Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Multi-Hop VPN

0

Image source: Getty Images

Your privacy and security on the Internet is increasingly difficult to maintain. A multihop VPN offers superior protection in these areas. Find out if a multihop VPN is the right choice for you.

You don’t want sensitive business data and customer information stolen by cybercriminals. This is where a Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in.

A VPN secures your internet connection, protecting it from prying eyes and cyberattacks. Originally reserved for large enterprises, where it is considered one of the best practices in network security, VPN technology is now readily available to small businesses.

Yet not only are cyberattacks on the rise, they are also becoming more sophisticated, making them difficult to stop. Even a standard VPN isn’t security enough for some.

Enter multi-hop VPN. Also known as “cascading VPN” or “double VPN”, Multi-Hop VPN raises the bar of the traditional VPN approach, providing unprecedented security and privacy.

But is that overkill for your purposes? Let’s look at the pros and cons of a multi-hop VPN to answer this question.

Overview: What is a Multi-Hop VPN?

To explain a multihop VPN, you must first understand how a standard VPN works.

  • When you browse online, you send data, such as the website you want to visit, to a single server operated by your VPN provider. Your computer’s VPN software encrypts this data before it is sent to the VPN server.
  • A VPN creates an encrypted connection, called a tunnel, between your device and the VPN server so that your data cannot be easily intercepted by cybercriminals.
  • Once your data arrives at the VPN server, it’s decrypted, adopting the VPN server’s IP address (so your request appears to be coming from that server, not your device), and then sent to its final destination.

A diagram shows how your computer connects to a single VPN server before your online traffic is sent to its final destination.

A standard VPN uses a VPN server between your device and the online destination. Image source: author

This standard VPN configuration is sufficient for many internet users. But inherent limitations exist.

  • A single VPN server helps correlate website traffic leaving that server with devices requesting those sites. This traffic correlation allows a third party to identify your activities.
  • The problem is compounded by the fact that most VPN providers, such as NordVPN, rent servers from data centers owned by other companies. This limits a VPN provider’s ability to prevent a security breach.
  • If these data centers are hacked, as was the case with NordVPN in 2018, attackers can access the data needed to perform traffic correlation.

A multihop VPN improves on a standard VPN. Here’s how a multi-hop VPN works.

  • Your internet traffic hops between two or more VPN servers before reaching its destination. These servers are usually located in geographically disparate locations, such as two different countries.
  • With each hop, your internet activity receives a layer of encryption from each VPN server.
  • Each new server only receives the previous server’s IP address, increasing your anonymity with each server hop.
  • By the time your internet traffic arrives at the destination site, it has gone through multiple layers of encryption and multiple IP address changes, making it virtually impossible to trace it back to the originating computer.

There are two approaches to multihop VPNs: a cascading connection and a nested chain configuration.

Cascade VPN typically uses a single VPN provider. Several providers offer double-hop VPN, where you use two VPN servers, and some offer hops to up to five VPN servers.

The nested chain method uses two or more VPN services using multiple VPN servers. This approach provides greater security.

If a VPN provider is hacked, you are still protected by the additional services. But a nested VPN chain configuration is not commercially available, so you have to configure it yourself.

A diagram shows how your computer hops through several VPN servers before reaching the website you are looking for.

A multihop VPN introduces multiple VPN servers. Image source: author

Benefits of Using a Multi-Hop VPN

The benefits of using a multi-hop VPN are hard to beat. It offers better security, privacy and anonymity.

Enhanced security

The encryption offered by a standard VPN is sufficient to prevent criminals from accessing your data, but traffic correlation is still possible. A multi-hop VPN blocks this type of sophisticated attack, providing even greater endpoint security for your device.

A multi-hop VPN’s VPN server network and corresponding IP address changes ensure that an attacker cannot correlate outbound traffic from a server to your device. The attacker can see encrypted traffic from a VPN server but will not know if it is the end server or an intermediary.

A graph shows a growing number of Internet crime complaints to the FBI.

The increase in cybercrime tracked by the FBI’s IC3 shows why internet security is critical. Image source: author

Increased privacy

A multi-hop VPN provides superior privacy. The first VPN server has your IP address but the one at your destination does not. The last VPN server has your destination but not your original IP address, only that of the previous server.

