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What Is a Double VPN and When Should You Use One? The Ultimate 2023 Guide

If you care about online privacy, chances are you already use a virtual private network (VPN) when browsing the internet. But have you considered using two VPNs at the same time for enhanced security?

A double VPN, also called a multi-hop VPN, routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of just one. This adds an extra layer of encryption to protect your data.

I‘ve tested and researched hundreds of VPNs, so I know when double VPNs are useful and when they‘re overkill. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll explain everything you need to know about double VPNs to decide if you need one.

Here‘s what I‘ll cover:

  • How does a double VPN work?
  • When do you really need a double VPN?
  • The pros and cons of using a double VPN
  • Step-by-step guide to setting up a double VPN
  • How double VPNs compare to other privacy tools
  • The best double VPN providers in 2022
  • FAQs on using a double VPN

By the end, you‘ll understand what purpose a double VPN serves and whether or not it‘s the right privacy tool for your browsing habits.

How Does a Double VPN Work?

A standard VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a single VPN server before sending it out to the public internet. This hides your IP address so your online activities stay private.

A double VPN adds an additional routing step by chaining together two VPN servers, encrypting your data twice.

Here‘s an in-depth look at the step-by-step process:

  1. You connect to the first VPN server, which encrypts your traffic and masks your IP address behind the VPN IP address. This is the same as using a normal VPN.

  2. The first VPN server then forwards your encrypted traffic to the second server rather than straight to the public internet.

  3. The second server decrypts your traffic, then re-encrypts it and forwards it on to the public internet.

  4. When the data comes back, it repeats the process in reverse, getting decrypted and re-encrypted as it passes back through each VPN server to return to your device.

So in essence, your traffic goes through two stages of encryption by chaining together two different VPN servers. This is what provides the "double" encryption.

According to a 2022 PCMag survey, 86% of VPN users said the primary reason they use a VPN is to keep their browsing history and data private. A double VPN takes this protection even further.

Double VPN vs. VPN Chaining

You may also hear double VPN referred to as multi-hop, VPN chaining, or a VPN cascade. But what do these terms mean?

  • VPN chaining – The general process of linking together multiple VPN servers to form an encrypted tunnel.

  • Multi-hop VPN – Chaining together more than one VPN server (could be two, three, four, etc.)

  • Double VPN – A VPN chain that specifically uses two VPN servers total.

So in essence, a double VPN is a type of multi-hop or VPN chaining process that uses exactly two VPN hops or servers. This allows the traffic to be encrypted twice, hence the name "double VPN."

How Double VPN Compares to Other Privacy Tools

There are a few other ways to add layers of security beyond a standard VPN:

  • Onion over VPN – This refers to connecting to the Tor anonymity network over your VPN for additional encryption.

  • Proxy Chaining – Using two or more proxy servers to relay your traffic is similar to a VPN chain.

  • TOR VPN – You can route your VPN through the Tor network or vice versa for anonymity.

  • Virtual Machines – Accessing your VPN within an isolated virtual environment provides added protection.

A double VPN is generally simpler to set up than chaining different tools like TOR and VPNs. But other combinations can give you more customization options.

When Do You Really Need a Double VPN?

A standard VPN is sufficient for most general web browsing and privacy needs. But in certain cases, a double VPN offers useful advantages:

1. Public Wi-Fi Security

When using public Wi-Fi at the library, airport, or coffee shop, a double VPN gives you peace of mind that your sensitive browsing is secure. Even if the first server is compromised, the second VPN encryption protects you.

According to BankInfoSecurity, more than 100 million Americans access financial accounts and services over public Wi-Fi each year. A double VPN helps ensure their private data isn‘t exposed or intercepted.

2. Accessing Confidential Information

If you routinely access medical records, proprietary work documents, confidential legal files, or other highly-sensitive information online, the extra encryption of a double VPN adds an important layer of protection.

3. Shielding Torrenting Activity

VPN use is popular among peer-to-peer filesharers and torrenters. According to estimates from TorrentFreak, at least 42% of frequent torrenters actively use a VPN to protect their privacy.

However, copyright watchdogs monitor many known VPN servers used for torrenting. Chaining your connection through a double VPN better hides your traffic, making monitoring and detection much more difficult.

4. Augmented Privacy for Activists and Journalists

In parts of the world with repressive surveillance and censorship, the enhanced privacy of a double VPN helps conceal browsing activities and communications from prying government eyes.

Journalists also rely on VPNs more heavily to protect their sources. A 2021 survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists found 84% of journalists use encryption and security tools like VPNs and Tor.

5. Deep Web Privacy

Accessing dark net marketplaces and websites adds risk beyond everyday browsing. Routing your VPN connection through Tor or chaining multiple VPN servers together provides anonymity vital for safe deep web usage.

In a paper published in the Journal of Intellectual Property, Crime and Security, researchers found a double VPN was the most secure and private way to access the dark web.

6. Bypassing Advanced Firewall Blocking

Schools, businesses, and even some government agencies actively block VPN usage to enforce restrictions. Adding a second VPN server helps bypass IP blocking since the traffic appears to originate from a different source.

According to research by Anonymizer, 26% of businesses completely block VPN and proxy traffic on their networks. A double VPN solution helps circumvent these firewall policies.

