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3 Best VPNs for TOR Browser in 2023 (Free & Paid Options)

Have you ever felt uneasy about how much of your personal data is being monitored or collected when you browse the web? Between ad trackers, location tracking, government surveillance programs and hackers, your online privacy is under constant threat. Thankfully, tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) and The Onion Router (TOR) browser allow you to take back control and browse the internet anonymously.

In this detailed guide, I‘ll explain exactly how VPNs and the TOR browser enhance your privacy. I‘ll also review the top 3 VPNs to use with TOR to maximize your anonymity in 2023. Whether you need a free or paid VPN, I‘ve got you covered.

Why Online Privacy Matters

Before jumping into the technical details, it‘s important to understand why tools like VPNs and TOR matter for protecting your online privacy.

  • "You are being watched. Private and state-sponsored organizations are monitoring and recording your online activities." – Edward Snowden, whistleblower on global surveillance programs
  • 91% of internet users feel they have lost control over how personal data is collected and used by companies. [Source: Pew Research]
  • Hackers can intercept unsecured traffic to steal passwords, financial data and personal information.
  • ISPs can monitor and sell records of your internet activity to advertisers.
  • Location tracking and cross-site tracking monitor your physical movements and browsing habits.
  • Public Wi-Fi is notoriously easy for hackers to intercept for data theft.
  • Downloading torrents or accessing questionable content could put you at legal risk if detected.
  • Censorship and restrictions prevent access to information. Some governments block social media, news, LGBTQ sites, and other content they deem unacceptable.

When so much of your personal and professional life happens online, it‘s understandable to feel uneasy about who might be spying on your activities. That‘s why enhancing your privacy is so important.

VPNs and TOR give you the ability to…

  • Browse the web and communicate anonymously, keeping your data safe.
  • Avoid geo-restrictions to access content from around the world.
  • Shield your location and IP address from tracking.
  • Protect sensitive online transactions from interception and theft.
  • Bypass censorship to tap into the open flow of information.

Now that you know the importance of protecting your digital privacy, let‘s look at how VPNs and TOR allow you to browse the internet anonymously.

VPN Encrypts Your Connection

A virtual private network, or VPN, encrypts all the internet traffic between your device and the VPN server you connect to. This creates a secure, private tunnel for your data.

Here‘s a simple breakdown of how VPN encryption works:

  • You download and install the VPN provider‘s app and log in to your account.
  • When you connect to a VPN server location, your device gets assigned a new IP address from the VPN provider.
  • The VPN app encrypts all the data leaving your device before it enters the internet backbone. This scrambled data is indecipherable to your ISP and anyone else attempting to intercept it.
  • Your encrypted traffic travels to and from the VPN server only – your real IP address and location are completely hidden.
  • The VPN server decrypts the data and forwards it to your final destination, like a website. The response goes back through the encrypted VPN tunnel to your device.

So rather than traveling openly across the internet, your data is protected inside an encrypted VPN tunnel. Your VPN provider doesn‘t actually track your browsing because they can‘t decipher your encrypted traffic either.

Top VPNs use AES 256-bit encryption, which even government agencies can‘t crack. Others use protocols like OpenVPN, WireGuard or IKEv2/IPSec for added security.

VPN ProtocolKey Features
OpenVPNUses TLS/SSL encryption
Highly secure and flexible
Slower speeds
WireGuardUses state-of-the-art cryptography
Faster and more efficient
Fewer potential vulnerabilities
IKEv2/IPSecStrong 256-bit encryption
Native support on many devices
Fast connection speeds

With your traffic hidden behind VPN encryption, your online activities are kept safe from prying eyes. But for even greater anonymity, pairing your VPN with TOR takes privacy to the next level.

TOR Browser Maximizes Anonymity

The TOR browser routes your traffic through a worldwide volunteer overlay network to make it exceedingly difficult to trace back to you. It adds layers of encryption and randomizes the pathway back and forth to keep you anonymous.