Since your IP address changes multiple times through this VPN chaining, an attacker would have to monitor each of the multiple VPN servers involved, and even then would have to guess which of the traffic heading to the destination is yours. This makes it nearly impossible to track online traffic to you.

Bypass censorship

There are several forms of online restrictions. An oppressive government can block access to websites. Some content, such as a streaming web series, may only be available in a specific geographic area. So if you’re traveling, you might not have access to the same content you had at home.

A VPN allows you to circumvent these restrictions. Your internet traffic seems to come from another geographical area, specifically from the location of the VPN server. This allows you to access blocked content, and a multi-hop VPN ensures that such activity is not traced back to you.

Disadvantages of Using a Multi-Hop VPN

Each technology has advantages and disadvantages. Although a great tool for internet privacy and security, a multi-hop VPN has some drawbacks.

Slower online connections

Slower internet speed is a reality of forgoing a direct path to your destination. Traveling through multiple servers naturally extends the time it takes to reach your destination. Add to that the time it takes to travel the distance between VPN servers, which span the globe. And that’s not all.

The process of encrypting and decrypting your data also increases the time it takes to complete your online activities. You will need a fast internet connection to get started, otherwise you will really feel the speed hit.

More resource intensive

Using a multi-hop VPN requires more computing resources from your devices. Your smartphone or laptop must encrypt and decrypt all incoming and outgoing data online.

This can slow down the performance of your device, especially for older devices with limited computing power.

Is a Multi-Hop VPN Right for You?

The encryption of a standard VPN sufficiently protects the privacy of your online messages or site visits from cybercriminals. The need for a multi-hop VPN therefore depends on your specific needs.

When a multihop VPN makes sense

Using a standard VPN is important for any business given the increase in cyberattacks. Taking that extra step to adopt a multihop VPN is especially necessary in these scenarios.

  • Confidentiality is important: ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and virtually every website you visit collects data about you. If your work involves interaction or research on a sensitive topic, you may not want these external parties to have visibility into that work. Political activists, celebrities, and journalists protecting their sources can benefit from maximizing online privacy with a multi-hop VPN.
  • Censorship limits access: Many services restrict Internet access based on your geographic location, or you may be banned from certain online activities due to government censorship, as is the case in some countries. Since a multi-hop VPN hides your true IP address, you can bypass these blocks. In the case of a repressive regime, you need the added protection of a multi-hop VPN to ensure that your activities are not traced back to you.
  • Data security is a must: While typical cybercriminals don’t have the time or resources to crack standard VPN encryption, governments do. If avoiding decryption by outside entities is important to you, the extra layers of encryption of a multi-hop VPN are a plus.

When to Skip Multi-Hop VPN

For the most part, a standard VPN provides enough online security and privacy. A multi-hop VPN is overkill in these cases.

  • Typical Internet usage: Most internet users can enjoy excellent protection with a standard VPN and by adopting safe online habits, such as only visiting secure websites (those that use https in their URLs). The advantages of a multi-hop VPN will not outweigh its disadvantages for typical Internet use.
  • Speed ​​is key: Ignore Multi-Hop VPN if you are working with a slow internet connection or cannot afford the reduced speed of a Multi-Hop VPN. For example, streaming video can become impossible to watch with the slow connection of a multi-hop VPN.
  • Cost is a factor: A multi-hop VPN is not for the tight budget. Switching to a provider’s VPN service requires a subscription, and since multi-hop VPNs aren’t in high demand, they can cost more.

Final Tip on Multi-Hop VPNs

If you think a multi-hop VPN is for you, make sure VPN providers provide multiple layers of encryption. Some only provide one layer and simply forward your traffic from one VPN server to another without applying any additional layers.

You also want to confirm that the VPN provider will not keep logs or track your online activity. Even if the provider does nothing with this data, possessing it means it is susceptible to theft or, at a minimum, subject to seizure by governments.

Online anonymity is the biggest advantage of a multihop VPN. You should therefore only work with a reputable provider with a proven track record of protecting your privacy.

Share.

Comments are closed.