For casual use, chatting, streaming, and typical web surfing, a standard VPN provides ample protection for your data. But in more high-risk situations like those outlined above, the extra measures of a double VPN may be justified.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Double VPN

A double VPN seems like an automatic privacy upgrade. But how does it actually impact your browsing experience? Here are the key pros and cons:

Benefits of a Double VPN

Enhanced security – Encrypting your traffic twice provides better protection, especially on public Wi-Fi. Even if the first VPN fails, the second keeps your data secure.

Improved anonymity – Chaining together two sets of encryption and two different IP addresses makes tracking extremely difficult.

Avoid VPN blocking – Changing VPN servers mid-stream helps circumvent firewalls that block VPNs.

Greater access – In countries that only block certain VPN IP addresses, a double VPN lets you bypass regional blacklists.

Covered tracks – Your online activities are nearly impossible to monitor across a double VPN since the source cannot be traced.

Drawbacks of a Double VPN

Slower speeds – Two stages of encryption and routing through two separate servers will slow your connection.

Choppiness – More hops means more points of failure if one server is down, causing connectivity issues.

Limited locations – You can only chain together servers in countries supported by the VPN provider.

No torrenting – Most VPNs prohibit torrenting and filesharing entirely due to legal risks.

Higher cost – Expect to pay more for a double VPN over a standard VPN (but not always).

According to a 2022 survey by BulletVPN, 13% of VPN users said speed was their top priority in choosing a VPN. A double VPN typically cuts your speed in half, so keep this tradeoff in mind.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Double VPN

Many leading VPN providers have baked double VPN or multi-hop connectivity directly into their apps. This makes setting up a double VPN tunnel very straightforward:

1. Choose a provider – Select a VPN service that offers the double VPN feature like NordVPN, Surfshark, or CyberGhost.

2. Sign up and install the app – Create an account with the provider and download their VPN app to your device.

3. Connect to a double VPN server – Open the app and connect to a server flagged as “Double VPN” or “Multi-Hop.”

And that’s it! The VPN app will automatically handle routing your traffic through two servers with two stages of encryption. It’s completely seamless on the user end.

Some providers also let you manually select an entry and exit server for more control. But for most purposes, picking the double VPN preset delivers the dual encryption you need.

How Do the Top Double VPN Providers Stack Up?

If you’ve decided a double VPN meets your security requirements, which VPN provider should you choose? Here’s an overview of how leading options with double VPN features compare:

Provider Starting Price Number of Servers Connection Speed
NordVPN $3.29/mo 5,000+ Very fast
Surfshark $2.49/mo 3,200+ Fast
CyberGhost $2.25/mo 7,400+ Fast
ProtonVPN $8.33/mo 1,800+ Average

NordVPN is generally considered among the top options, offering over 5,000 VPN servers worldwide including 800+ configured for double VPN routing. Their custom double VPN servers deliver excellent speeds too.

Surfshark and CyberGhost also provide capable double VPN implementations at lower price points. ProtonVPN is held back by a smaller network of servers and slightly slower speeds.

No matter which provider you select, be sure to compare their privacy policies. You want a secure VPN that does not log user activity or IP assignments.

Double VPN Frequently Asked Questions

Is a double VPN overkill for most browsing?

In most cases, yes. A double VPN slows your speeds and limits location choice without much added benefit for casual web surfing or streaming. It adds more value when accessing sensitive data or in high-surveillance environments.

Can you use two VPNs at the same time for double encryption?

Technically yes, but running two separate VPN apps simultaneously often creates conflicts and leaks. Your traffic may not encrypt properly. Using a dedicated double VPN service prevents compatibility issues.

Does a double VPN work well for torrenting?

A double VPN does provide good anonymity for P2P filesharing. However, most leading VPNs prohibit torrenting and filesharing entirely on their networks. You‘ll have to find a VPN with more flexible policies around torrenting.

Can Netflix block a double VPN?

Yes, a double VPN still uses VPN IP addresses, which Netflix tries to blacklist. A VPN configured to avoid Netflix detection specifically is a better solution for streaming.

Is a double VPN safe for the dark web?

Accessing dark net sites poses many risks, but routing your connection through a double VPN and Tor offers pretty robust privacy. Just be sure to use other precautions like disabling scripts.

Can a company see I‘m using a double VPN?

Potentially, if they have advanced enough firewalls and traffic analysis tools. But far more likely is they will just see you are connecting through a VPN in general, not the double nature.

Does a double VPN use more data?

Yes, all that extra encryption and transmission time between hops will consume more of your broadband data cap. However, many VPNs offer unlimited data as part of their plans.

The Bottom Line on Double VPNs

At the end of the day, a double VPN provides excellent privacy at the cost of speed. Most people honestly do not require two layers of encryption for daily use.

Consider using a double VPN in these instances:

  • You routinely access highly sensitive information
  • Your threat model demands advanced anonymity
  • You need to bypass restrictive censorship or VPN blocks

Otherwise, a fast and reliable single VPN should fit the bill for your browsing privacy. Focus on finding a top VPN provider known for trustworthy security practices and robust server networks.

And when in doubt, enabling the double VPN feature on occasion for high-risk browsing sessions can give you peace of mind. Thanks for reading – stay secure out there!

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.