What Is Double VPN? Do You Really Need It?
Double VPN was introduced to enhance the privacy and security a VPN provides by routing user traffic through two servers instead of one. The feature is quite useful for people who deal with highly sensitive data, such as journalists, and other internet users in high surveillance regions.
However, it is not a standard VPN feature such as a kill switch, as it also comes with several downsides. So what exactly is double VPN, what does it offer, and should you use it? This post will look at double VPN in detail and tell you everything you need to know about the VPN functionality.
We’ll also look at:
- Pros & cons of double VPN
- When you should use double VPN
- When you should avoid double VPN
- The best VPNs for double VPN
What is Double VPN?
Double VPN is a functionality offered by some VPNs that allows you to route your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one. Since your traffic passed through two VPN servers, it is encrypted twice, and your IP address is also changed twice.
If the VPN provides AES-256 encryption, double VPN does not change it to AES-512. Rather, it takes the encrypted data through another round of AES-256 encryption. The functionality is also known as VPN server chaining, double-hop, multi-hop, cascading, nested, or chained VPNs. In the case of multi-hop, the chained servers can be more than two (double).
How Does Double VPN Work?
Normally when you connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it encrypts your traffic and sends it through a VPN tunnel to a remote server, which then decrypts your traffic and changes your IP address.
Here’s the process on a step-by-step basis:
- Your VPN app encrypts your traffic and sends it to a server
- The server decrypts your traffic and sends it to the intended destination
- You can the access the internet securely through your new server
In a double VPN scenario, the server introduced comes in between the first server and the internet.
- Your VPN app encrypts your traffic and sends it to a server
- The first server re-encrypts the traffic and sends it to the second server
- The second server decrypts your traffic and sends it to the intended destination
- You can then access the internet securely through the two servers, with the last one acting as your connection to the internet.
When the first server receives your traffic, it doesn’t decrypt it to know the intended destination, but it knows your real IP address. The second server knows the intended destination but not your real IP address.
Double VPN therefore boosts privacy and security by distributing your traffic through servers, making it hard for government agencies to correlate your activities even in the event of a court order. This is enhanced by the fact that double VPN servers are usually located in different countries, so they can only seize the server located in their country.
However, for maximum privacy, we highly suggest that you go for a 'double' VPN that has been publicly audited to prove that they don’t keep any connection or usage logs such as NordVPN.
Pros and Cons of Using Double VPN
Double VPN has its positives, but it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks.
Pros of Double VPN
Double VPN positives are mostly related to privacy and security.
- Enhanced security: Passing your traffic through multiple servers provides double encryption, and this makes your data twice as secure.
- Multiple IP addresses: The new server introduces a new IP address that isn't known to any watchers on the internet.
- Multiple protocols: The two encryption processes tend to use different protocols, mostly the UDP and TCP versions of OpenVPN. This means extra security.
- Enhanced anonymity: The distribution of data packets between the two servers in different countries makes it hard to trace activities to a particular user, enhancing the user's online anonymity.
These are on top of the regular benefits of using a VPN.
Cons of Double VPN
The introduction of an extra server naturally adds extra overhead to your connection.
- Slower speeds: VPNs naturally have a negative effect on your speeds due to the added encryption and tunneling. The extra encryption and tunneling processes introduced by double VPN mean an even bigger impact on your connection speeds. This is the biggest drawback of double VPN, so it’s only advisable for lighter processes.
- Limited server choices: VPN services normally have specialized double VPN servers, but they are usually limited. This means that there are many countries you can’t connect to when using double VPN.
- Resource-intensive: Since the connection is doubled, you will end up consuming more resources in terms of bandwidth, RAM, and power (or battery).
The several drawbacks of using double VPN mean that it can sometimes be an unnecessary feature, so let's look at when you should and shouldn't use double VPN.
When You Should Use Double VPN
There are various scenarios where double VPN can be beneficial.
You want to avoid government surveillance
If you are traveling to or staying in a country that conducts high levels of public surveillance, double VPN can be beneficial. The extra layer of encryption and data distribution will make it hard for any snoopers to know what you are doing.
You deal with sensitive information
If you are a journalist or political activist, you will obviously need to take extra steps to protect yourself other than just using a VPN. One of these can be using double VPN as your data will be encrypted twice, and it will also be split between two servers. Even in the case of a seizure, they still won’t get all information.
When To Avoid Double VPN
Unfortunately, there are only a few situations where double VPN is advisable. This is because connecting to a single VPN server provides enough protection. For example, decrypting AES-256 encryption would take 2.29*10^32 years with the right quantum computer.
This means that the extra encryption provided by a VPN may not be necessary unless you want to avoid surveillance agencies from tracking you down (not decrypting your data) as they can compromise VPNs under their jurisdiction.
Apart from that, the significant loss of speeds already restricts you from using high-bandwidth services such as streaming and downloading. Even when you are connected to a high-speed internet connection, you will still notice a decline in the quality of your connection, so you can only use double VPN for tasks such as light browsing and sending emails.
The low speeds also prevent you from using other anonymity techniques such as VPN over VPN and Onion over VPN.
Double VPN vs. VPN over VPN
VPN over VPN is a technique that is often confused with double VPN, and it is sometimes referred to as "using a double VPN."
What is VPN over VPN?
