, where it will be encrypted, and you’ll be assigned a new IP address.

It will then travel to a second VPN server in Peru, where it’ll get encrypted one more time, and you’ll be assigned a new IP address. Finally, your internet traffic will be decrypted and sent to your final web destination.

Using a double VPN slows down your browsing speed further as compared to using a regular VPN.

Even so, a double VPN provides additional privacy and double encryption for your data. Anyone preying on your online activities will have a hard time figuring out what you’re doing. Using a double VPN is advantageous if you want enhanced security and privacy.

However, if you choose a VPN provider offering chained VPN connections, you should understand that not all VPN providers will offer a fully encrypted multi-hop. Chained VPN connections are multiple VPN servers chained together to improve security and privacy. Multi-hop VPNs are no different from chained VPN connections, only that your traffic moves across 2 or more servers before reaching its final destination.

Some double VPN providers will forward your traffic to another VPN server without adding an encryption layer. This forwarding leaves you vulnerable to traffic correlation attacks. A traffic correlation attack is when an attacker spots a vulnerable network and manages to observe a user’s traffic as it enters and leaves the communication channel. The attacker then tries to deanonymize the user by finding patterns in the traffic to link the sender and receiver of the communication. 

Best Double VPNs Providers

Here are some reputable VPN providers in the market today.

NordVPN: It offers one of the best double VPN services and has a user-friendly interface. The company has strict third-party audit policies; thus, secure encryption is guaranteed. It also has numerous server networks globally so that users have a variety to choose from.

NordVPN costs $3.71 monthly if you subscribe to their 2-year plan. The six-month plan costs $9 per month, and the one-month plan costs $11.95.

As you can see, monthly subscriptions are expensive compared to yearly plans.

Proton VPN: This is a Swiss company that values its users’ security and privacy. The VPN service supports streaming and person-to-person connections. It also has explicit Secure Core and Kill Switch privacy features for advanced subscribers.

The secure core is a feature that routes your traffic through multiple servers to enhance your privacy and security. On the other hand, a kill switch feature shuts down your internet connection if your VPN connection drops.

Proton VPN offers a visionary plan which costs 24 Euros. The plan only allows ten VPN connections on different devices.

The Plus plan costs 8 Euros monthly and allows only 5 VPN connections on different devices. The basic plan is the cheapest with a monthly subscription of 4 Euros and allows only 2 VPN connections on different devices. 

Surfshark VPN: This VPN service provider is located in the British Virgin Islands. Surfshark allows streaming, P2P connections and has over 1700 servers in 63 countries. The VPN service has advanced features such as ad blockers, a kill switch, multi-hop capabilities, and a camouflage mode.

Surfshark has a 1-month plan which costs $11.95 per month; the 1-year plan costs $5.99 per month while the 2-year alternative costs $1.99 per month.

Astrill: This VPN service provider uses military-grade encryption to secure its user's data. Additionally, they offer a smart mode, which helps you distinguish between VPN-accessible websites and websites that are safe to surf without a VPN.

Astrill Multi-Hop’s 1-year plan costs $10 per month and $15 per month for the 6-month plan, while a single monthly subscription costs $20.

IVPN: This VPN service provider offers multi-hop services and is compatible with popular operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Users can access the server’s open-source software and connect at most 7 devices. This VPN service has full-network access, and owns a log-less DNS server to add its security. A log-less DNS server ensures that records of what users do in a network are not stored or disclosed.

It has other unique features such as 24/7 customer support, a 7-day refund policy, among others.

The VPN’s Standard plan costs $60 per year, and it only allows a connection of up to two devices. The most expensive plan is the Pro plan which costs $100. The plan connects at most 7 devices and has unique features such as multi-hop and port forwarding. Port forwarding is a feature that allows computers in a private network to connect with other devices in public or private networks by redirecting traffic from one address to another.

Perfect Privacy: This VPN service accommodates at most 4 multi-hops. The service has a TrackStop feature that prevents untrusted content from reaching your device. It also has a Stealth VPN feature that protects users against Deep Packet Inspection, an advanced method of blocking VPN traffic on restricted networks.

Perfect Privacy offers a 1-year plan with a monthly fee of $9.99 and a 2-year plan that costs $8.95 per month while a month-to-month subscription costs $12.99. Note that all Perfect Privacy plans have the same features.

A double VPN moves traffic from one server to a second server which encrypts your data further and then sends it to the final destination.

To prevent attackers from monitoring your network, using a double VPN comes with double security. Get your double VPN today at affordable rates and enjoy unmatched privacy!

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