Internet

VPN Leaks: What Are They and How to Check If Your VPN Is Working

VPNs are great for security, and in a time when online privacy is increasingly eroding, they allow you to keep your internet activities private and secure. With the right VPN, you can stop your ISP and other third parties from monitoring what you do online.

How do VPNs achieve this? By masking and changing your IP address. In addition to giving you online anonymity, this also lets you bypass censorships and geo-restrictions.

Unfortunately, not all VPNs are safe or reliable. According to a study of free Android VPN apps by CSIRO (Australia), 84% of all the VPNs tested had connections leaks. This is a serious problem.

What Are VPN Leaks?

A VPN leak is simply the exposure of your identity and location when using a VPN and look for best vpn Canada. When that happens, it means your ISP, and in some cases, websites can keep tabs on your browsing behavior and trace it back to you.

Generally, there are three types of leaks:

  • IP leaks
  • DNS leaks
  • WebRTC leaks

IP Leaks

An IP – internet protocol – is simply an online address that identifies and allows a network device to communicate with others. Basically, it functions as your internet home address and can be used to pinpoint your physical location.

Ever tried streaming a video only to be met with a Sorry, this video is not available in your country message? Your IP address is how they know.

VPNs are meant to prevent this from happening, but an IP leak can render them moot. IP leaks are caused by IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, and their compatibility or lack thereof.

Of these, IPv6 leaks are the most common. While the protocol hasn’t been fully implemented yet, some internet providers are starting to provide it.

The problem is, only a few VPNs support the technology. If you are using both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, most VPNs will leak your IPv6 address.

To prevent this, some VPNs offer IPv6 Leak Protection, which automatically disables IPv6 traffic when connected to the VPN.

DNS Leaks in VPNs

DNS is the phonebook of the internet. Short for Domain Name System, DNS translates plain text domain names like “thebaynet.com” to numerical IP addresses. Normally, the process is handled by your ISP’s servers.

This means your ISP can see every single one of the websites. And in countries like the US, the law allows them to log the data and sell it to advertisers and other third parties.

VPNs protect you by encrypting your search requests before they reach your ISP’s DNS server. Still, sometimes your traffic may sidestep your VPN’s DNS servers and cause your DNS address to leak.

DNS leaks can be hard to spot, and all it takes is a single wayward data packet to do the trick. Besides revealing your search queries, websites can also use DNS leaks to determine your location.

To prevent this, some providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer built-in DNS leak protection, which ensures your DNS requests are routed continuously through the VPNs’own DNS servers.

WebRTC Leaks

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is a browser feature that enables real-time communications such as voice and video chat as well as P2P sharing. It is built into most of the popular browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

While helpful, WebRTC does present another vulnerability for VPN users. With a few lines of code, websites can obtain both your local and public IP addresses through your browser’s WebRTC APIs.

Fortunately, most browsers allow you to disable the functionality. Some VPNs also give you the option to block WebRTC.

How to Check for VPN Leaks?

First, you need to know your real IP address, and you can easily do so by searching “What is my IP” on Google. Once you have the IP, you can then turn on your VPN and test for potential VPN leaks.

There are plenty of sites and tools that you can use. The most popular include ipleak.net, ipleak.org, dnsleaktest.com, and browserleaks.com.

I recommend ipleak.net since it is much easier to use. It also allows you to test all of IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks simultaneously, giving you a complete picture of your VPN performance.

Generally, you should follow the following steps when testing for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

  1. Launch your VPN and connect to a server
  2. Open a VPN leak test site on your browser
  3. Run the connection leak test 

If you can see your IP or DNS address, then your VPN has connection leaks.

Final Word

A VPN can secure your data and give you total anonymity online. However, due to VPN leaks, some VPNs may provide a false sense of privacy and ultimately end up doing more damage than good. Luckily, with the above steps, you can confirm whether your VPN is actually working.

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