VPN over VPN is using a VPN connection on another VPN connection. This technique works by having two VPN services running on the same device or having one VPN run on the router.
In the former, you will need to have the two VPN installed on your device. You can then connect one VPN to secure your regular connection, and another one to add an extra layer of tunneling. The first VPN will know your actual IP address, but it can’t tell what you are doing on the internet. The second VPN won’t know your real IP address, but it is the one that will connect you to the internet.
To set up VPN over VPN on the same device, you will need to use different protocols to avoid a conflict. For example, you can use OpenVPN on your first VPN and then WireGuard or IKEv2 on your second VPN. Since the two protocols will use different adapters, you won’t have a problem connecting to the second VPN.
The other option is to set up the first VPN on your router such that the connection on your device will be already encrypted. You can then connect to another VPN using any protocol on the end device.
Which is better: Double VPN or VPN over VPN?
Both double VPN and VPN over VPN use two VPN servers, provide double encryption, and significantly impact speed. However, the latter splits your traffic between servers owned by different companies, which automatically provides more privacy and anonymity. In the case of an investigation, it will be harder for government authorities to connect information stored by different entities. However, you will still need to ensure that the VPNs you use keep zero logs and are preferably registered in different countries. The servers will also need to be in different countries for maximum privacy.
On the other hand, Double VPN can be advantageous in that you won't require another VPN, which would mean another subscription. Using a single VPN app also means fewer configurations and fewer resources (bandwidth, RAM, and power) consumed.
Double VPN vs. Onion over VPN
Double VPN is also closely associated with Onion over VPN due to the multiple layers of encryption. However, the two are quite different, although they both enhance privacy.
What is Onion over VPN?
Onion over VPN is a feature that connects users to the Tor network through a VPN. Normally, you need to download the Tor browser to get access to the Tor Network. Onion over VPN eliminates the need to do that as the VPN connection exits at a Tor entry point. This means that after your traffic is tunneled through the VPN, it then proceeds to the Tor network, where your traffic passes through the entry node, intermediate node, and exit node.
Overall, Onion over VPN passes your traffic through a total of 4 servers. This provides high levels of anonymity that can’t be achieved by simply using a VPN or even double VPN.
Which is better: Double VPN or Onion over VPN?
Onion over VPN provides superior anonymity to that of a VPN. However, it is also extremely slow, so it makes average internet connections unable to stream or download anything. This mechanism can be useful if you are looking for maximum privacy, but it won't be in most cases.
Double VPN provides lower privacy levels, but it is more practical for most internet users.
Best VPNs for Double VPN
Not many VPNs provide double VPN, but it’s also not easy to know the one that works best. Below are the best VPNs for Double VPN.
NordVPN is quite popular thanks to its advanced features and huge server network. The VPN provides 5800+ servers spread across 60 countries worldwide. Out of these, there are specialized servers for obfuscation, dedicated IPs, Onion over VPN, P2P, and double VPN.
The double VPN servers are available in 9 countries. The VPN doesn’t display the location of the first server, but you can choose the cities you want to connect to in a specific country. All the servers provide superb speeds.
To help maximize privacy, NordVPN is registered in Panama, which makes it an offshore VPN. The VPN doesn’t keep any logs, and it operates RAM-only servers such that none of your information is ever written to the hard disk. The VPN claims to be the first VPN ever to undergo a third-party audit, and the latest was done in 2022.
On top of the above, you will get lots of features that include multiple protocols, an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, Smart DNS, dedicated IPs, and an ad tracking blocker. You can install NordVPN on all popular operating systems, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN is an all-round VPN service that is known for its huge feature list and unlimited simultaneous connections. The VPN provides double VPN through a feature known as MultiHop. You can enable it by going to the server list and selecting one of the MultiHop servers.
Surfshark’s double VPN is available in 11 countries. The US provides the most options, and you can connect through a server in Canada, Australia, or the Netherlands.
On top of double VPN, you will also get to enjoy lots of other features such as CleanWeb (ad, tracking, and malware blocker), a kill switch, split tunneling, free static IPs, obfuscation, and multiple protocols.
To boost the privacy provided by double VPN, Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands. This puts the VPN beyond the reach of invasive governments, and so it can’t be forced to submit data. The VPN also keeps a strict no-logs policy and uses RAM servers. Their infrastructure has been audited for the second time in 2022, so you can rely on more than their word.
Surfshark VPN comes at a friendly price of just $2.30 a month, and every subscription is covered with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you are looking for more privacy, double VPN can help accomplish that by distributing your data between two VPN servers in different countries. The feature is useful in various scenarios, and the above guide should help you determine when to and not use it.
Is Double VPN better than a VPN?
Double VPN is better than using a single server if you are looking for maximum privacy. However, it may not be worth the extra overhead if you are using an audited no-logs VPN with AES-256 encryption.
Can you be tracked if you use Double VPN?
Double VPN makes it much more difficult for governments to trace your activities back to you, but it also depends on the VPN you are using. If the VPN doesn’t keep any connection or usage logs, nobody will be able to track you, even when using a single server.
Is Double VPN better than Onion Over VPN?
Double VPN and Onion over VPN help enhance privacy, but none can be said to be outright better than the other. Double VPN is less resource-intensive, but Onion over VPN provides more privacy.