Kill switches, encryption, ad-blockers… there are so many different features that you can choose from in the VPN market today. Leading providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN lead the way when it comes to advanced and sophisticated VPN features. However, it can often be a little bit overwhelming, especially if you are using a VPN for the first time.
One question I often get asked is: what is a double VPN? Many people have heard the term before, but they are not quite sure of what it means and whether or not it is something they need to be concerned with.
Considering that, I have put together this full guide so that you can discover everything that you need to know about double VPNs.
Table of Contents
What is Double VPN?
There is only one place to begin, and this is by explaining what a double VPN is. As you may have gathered by the name, this is a VPN feature that gives you the power to use two VPN servers rather than using the typical one.
This type of multi-hop connection comes with extra security and double encryption, ensuring your IP address is more protected. One of the key differences when comparing a double VPN with a standard VPN is that you are not going to have a big server selection available. Rather than being able to pick two solo VPNs and bring them together, you will need to select from the available pairs.
I am not sure how many times you have heard about double VPNs, but the feature is not actually that common. In fact, most of the VPN providers on the market today do not offer this possibility. One of the main reasons why it is not viewed as very favourable is because the connection speed will be a lot slower when using this approach. When your traffic needs to run via two different VPN servers that are situated in diverse countries that are thousands of miles apart, it is natural that the speed will slow down, and it slows down quite considerably! Plus, the resource drain is very real! I tried out a double VPN myself, and the performance difference was considerable.
However, it is not all doom and gloom, and I will explore the pros and cons in more detail in the next section. A double VPN can be valuable in a number of different scenarios. Of course, a lot of people are interested in this option because of the added security. However, it can also be beneficial if you are a journalist writing on topics that are sensitive or you are a political activist. In situations like this, the more security, the better, and so the pros outweigh the cons.
How a Double VPN Works
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a double VPN is, I am going to talk you through the mechanics of how it works. The main concept behind the use of a double VPN is so you can encrypt your traffic twice and better hide your IP address.
For you to understand how a double VPN functions, I will first need to explain what happens when a standard VPN is used, enabling you to see the difference between the two.
How a regular VPN connection works:
- Firstly, your traffic will be encrypted by the VPN.
- It will then be sent to a VPN server.
- Your traffic is decrypted by the server.
- Your IP address is hidden.
- The unencrypted traffic is sent from the server to your desired target.
- In the reverse process, you will get a response from the target.
How a double VPN connection works:
- Your traffic will be encrypted by the VPN.
- This traffic is then sent to the first VPN server.
- The first server is going to hide your IP address and encrypt the traffic again.
- The first server sends the traffic, which has now been double-encrypted, to the second VPN server.
- The traffic will be decrypted by the second server, and it is then sent to the desired target.
- In the reverse process, you will get a response from the target.
Hopefully, this helps you to get a better understanding of the key differences between the standard VPN process and the double VPN process.
Be mindful when it comes to providers claiming to offer double VPNs
I do need to give you a word of warning if you are considering using a double VPN; make sure that the provider does genuinely offer this. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for companies to bend the truth a little bit, and some VPN providers have fallen into this habit. I have seen a few VPN providers that have claimed that they provide a double VPN when, in fact, they don’t.
These VPN providers do not offer double encryption. Rather, every server will decrypt the data, which reduces the level of security, as it means that purely hacking one or two of the servers would be sufficient enough to intercept the traffic. One positive, though, is that your IP address will still not be known beyond the first server. Needless to say, this is not applicable to every VPN offering the double VPN approach; some provide the genuine service. However, do make sure that this is the case and do your research.
So, Is a Double VPN the Same As a VPN Over VPN?
No; they are not the same. They are indeed very similar, but there are some small differences, and these differences can actually matter in certain scenarios, so it is important to understand this. With both solutions, you are going to be benefitting from connecting to two VPN servers instead of only connecting to one. However, there is a key difference in regard to the way they work. With a VPN over VPN, as the name indicates, two servers are used from two different providers, for example, you may use one from NordVPN and one from Surfshark. With double VPN, you use two different servers but they both come from the same VPN provider.
