What Is Double VPN (Multi-Hop)?

And is twice the encryption twice as good?

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Sep 30, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Sep 30, 2021

The more, the merrier. Two heads are better in one. There are many adages about the advantages of having multiples of things, but does that apply to VPNs?

While a virtual private network, or VPN, encrypts your web traffic and IP address through only one server, double VPN, well, doubles it. However, there are times for double VPN, and there are times when it’ll just slow you down. Read our complete guide to double VPN (multi-hop) so that you can use it to your advantage.

Surfshark Multihop
Surfshark Multihop

What Is Double VPN (Multi-Hop)?

Double VPN, also called multi-hop, means that the VPN service encrypts your web activity and IP address using more than one server. Essentially, your private data “cascades” through two or more servers, getting encrypted multiple times. The servers can even be located in different countries!1

Double VPN Pros and Cons

Although more encryption is great for your privacy and security, it does come with some disadvantages.

What We Like
  • The big advantage of multi-hop is that with more encryption comes more privacy, security, and general online anonymity. With two times the encryption or more, it will be even more difficult for anyone to trace you online.
What We Don’t Like
  • Another layer of encryption can mean slower internet speeds.
  • Slow internet speeds are not ideal for torrenting, a.k.a. P2P downloads and uploads, so you may not want to torrent with a multi-hop VPN.
  • Multi-hop VPNs are not the best when it comes to streaming. Rather, use one of the best VPNs for streaming so that you don’t have to wait while your fast-paced action movie is buffering.

Are Double VPNs More Secure?

Double VPNs are more secure than regular VPNs because the more encryption, the harder it is to trace you online. Think of it like changing disguises multiple times as opposed to once.

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

Do I Need a Double VPN?

There are times when you need a double VPN, but there are times when it’s unnecessary. But how do you know when? That’s what we’re here for.

When You Need a Double VPN
  • More privacy and security: If you want more privacy or security in general, a double VPN is a fast-track to that goal.
  • Internet censorship: For people that are in countries with high levels of internet censorship like China or Russia, you’ll want to surf the web freely without legal consequences. The more encryption, the harder it will be for governments to trace your online activity.
  • Journalists and activists: If you’re a journalist reporting on a sensitive topic or an activist opposing an oppressive regime, the more privacy you have, the better.
When You Don’t Need a Double VPN
  • Streaming: If you’re streaming something, a double VPN will just slow you down.
  • Torrenting: The same goes for torrenting, or P2P downloads and uploads. Double VPNs are not the best VPNs for torrenting.
  • Tor browser: The Tor browser encrypts all of your web traffic three times, so using a double VPN on it is unnecessary, not to mention incredibly slow.
  • Privacy isn’t a priority: Aside from privacy and security, people have other reasons for using VPNs. In our VPN usage report, we found that nearly a third of people use VPNs only because they’re required for their jobs, or to access secure work networks. If that’s the case, you may not need the added privacy that multi-hop affords; instead, connect to a VPN for business.

Did You Know: By 2015, Chinese law enforcement had arrested around 15,000 people for crimes that “jeopardized internet security,” getting around the country’s Great Firewall.2

Double VPNs vs. VPN Over VPN

At the risk of using the word “VPN” ad nauseam, there is a difference between double VPNs and something called “VPN over VPN.”

While double VPN means twice the number (or more) of servers, VPN over VPN means that you connect to multiple VPN providers at the same time. Of course, this also means paying for multiple VPNs, unless they are free VPNs or free trial VPNs. Even so, using multiple VPN providers probably won’t have the best functionality, as the VPNs may be incompatible. Your best bet for both privacy and functionality is to use a double VPN feature, not VPN over VPN.

Multi-Hop vs. Tor Browser

Let’s get back to that Tor browser we mentioned earlier. The Tor browser encrypts your web activity and IP address three times, making for highly secure web traffic. However, if you use any other web apps like Spotify, that traffic will still go directly to your ISP.

Multi-hop, on the other hand, covers all of your web activity across your entire device, browsers and apps alike, so it’s a more comprehensive option than the Tor browser. However, if you’re using your browser only to access the web and don’t want to pay for a VPN, Tor may be a better option.

FYI: Tor is a free and open-source browser that anyone can download, as long as your network hasn’t blocked it.

How to Use a Double VPN

Have we convinced you of the magic of double VPNs? If so, here’s how to get one.

  1. First, pick out a multi-hop VPN. The following VPNs offer double VPN or multi-hop options:
  2. Once you’ve selected a VPN, create an account on its website.
  3. Download the app either from the VPN website or from your device’s app store.
  4. Sign in with your username and password.
  5. Select the multi-hop or double VPN option (the process will differ slightly depending on which VPN you choose).
  6. Connect to servers to add an extra layer of protection to your internet connection. Your traffic will be encrypted multiple times before it reaches its final destination. Thanks, multihop double VPN!

To learn more about how to set up a VPN, read how to set up an Android VPN, how to set up a Mac VPN, or how to use an iPhone VPN.

Surfshark VPN
Surfshark Browser

Other Secure VPN Features

Of course, multi-hop isn’t the only way to make your VPN more secure. For the most privacy and security, look for VPNs with the following features:

  • Kill switch: A kill switch will close all of your web apps and browsers in the event that the VPN connection fails. Most of the top VPNs have automatically enabled kill switches.
  • AES: The encryption standard you should look for is AES-256, which is what the U.S. military and government use. AES-128, on the other hand, is outdated.
  • Dynamic IP addresses: We prefer VPNs with dynamic IP addresses, meaning they change every time you connect. Static IP addresses, in contrast, stay the same, making following you around online much easier. Learn more in our comparison of dynamic vs. static IP addresses.

Recap

That’s all there is to know about double VPNs, but if you want to learn more about VPNs in general, check out our VPN how-to guides or our complete guide to VPNs. We’ve been testing VPNs for years, so you can trust us to give you the most accurate and objective information.

Frequently Asked Questions

We answered the questions we get the most about double VPNs, also known as multi-hop, below.

  • What is multi-hop in Surfshark?

    Multi-hop in Surfshark means that your web traffic and IP address will travel through two encrypted servers before reaching your ISP. Twice the encryption means twice the privacy and security.

  • What happens if I use two VPNs?

    If you use two VPNs, they may not be compatible with each other, and you could lose some functionality. A better option is to use a multi-hop VPN, which routes your web activity through multiple servers.

  • Is multi-hop more secure?

    Multi-hop is more secure than a regular VPN because by routing your IP address and traffic through multiple servers, it encrypts it multiple times.

  • How does a multi-hop VPN work?

    A multi-hop VPN routes your web activity and IP address through multiple encrypted servers so that they get encrypted more than once.

Citations
  1. Surfshark. (2021). Double VPN to maximize your privacy.
    surfshark.com/features/multihop

  2. Reuters. (2021). Chinese police arrest 15,000 for Internet crimes.
    reuters.com/article/us-china-internet/chinese-police-arrest-15000-for-internet-crimes-idUSKCN0QN1A520150818