Here‘s how the TOR network shields your identity:

  • You download and launch the TOR browser on your device.
  • The TOR browser encrypts your data and bounces it through a random pathway of volunteer computers around the world called nodes or relays.
  • At each node, the data is decrypted and instantly re-encrypted before moving to the next random node. This process repeats, creating layers of encryption.
  • The last node (exit node) accesses the public internet to retrieve your requested site and passes it back through the layers of relays.
  • Because the pathway is random each time, it‘s extremely difficult for anyone to track or identify the original source of the data.

The more people using TOR globally, the more difficult it becomes to de-anonymize TOR activity. Researchers from the Naval Research Lab tried to break TOR‘s encryption and failed, confirming the strength of the network.

Why Combine VPN and TOR?

Using a VPN in conjunction with the TOR browser provides maximum online anonymity through multiple layers of encryption and misdirection. Here‘s how they complement each other:

  • The VPN encrypts traffic from your device before it enters the TOR network. This protects your IP address from any potential malicious TOR nodes that could otherwise intercept data.
  • TOR bounces your VPN-encrypted traffic around randomly through relays to mask the originating path. This makes it nearly impossible to trace.
  • VPN prevents your internet service provider from detecting you are using TOR in the first place.
  • If a government blocks access to the TOR network, the VPN allows you to bypass this restriction.
  • The VPN adds 256-bit AES encryption before TOR encryption layers. Together this creates an incredibly secure, private tunnel.
  • VPN encryption minimizes weaknesses in TOR like malicious exit nodes viewing unencrypted data.
  • Using a VPN that doesn‘t keep user logs ensures no records exist to tie your activity back to you if compelled by authorities.

Many privacy experts, like Edward Snowden, recommend always accessing TOR through a VPN for guaranteed anonymity. Next I‘ll cover my top 3 recommended VPNs to use with the TOR browser.

3 Best VPNs for TOR

1. NordVPN – Best Overall VPN for TOR

NordVPN is my top recommendation as the best VPN for using TOR for several reasons:

Lightning-fast speeds – NordVPN has 5,500+ dedicated servers located strategically around the world, all optimized for speed. Their network offers fast connection times and impressive speeds even when paired with TOR.

No-logs policy – NordVPN does not track or store any logs of user activity. They are located in privacy-friendly Panama. This means no records exist linking you to TOR usage or browsing.

TOR-specific servers – NordVPN has partnered with the TOR Project to offer a cluster of servers tuned specifically to boost TOR performance. This guarantees smooth, private browsing.

Cutting-edge security – NordVPN offers modern security features like Threat Protection, which blocks dangerous sites and malware, and NordLynx protocol using WireGuard for enhanced encryption.

Allows P2P sharing – You can use TOR and NordVPN for safe file-sharing. Downloading torrents is permitted on their network.

Access to dark web – Onion over VPN servers let you securely access dark web .onion sites through TOR. Dark Web Monitor notifies you if personal data is found for sale.

Connect 6 devices – NordVPN allows connecting 6 devices simultaneously. Use 1 account to secure every device in your home.

NordVPN offers very affordable plans starting at only $3.99 per month. Their 30 day money-back guarantee gives you a month to try it risk-free. Get maximum privacy and security with NordVPN.

NordVPN servers map

2. Surfshark – Excellent Budget VPN for TOR

Surfshark is a fast, highly-secure VPN that combines state-of-the-art encryption, a zero-logs policy, and unlimited device support for an unbeatable price.

Unlimited connections – Get true value with the ability to use Surfshark on as many devices as you want. Secure your mobile, home routers, streaming boxes and more, all under one plan.

Whitelister feature – For getting optimal speeds with TOR, whitelist certain apps and sites to bypass the VPN tunnel. Whitelister allows you to assign which traffic routes through Surfshark and what bypasses for faster direct access.

Strong on safety – Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark cannot be compelled to share user data. Features like private DNS, AES-256 encryption, kill switch and multi-hop connections keep your TOR browsing ultra secure.

Top speeds – Surfshark has 3,200+ servers in over 100 countries to provide consistently fast speeds. Performance doesn‘t lag when paired with TOR.

