VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are great for security , but one of the main reasons a lot of people use a VPN is to mask or change their IP address. Accordingly, one of the main reasons for using a VPN is to hide the real IP address. In addition, when using a VPN, all your web movements are encrypted and sent to a VPN server. These servers, which process all data on the server side and are operated by your VPN provider, are encrypted.
This means that outsiders can only see the IP address of the VPN server and not your real IP address. VPN providers take strict measures to protect user IPs, such as: B. by using shared IPs and not using logs. However, there is still a chance that your IP address could be determined when using a VPN. Read on to find out if your VPN is leaking your IP address and what to do about it.
What is an IP leak?
An IP leak is the revelation of a user’s real IP address while connected to a VPN service. It can occur in a situation where a user’s computer is unknowingly accessing standard servers and not the anonymous VPN servers assigned by the network such as VPN. Here is a simple example to understand IP leaks when using a VPN:
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For example, let’s say you want to access content that is inaccessible (i.e. geographically restricted) in your home country. When you log into your VPN account, you can usually choose between servers in different countries. The VPN “pretends” that you are actually in the selected region. Usually that’s enough to convince you that you are now in a supported country – so far, so good!
However, if you access this content and you still encounter these geographic restrictions, it means that the service you are trying to access from a restricted country is actually tracking your original IP address and not the IP from the VPN server. This means that your VPN is leaking your original IP.
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Most types of IP leaks can occasionally infect all network protocols on your smartphones. But the best VPN providers have remedies built into their software to minimize the chances of an IP leak. Your VPN service provider is usually not to blame for IP leaks. They are often caused by weak points in existing technologies such as browser plugins (Flash), browser software and operating systems on our smartphones.
Similarly, some DNS leaks can reveal your real IP address to the DNS server. If your VPN has a ” DNS Leak ” it means that your DNS requests are being sent to an insecure DNS server (which is usually controlled by your Internet provider). Some VPNs have built-in DNS leak protection, use their individual DNS servers and special technologies to ensure that your DNS requests are always safely forwarded within the encrypted VPN tunnel.
Some ISPs use a technology called “transparent DNS proxy”. With this technology, they can intercept all DNS requests that go through their servers. If you specify a different DNS server on your home PC or router, it is possible that these requests can still be intercepted. If you’ve changed your DNS settings to use an “open” DNS service such as Google or OpenDNS and you expect your DNS traffic to stop being sent to your ISP’s DNS server, you might be surprised, that it uses transparent DNS proxying.
How to check if your VPN is leaking your IP address
Your “real” IP address is the one assigned to you by your Internet service provider and which can be used to specifically identify your unique Internet access. All devices in your home network share the same IP address.
Here are some useful steps you can take to verify that your VPN is working fine and is not leaking your IP address:
Step 1: Check Your IP Address – Make sure your VPN is NOT connected. If you’re sure your VPN isn’t connected, go to Google and type in “What’s my IP address” to verify your real IP address.
Step 2: Log into the VPN – Log into your VPN account and connect to the server of your choice. Double check that you are connected.
Step 3: Verify Your IP Address Again – Go to Google and enter “What’s my IP Address” again to verify your new IP address. You should see a new address that matches your VPN and the country you selected.
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Step 4: Run an IP Leak Test – Several free websites allow you to check if your VPN is leaking your IP. There is a good tool for IP leak testingin relation to the user’s online privacy. It’s unique because it’s a modern web app and it has a free API that you can use on your smartphones. Most of the IP or DNS leak tests used today are generally not mobile-friendly. But more importantly, they are out of date. For example, the API of this tool checks if DNS is enabled via TLS, which is missing from the older DNS leak test websites. This may be a relatively new protocol, but it will become an increasingly important feature as it keeps your DNS queries encrypted. Its API also checks whether DNSSEC is enabled or whether “Verification Disabled” is on or off. DNSSEC provides originating authority, data integrity, and authenticated absence confirmation.
What other leaks can reveal your IP address? And how can you fix it?
There is another common leak called ‘Dropped Connection’ that occurs when you suddenly lose your connection to the VPN. In this case, all of your web traffic will be routed through your normal internet connection (less secure). This is the most common IP leak and also the easiest to prevent.
Choosing a VPN service with a kill switch function is the right choice even for your smartphones. A kill switch is a critical part of your VPN client software that continuously monitors your network connection and ensures that your real IP address is not revealed online in the event of a broken VPN connection. When it detects a change, it immediately stops all internet connections and automatically tries to reconnect to the VPN. I recommend looking out for this feature when comparing VPNs.
VPNs can be great tools for protecting your privacy online, but sometimes they can be undermined. I hope this post has opened your eyes to the dangers of IP leaks and the need to review them to make sure your data stays safe.