It seems like every single day we hear about new types of online dangers, most of which are designed to take advantage of our personal data. As per the latest reports, there’s an increase of 235% in cybercrime activity in 2019 (year-over-year), where every imaginable platform seems to be affected. And what’s interesting to note is that malware no longer affects software – it affects hardware as well. So, is that a reason why there’s a huge increase in VPN usage worldwide? Well, yes – that’s one of the reasons. However, it’s important to understand this problem in a comprehensive way. And also, it’s important to know about the best way to protect yourself on the Web, which is why we’ll talk about a very interesting topic in this article. More precisely, we’ll talk about combining a VPN, Tor, and a Virtual Machine into a single method of protecting your Internet anonymity.
What’s important to note is that you can use VPNs, Tor, and virtual machines as separate ways of safeguarding your privacy. However, each of these has its own set of benefits and possible downsides. Therefore, we’re going to discuss how those three technologies can combine into one strong privacy shield, for those of us who really need assurances of Internet anonymity. With this said, let’s get started.
Understanding the Basics – What Can VPNs, Tor & Virtual Machines Do?
Before talking about combining these three technologies, it’s imperative to understand what each of those can do – on their own. So, continue reading to learn about what are VPNs, Tor, and virtual machines, as well as how each of these technologies help you achieve total Internet Anonymity.
What Are VPNs?
When talking about VPNs, we usually refer to commercial VPN services. These are widely available online, and there are probably hundreds of different options. However, all of those VPNs have the same primary goal. They help you encrypt your Web connection and hide what you do online from anyone who might be snooping on your Web activity.
Our editorial team quite a lot of experience with VPN services, and we’ve reviewed almost every reputable one. In addition, you can find numerous guides and tutorials on TechNadu about what are VPNs, how VPN services work, as well as what kinds of benefits do VPNs provide.
What’s important to be mentioned is that today’s VPNs are designed with simplicity in mind. You don’t need any technical knowledge to use these, and many of them come with highly polished interfaces. All you have to do is to click on a server you want to connect to, and the VPN application will get the rest of the job done.
How Do VPNs Help with Internet Anonymity?
The best way to answer this question is to take a look at how VPN services work. You see, commercial VPNs come with an array of servers, which can be scattered across the planet. Then, you connect to a chosen server, and the VPN will do the rest of the job. Once connected, all your incoming and outgoing Web data will be encrypted and unreadable by anyone else online.
All of this is possible thanks to VPN protocols, where you can use OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, IPsec, and more. Each of these protocols dictates the way your data is handled. Some of those are designed for speed, while others are made for privacy and security.
How Do I Get a VPN Service?
You get a VPN service by subscribing to one. Since these are premium-priced options, you need to do your research and make sure you’re getting the best VPN for your needs. This is why we recommend getting started with our VPN Buyer’s Guide, which has all the information you need. And if you need any concrete recommendations, our first pick would be ExpressVPN – the top-rated VPN on TechNadu, which simply checks all the right boxes for the majority of potential users.
It’s important to say that there are different ways to filter the available VPNs you’ll find on today’s market. For example, there are VPNs for torrenting, media streaming, gaming, and pretty much for any other category out there. And if you need a capable all-around solution, we recommend checking our central article on the best VPNs right now.
What is Tor?
Tor actually stands for The Onion Router, and this is a series of servers that help you browse the Web in an anonymous way. Run by a non-profit organization, Tor is designed to explore different ways to provide anonymity to Web users interested in taking part in this network. You can think of Tor as a series of computers with each having the same purpose, to handle incoming and outgoing Web traffic while encrypting it in the process. This is why when someone tries to track down your location or any other information, they’ll see the current Tor nod that you’re using (which can be anywhere in the world).
There are three types of computers that take part in the Tor network. Also known as ‘Tor Replays’, these types of computers are called middle relays, end relays, and bridges. The majority of Tor users fall under the ‘middle relays’ category and they simply serve as nods that keep the Tor network alive.
How Does Tor Help with Internet Anonymity?
Tor’s only function is to hide your identity and make it almost impossible to trace any of your Internet activity back to you. It uses complex randomization and routing along with onion-layering of encryption to really, really hide where you are.
The downside is that Tor is really slow to use, but it has provided one of the only privacy equalizers, valued equally by democratic governments and normal citizens. If you need to communicate on the Web in strict confidence there’s nothing outside of the CIA or NSA that’s better. In fact, organizations such as those also use Tor.
Everything you’ve read about Tor so far probably sounds similar to what we said about VPNs. Even though the purpose of these two technologies is the same, they use different paths to secure your Web anonymity. To understand these differences, we recommend reading our article on Tor Vs. VPN.
How Do I Get Tor?
Becoming part of the Tor network is actually quite easy. All you have to do is download Tor Browser on your device (it’s available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android). Once installed, this Web browser will do the rest of the job once you launch it – and before you start browsing the Web. It will anonymize your Web traffic and you’ll get to use it with no limitations.
Some VPN providers offer special Tor servers, but that’s not what we are talking about here and it might be a good idea not to get your Tor implementation from the same people providing your VPN, which I’ll explain in just a moment.
What is a Virtual Machine?