Surfshark offers one of the lowest VPN costs available at only $2.49 a month, billed annually. On a tight budget? Surfshark makes the perfect affordable partner for TOR.

Surfshark VPN servers

3. Atlas VPN – Best Free VPN for TOR

Need a free VPN option to use with TOR? Atlas VPN provides 10GB of free monthly data and unlimited connections. It’s also extremely fast.

High-speed network – Atlas VPN offers over 750 servers optimized for speed. Unlock blazing fast browsing, downloads and streaming even when using TOR.

Always free plan – Take advantage of 10GB free data per month on Atlas VPN, without having to enter any payment info or make a purchase first.

Minimal logging – They have a strict no-logs policy on traffic/browsing data and take steps to minimize other technical logs, like crash reporting.

Secure protocols – AES-256 encryption, secure IKEv2 connections, a kill switch and DNS leak protection work together to secure your TOR browsing.

Unblocks geo-restrictions – Access restricted sites and apps from around the world thanks to Atlas VPN’s global server presence.

For heavier TOR use and unlimited data, Atlas VPN‘s paid plans are still very affordable starting at only $2.05 per month. The free version works great for light or beginner TOR users.

Atlas VPN server locations

Guide to Setting Up VPN for TOR

Combining your preferred VPN with TOR only takes a couple minutes. Follow these steps to maximize both security and anonymity:

  1. Select a VPN from the ones recommended above, install the app on your device, and sign up for an account.
  2. Launch your VPN app and connect to a server in a privacy-friendly country that supports free speech, like Switzerland or Iceland.
  3. Once connected to the VPN, your IP address and traffic will be routed through the encrypted VPN tunnel. You can verify your new masked IP address in the app.
  4. Now launch the TOR browser to establish an anonymous connection through the TOR network.
  5. The TOR browser will be routed through your VPN tunnel, providing two layers of encryption and anonymity as you browse.

That‘s all there is to it! With both your VPN and TOR connection active, you can browse both surface web and dark web sites with complete peace of mind.

FAQs About Using VPN and TOR

Is it illegal to use TOR?

No, merely accessing the TOR network is 100% legal. However, as with any tool, TOR may be used to conduct both lawful and unlawful activities online. You should only use TOR to browse sites and services you would normally access openly online to avoid legal issues.

Can TOR be traced back to me?

While it would be extremely difficult, sophisticated adversaries could potentially de-anonymize TOR users through traffic analysis attacks. Combining TOR with a VPN minimizes this risk significantly, making it virtually impossible to trace traffic back to the original user.

Is a VPN enough without TOR?

A VPN does provide strong encryption to keep your browsing private. However, it encrypts and tunnels traffic through one static server which could theoretically be compromised to reveal your origin IP address. The multilayered encryption and constant rerouting of traffic makes TOR far more anonymous overall. Using both together gives you the strongest privacy.

Can I torrent with TOR+VPN?

Yes, pairing a VPN with TOR provides sufficient security for safe peer-to-peer downloading and torrenting. Just be sure to use a VPN that allows P2P like NordVPN. Never torrent using TOR alone.

What risks come with using TOR?

Accessing dark web sites via TOR does come with certain risks. Malicious exit nodes may attempt to intercept data, or you could accidently access illicit content. Combining TOR with a trustworthy VPN minimizes these risks considerably. For casual private browsing, TOR poses few major risks.

Take Your Privacy Back with TOR and VPN

Online privacy is vital in the digital age. VPNs and TOR each provide immense benefits for securing your sensitive data and allowing anonymous communication. But the real power comes from pairing these technologies together to get the maximum encryption, security, and anonymity possible online.

I hope this guide has shed light on how VPNs and TOR complement each other to let you take back control of your privacy. Any one of the VPNs recommended here will serve you well in creating the ultimate private browsing experience.

Stay safe out there! With just a bit of effort to enhance your privacy, you can feel at ease browsing, communicating, and accessing information freely from all corners of the web.

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Michael

Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.