While this may seem like a very small difference, in certain cases, it can be a big deal. Let’s say, for example, that law enforcement has demanded that a VPN hands over all of its user data. When you are connected to two different servers, all of your data is going to be available if the provider logs data, including your IP address and location. In this scenario, with the VPN over VPN, the provider that has been compromised is only going to have a segment of your data, i.e. they will have your destination or your real IP, but not both. As the VPN provider is not going to have both pieces of data, they cannot hold any information that is incriminating about you. Of course, there is a way you can avoid this sort of concern altogether, and that is by choosing a VPN provider that does not keep logs!
Should you run two VPNs at the same time?
The choice is yours. Most people find that one VPN is sufficient, but there are some benefits of using two. You can get that extra protection, so long as the VPNs are not in the same country. However, it is, of course, going to cost more money, as you will be paying for two services rather than one.
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The Benefits of Using a Double VPN
I have briefly touched upon some of the reasons that compel people to use a double VPN, but let’s explore the benefits of this approach in further detail. Yes, you get more privacy and security, but what makes this approach more secure? What are you really benefitting from by opting for this solution? Let’s take a look:
- You can mix protocols for further protection – By using a double VPN, you have the power to mix the UDP and TCP versions of the OpenVPN tunnelling protocol. This gives you an added layer of security.
- Whereabouts unknown – When you use a double VPN, the two servers will typically be in two different countries. Because of this, your traffic is going to be better masked. The multi-hop feature will put more layers in between your real location and your virtual location, which can only be a good thing from a privacy point of view.
- Blind your ISP – Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is going to know that you have switched a VPN on, but that is all they will know. They will not be able to determine your target website.
- Added IP – So, the first server will hide your real IP address, as is the case with a standard VPN. However, you then have the second server, which hides the IP of the first server! You get that extra layer of protection.
- Double-encryption – As you have probably gathered from the benefits I have discussed so far, it is all about giving you double the security by doubling up on those safety features. The same applies when it comes to encryption. As two VPN servers are going to be encrypting your traffic, this means it is going to be pretty much uncrackable. I should point out that with a double VPN, it means your traffic should be re-routed and encrypted twice. It does not mean that you now have 512-bit encryption if you previously had AES 256-bit encryption.
The Drawbacks of Using a Double VPN
While a double VPN offers a whole host of benefits, it is not going to be the right solution for everyone. There are a number of drawbacks that you do need to be aware of. Plus, there are cases whereby you just do not need to multi-hop. For example, if you are purely using the likes of NordVPN because you want to stream Netflix, you don’t need a double VPN.
Considering that, let’s take a look at some of the different drawbacks that you will get with a double VPN so that you can help make your mind up as to whether or not this is the right solution for you.
- Lack of server selection – With a standard VPN from a top-quality provider, you will typically have servers spanned across 100+ countries, with thousands of options available. Unfortunately, this server selection is reduced considerably with a double VPN, as you only tend to have a handful of pairs to select from.
- Your power will drain quickly – This is a negative that is only going to apply to devices that are wireless and not plugged in, such as your mobile phone. When this is the case, you can expect a much quicker drain on your battery.
- Tor over VPN is not possible – It is not possible to use a double VPN and Tor together. While you can have a double VPN switched on and browse the web with the Tor browser, the speed will be greatly reduced. And, when I say greatly, I really mean greatly! I am talking at a snail’s pace.
- Speeds will be a lot slower – In my opinion, this is the biggest problem that is associated with using a double VPN. When you use a regular VPN, the speed is going to reduce. With the quality VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, this speed reduction does not impact performance, as it is not substantial. However, the Mbps can get quite low if you add another server to the mix and an added layer of encryption. So, if you want to download large files, you will need to turn the double VPN off in order to get your files quickly.
What Is a Double VPN Service Suitable For?
Hopefully, you now feel like you have a good overall view regarding what a double VPN provides. In many cases, it is not necessary to use a double VPN. However, there are some situations whereby a double VPN would be incredibly beneficial, including the following:
- You are involved in activism and journalism – If you take political actions or you write about topics that are sensitive, there is a high chance that there are going to be people who oppose your opinions and political stance and would like to see you fail. This is why you need to make a dedicated effort to protect yourself, as well as your sources and colleagues. Having that extra layer of protection and security that a double VPN provides can make a massive difference.
- You want to avoid surveillance – There are some parts of the world whereby citizens do not really get any privacy, as the government within the country spies on them. If you want to make sure that your traffic does not become accessible to a third party, using a double VPN makes a lot of sense. After all, no one wants to be caught visiting a website that is on a blocked list, do they?
- You’re looking for an effective way to secure public WiFi – Public WiFi hotspots tend to be very weak and have a number of vulnerabilities, which is why it always makes sense to use a VPN. Hackers actively target public networks because they are well aware of the security flaws they present. So, by making use of a double VPN, you can give yourself that extra bit of protection and that added peace of mind.
When Do You Not Need a Double VPN?
Now that you know some examples of when a double VPN is a wise idea, let’s take a look at some incidents whereby it is simply not necessary. Examples include the following:
- To unblock websites
For the activities that have been mentioned above, using a double VPN is going to be overkill, and it will slow down the performance too much.
So, a Double VPN Is Safer Than a Standard VPN?
The short answer to this question is yes; a double VPN is safer when compared with a standard VPN. There are a number of different ways that your security is enhanced. Firstly, two VPN servers are going to be hiding your IP address, rather than one. Plus, double encryption ensures that any type of brute-force attack is not going to be successful.
The data split is something else that you should consider when it comes to the security associated with a double VPN. If you are only using one server, it is going to have your traffic destination and IP address. When you use a double VPN, one server will have your destination but it won’t have your IP, while the other is going to have your IP but it is not going to have your destination.
Of course, you still need to choose a VPN with care to make sure that you get great security when using the double VPN feature. Make sure you choose a VPN that has a good reputation, a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, leak protection, and a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, like NordVPN.
Which VPN Providers Offer Double VPN?
There are a number of different VPN providers that offer this feature. Let’s take a look at my top three selections:
There is only one place to begin, and this is with NordVPN. The double VPN service provided by NordVPN is one of the best, as it has a proven no-log policy and it is cost-efficient. You are also going to have a good selection of servers to choose from, as their server network is large and diverse.
Surfshark is one of the newer VPNs to enter the market today, but it has made a big impression in a short space of time. Known as multi-hop, not only can you benefit from this effective double VPN, but other security features include camouflage mode, kill switch, and an ads blocker.
The third and final VPN provider that I recommend, if you are interested in a double VPN, is ProtonVPN. This is a company based in Switzerland that puts privacy and security at the core of everything they do. Not only will you find a double VPN feature, but there are other beneficial elements on the security front, such as a kill switch.
Final Words on What Is Double VPN & Should I Use It in 2023?
So there you have it: everything you need to know about double VPNs, how they work, and whether or not this feature is right for you. While a double VPN can give you some extra privacy and security, there are clearly a number of drawbacks, and this is why double VPNs are not in wide circulation from the leading VPN providers today. However, if ultimate security is your goal, this may be something you wish to consider.
FAQ About Using a Double VPN
Is an Onion over VPN safer than a double VPN?
Yes, using Onion over VPN provides an extra bit of safety and security when compared with a double VPN. The reason for this is that it passes your connection through a minimum of three nodes, and your connection will be encrypted. Ultimately, the chain is going to be longer when using Onion over VPN.
Can police track a double VPN?
Police are not able to track encrypted live VPN traffic. Nevertheless, should they have received a court order, they can head to your Internet Service Provider and request usage and connection logs. The VPN provider will need to supply this. The only exception, of course, is if the VPN provider does not keep logs on your data and/or activity.
Can I use two different VPNs at the same time?
Yes, it is possible for you to use two different VPNs from two different providers, creating a joined VPN connection. Most people do not do this because they feel that it is not necessary. However, for added security, it may be something you wish to consider.
Is it illegal to use a VPN?
No, it is not illegal to use a VPN. A lot of people are worried that they are going to be breaking the year y using such a device. Using a VPN is not an issue, so long as it is being used for lawful purposes.