There are many different ways to define virtual machines. However, perhaps the easiest explanation would be to say that a virtual machine is a guest operating system on your main and primary operating system. This means that once you boot your operating system, you can run a special application that supports running a virtual machine. By using that application, you install a guest operating system which behaves just like an actual computer. This means that you’ll get to install applications, use any type of hardware and peripherals you might have, and more. With this said, you can think of a virtual machine as a computer within a computer.
Since a virtual machine runs within an application, this guest operating system is completely isolated from your main operating system. Yes, both of these use the same hardware, but their software is what’s isolated. This also means that if your guest operating system gets infected with malware, your main operating system will stay intact (unless you open the same pathway on your primary OS as well).
How Do Virtual Machines Help with Internet Anonymity?
Most people are aware of the information they transmit over the Internet, on purpose. However, modern computers run hundreds of programs and you can’t control all of them perfectly. There may be background processes or programs that leak information which could be traced back to you. Logs, update request and other dribs and drabs no one could know about. In addition to this, there is unique hardware information, such as hard-drive serial numbers and other such IDs that could be traced back to your exact identity.
By using a virtual machine, you can create a ‘computer’ that has no software on it beyond the base operating system. There are no true hardware IDs, since the motherboard, RAM, and other hardware are just emulated. It also means that if someone were to hack in or infect the machine, there’s nothing to steal. It’s a closed-off system.
How Do I Get a Virtual Machine?
There are plenty of great virtual machine applications you can find online. We recommend Oracle VM VirtualBox, but there are additional options like VMware Workstation Player (Windows, Linux), VMware Fusion (macOS), Parallels Desktop (macOS), Hyper-V (Windows), and more.
Setting up a virtual machine is as easy as installing the VM software and running it. From there on, it’s the same as setting up a normal computer. You need to load an operating system and you’ll need to provide it yourself, which means getting a license if that OS is Windows. Nothing stops you from using a free operating system such as Ubuntu Linux though.
How to Combine a VPN, Tor & Virtual Machine?
Right now, we’re facing two equally important questions. You’ve already seen that VPNs, Tor, and virtual machines can all be used to anonymize your Web traffic. So, why would you want to combine these? And more importantly, how to combine a VPN, Tor, and a virtual machine into a unified privacy-protecting shield. Let’s find out!
Why Combine These Technologies?
Each one of these three technologies has positive attributes for Internet anonymity, but none of them are perfect – and here’s why:
- A virtual machine by itself is just a computer. Sure, it will help mask your hardware IDs and keep malware and viruses contained if you need to visit seedy Web locations, but that’s about it.
- VPNs are excellent at keeping just about anyone out of your business. However, the VPN itself still knows everything you have been doing, which means you have to trust the company behind the chosen VPN service. They can say they keep no records or won’t turn your info over to the government, but when the chips are down it’s more likely they’ll protect themselves than one person who gives them ten bucks every month.
- Tor is very effective at hiding your identity from the sites and places you access. However, if you only use Tor by itself, it’s clear to everyone that you are in fact using Tor. There is nothing illegal about Tor itself but using Tor might flag you as a suspicious user or one to be watched.
When you combine these three technologies, you can build a much more robust privacy platform. The virtual machine which hosts the VPN client (unless you run it at router level) and Tor browser provide a safe platform from which to work. Separate from your real, everyday computer which is filled with personally identifiable data. Then, the VPN tunnel will hide the fact that you are using Tor from your ISP since it will just look like normal VPN traffic.
Finally, using Tor through that VPN tunnel means that the VPN itself has no idea what you are doing. They just know you are using Tor. This triple-layer of privacy technology is of course still not perfect. However, you’d have to be at the top of some incredibly important lists for anyone to commit the sort of resources needed to defeat these means.
How to Combine These Technologies?
Combining a VPN, Tor, and a virtual machine requires some time to be set up, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. We’ll try to provide helpful links along the way, but here’s like a general idea.
- As said earlier, we recommend Oracle VM VirtualBox since it’s capable enough and comes free of charge. Download and install the VM software and then download the Ubuntu Linux ISO file. When you create a new VM in VirtualBox, the wizard will also walk you through how to install the operating system from the ISO file.
- If you take the Linux route, you need to use a VPN that has a Linux client. Alternatively, if you have an extra Windows license kicking around, you can just use that. In that case, you’ll need a VPN for Windows, of course.
- Either way, once you have the virtual machine up and running, download the VPN client software and install it. Then, download the Tor Browser. The Tor software is portable and does not need to be installed, you can just run it from the download folder after unzipping it.
That’s pretty much it. Now, you have a virtual machine installed on your computer. Then, you have installed a VPN application that helps you anonymize your Web traffic, and finally – you’re browsing the Web using Tor, which adds another layer of protection. This means that your workflow should be like this:
- Download your virtual machine software, and then boot your virtual machine. Wait until the operating system is ready for use.
- Launch your VPN application using the guest operating system. Log-in using your credentials and then connect to a secure server.
- Once connected via your VPN, go ahead and open the Tor Browser on your guest operating system. From this moment on, you are free to browse the Web with no limitations. Also, you can 110% sure that all your personal data is safely hidden from anyone else on the Web. In other words, you've reached your Internet anonymity.
- Once done, close the Tor Browser, disconnect from your VPN, and finally shut down the virtual machine. That’s it!
Dear readers, this is where we end our guide to combining VPNs, Tor, and virtual machines into the ultimate Internet anonymity solution. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, make sure to leave us a comment down below. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks!