Last Updated: October 4, 2021
A virtual private network (VPN) is a popular tool for obscuring your digital footprint. It enables you to surf the Web incognito through traffic data encryption and IP (Internet Protocol) masking. You can read more about it here.
To some users, the layer of encryption and the single instance of IP masking any normal VPN provides isn’t enough. That’s why double VPN is gaining traction.
So, what is double VPN good for, and is it worth the trouble?
We’ll answer all your questions.
What Is Double VPN?
Double VPN is a way of encrypting your online communications twice with the use of VPN servers in different locations. It is also known as multi-hop VPN, double hop VPN, VPN chaining, VPN cascading, and VPN nesting.
In addition, your virtual location also changes twofold, masking your real IP address.
This way, nosy third parties have to work extra hard to observe and retrace your browsing activity.
How Does the Double VPN Work?
Here’s how the flow of outbound traffic data would look like:
- The VPN client encrypts the data on the device twice.
- The twice-encrypted data goes to the first VPN server.
- The first server removes the first layer of encryption and replaces your IP address.
- The once-encrypted data bounces to the second server.
- The second server decrypts the remaining scrambled data and changes the IP address again.
- The decrypted data goes to the destination site, app, or online service.
Inbound data takes the same route. Each server creates a layer of encryption, and full decryption occurs locally on the device. Some VPN vendors may use a different approach, though.
The simplest way to reap the benefits a VPN to VPN connection brings is to use a vendor that offers it. Not all VPNs have this feature in-built, however.
Fortunately, you can replicate the level of internet privacy and security double VPN delivers (at least to some extent) in some other ways.
Running Multiple VPNs Simultaneously
If the vendor you like doesn’t have a double hop VPN feature, just pair it with another.
Launch two VPN apps from different vendors at the same time before connecting any other program to the internet.
To ensure that your IP address actually changes two times, perform a leak test after turning on the first and before switching the second on.
This strategy may not always work, though. Unless the configuration is perfect, the setup will likely fail eventually, if not initially.
Combining a VPN and a Proxy
Routing your VPN connection to a browser-based proxy server can do the trick.
Likewise, you can disguise your IP twice with a free VPN browser extension. Despite being called as such, it typically doesn’t encrypt online communications on its own. That’s why security experts consider it more of a proxy than a VPN.
Using Two VPNs with a Virtual Machine Involved
Running a VPN on a virtual machine created on a platform protected by another VPN is a clever way of anonymizing your online activity.
Setting Up Onion over VPN
Accessing the internet through the Onion network while running a VPN is one of the surest ways to hide your identity while surfing the Web.
Tor (The Onion Router) browser puts a premium on anonymity, whereas VPNs advocate for internet privacy. The use of both at the same time lets you enjoy the best of both worlds. If you know what you’re doing, Onion on VPN can be a more powerful version of double VPN.
Advantages of Double VPN
What is double VPN celebrated for?
The main arguments for using multiple VPN connections at the same time are:
Double VPN won’t make the scrambled version of your web traffic harder to decode. But double encryption acts as a safety net. The second layer can prevent leakage of your traffic data in its readable form in case the first layer breaks.
Dual IP Masking
Since there are two geographically separated VPN servers in the mix, your VPN vendor can conceal the first IP address meant to veil your physical location.
The OpenVPN tunneling protocol gives you the option to switch back and forth between User Datagram Protocol or Transmission Control Protocol modes. If you’re familiar with them, playing with both can help increase your security.
Disadvantages of Double VPN
Despite the helpful benefits of double VPN, most vendors haven’t adopted it yet. So, what is double VPN bad at?
Limited Server Options
More often than not, you can’t mix and match servers for double hop VPN. Those optimized for it may come in tandem by design.
Some VPN providers offer this feature to help mitigate the dangers high-risk jurisdictions present. These vendors carefully select the strategic locations of their specialized double VPN servers.
Enabling double VPN is a bad idea if you want maximum connection speed. Making your traffic data travel through two encryption points and using multiple VPN connections simultaneously can negatively impact your experience.
Increased Power Consumption
Double VPN is resource-intensive. It’s less of a problem to plugged-in devices, but it can drain the battery of tablets and phones.
What Is the Difference Between Double VPN and Onion Over VPN?
As mentioned, you can think of Onion over VPN as a form of double VPN.
To illustrate the difference between double VPN and Onion over VPN, we’ll explain what the journey of your outgoing online communications would look like with the latter:
- The VPN client encrypts the data.
- The Tor browser encrypts it a second time.
- The twice-encrypted data goes to the VPN server.
- The server decrypts the first layer of encryption.
- The Tor-encrypted data enters the Tor entry node.
- The Tor exit node decrypts the data upon arrival.
- The website host receives the readable data and responds.
The incoming traffic flows through the same path in reverse. The encryption begins in the Onion network and the decryption ends in the VPN client.
You could also go the other way around and do VPN over Onion. It’s where the outbound internet traffic passes through Tor first before the VPN. A few VPN vendors (which don’t even offer multi-hop VPN) support it.
Onion over VPN is more popular, though. You can set it up more easily, do more with it, and get stronger internet privacy and security.
With Onion over VPN, your ISP won’t be able to know that you’re using Tor. If you use a trustworthy VPN vendor, you can rest assured that it won’t store any record of your online activity.
Services With Double VPN You Can Trust
Out of dozens of VPNs we’ve reviewed, the services that come with one or multiple forms of VPN chaining are:
Double VPN is available in this vendor’s Windows, macOS (OpenVPN version), and Android apps. You can enable it with one click or by manually selecting your preconfigured pair of servers.
NordVPN also has native support for Onion over VPN. This eliminates the need for a special browser. It’s great if you want to connect to the Onion network but are not technologically savvy.
Windscribe offers the so-called Double Hop, which is, in fact, double VPN.
It is available to desktop app users only and offers no specialized servers. The vendor recommends establishing two VPN connections at the same time to mask your physical location twice by combining its client software with its browser extension.
In this arrangement, you may only benefit from the second Windscribe IP address when surfing the Web, but not when using any other app.
ProtonVPN can establish multiple VPN connections through its Secure Core feature.
When activated, it connects you to a server housed in a privacy-friendly location. It then sends your traffic data to a jurisdiction whose internet regulations are too restrictive or whose reputation for online surveillance is notorious.
The company purposely developed Secure Core to boost your defense against network-based attacks and reduce the risks of connecting to a compromised server.
Secure Core is built into ProtonVPN’s Windows and Android apps. You can manually set it up on devices that run on macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Trust.Zone has a selection consisting of seven interesting multi VPN server pairings:
This vendor makes it easy to pick a server pair for double VPN in its Windows, Android, and iOS apps, Firefox add-on, and Chrome extension.
Moreover, power users can also tinker with this VPN to VPN feature. They can use OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, and IKEv2 tunneling protocols as well as a dedicated IP address.
Perfect Privacy doesn’t just support double VPN; it’s actually capable of quadruple VPN.
Multi-Hop enables you to encrypt your online communications up to four times, blinding your ISP effectively.
Multi-Hop is only one of the many advanced privacy and security features you can get from Perfect Privacy.
Doublehop VPN is fascinating, but it can be a pain to use—especially when you’re using a service that doesn’t natively support it.
Unless you’re extremely paranoid about leaking your digital footprint and exposing your identity online, you probably won’t need it.
Nevertheless, double VPN is nice to have in your back pocket. Consider using a service that can chain multiple servers as you wish. After all, you can never be too safe, can you?
A VPN isn’t a cloak of invisibility that can hide your digital footprint completely. Without obfuscated VPN technology, it can’t even hide its traffic from ISPs and other snoopers.
That’s why you shouldn’t use it for illegal activity. An influential government or organization will likely be able to track you down if you get into serious trouble.
Having said that, a good VPN can boost your internet privacy and security, especially when connecting to an unsafe network.
Running a VPN client along with another on a single device all at once may encrypt your online communications and disguise your real IP address twice.
However, the two encrypted connections are more likely to operate in parallel, not in sequence. As a result, neither of the two VPNs may work properly.
The best way to pull off a double VPN in this manner is to use a virtual machine. You can encrypt your traffic data at the operating system level with one VPN and then set up another on a virtual machine.
This arrangement can prevent the encrypted multi VPN connections from colliding, letting them work together instead of against each other.
Every additional layer of encryption can increase your privacy and security.
If you visit a site that uses HTTPS, the secure version of the primary protocol a site and a web browser used to exchange data, double VPN will triple the layer of security that you already have.
Most people may find it redundant. But if you’re an activist who lives in an authoritarian country or a journalist who investigates corrupt politicians or organizations with long arms, it can give you more peace of mind.
So, what is double VPN all about, and what are its drawbacks? Read this piece from the top.