- Find out your real IP address. Turn off your VPN and visit this same page in incognito, make a note of the IP in the table above.
- Clear your browser cache.
- Turn the VPN back on and again visit this page in private browsing mode.
- If your real IP address is showing, then unfortunately your VPN is leaking.
- If a new IP address is displaying, then you might still want to test for a DNS leak. You can do that easily on DNSLeakTest.com.
- If it still displays a new IP address and location, you’re safe!
Every second of every day, all across the world, internet users of all ages and backgrounds use virtual private networks (VPNs). People log onto a VPN to help them stay safe online. VPNs conceal a user’s physical location and their activity online. Journalists and political activists commonly utilize VPNs to protect their identities. However, more and more average, everyday folks are using VPNs to provide them with greater online security.
A VPN is supposed to hide your information and activity while you are online. But how do you actually know it is doing its job properly? Your VPN could be leaking crucial information about you. VPN leaks can be very difficult to detect. Are you really safe and secure while using the internet via a VPN? In this article, we will provide you with some reliable ways to check that your VPN is doing what it is supposed to.
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Is a leaking VPN really a big problem?
Although VPNs promise to keep your identity safe while you are online, they can develop leaks that leave you exposed. In fact, a recent study of Android VPNs found that 84% were leaking crucial data. Instead of hiding the user’s location and activity, these apps were leaking IP addresses and DNS requests.
For many people, this simply means they will not be able to access their favourite Netflix or Hulu show. However, for other users, the loss of privacy could have significant repercussions. If their activities and locations are revealed, political activists, journalists, minority groups, and aid workers could face persecution, jail or even death.
A leaky VPN is more than just a faulty product or false advertising. Malfunctioning VPNs can put people in real danger.
Three of the most common VPN leaks
Users need to know what they are looking for in order to combat VPN leaks. After all, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it is there.
It can be the case that a VPN hides your IP address, but leaks your DNS address. This can mean third parties can figure out your actual location. A DNS server transforms plain text URLs into numerical IP addresses. Without a VPN in place, this procedure is done by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
If your VPN is not active anyone can see what you are doing online and where you are located. While using a VPN, this information is hidden. Unless, of course, your VPN has a DNS leak. Then anyone who may be spying on you can access this information. DNS leaks can also make DNS hijacking attacks easier for hackers.
Every device connected to a network has its own unique IP address. The IP address contains valuable information about a user. Your IP address shows your physical location and the websites you have been looking at. VPNs block any prying eyes from accessing the information contained in your IP address.
If your VPN is not protecting your IP address, it simply isn’t doing what it is supposed to. IP leaks can be caused by the incompatibility of two internet protocols, IPv4 and IPv6.
WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. This feature is used by the majority of internet browsers, including Opera, Chrome, Firefox, and Brave. WebRTC allows users to use real-time communication tools like voice and video chats. As useful as WebRTC is, it also provides another way for your VP to leak.
Many websites use WebRTC information to ascertain the physical location of a user. This is most often used by websites that employ geolocation blocking, such as Netflix for example. By using specialized code, some websites can get past the VPN to determine your address using WebRTC data.
Can you prevent VPN leaks?
The good news is that yes, you can detect and prevent VPN leaks. Users only need to perform a few simple checks to see if their VPN is working properly.
How to check your VPN for IP and DNS leaks
- Turn off your VPN and find out what your original IP address is. This is allocated to you by your ISP. There are many ways to ascertain your actual IP address. In fact, you can just type ‘What is my IP address in a search engine, and it should show up! If not, your VPN’s website may have an IP address function.
- Write down your actual IP address information.
- Restart your VPN.
- Recheck your IP address. If your VPN is working, it should show the IP address of the server you are connected to. If your original IP address is still being shown, this means your VPN is not working properly.
- Visit a DNS leak test website such as DNSleaktest.com. If your VPN is running properly, this should show a different IP address than your original one.
- If you wish, you can choose to perform an Extended Test. This may take some time to perform. If the results show your new IP address, your VPN is functioning. If they show your original IP address, you have a leak.
What you can do about IP and DNS leaks
There are some measures you can take if your VPN has an IP or DNS leak. Firstly, you can simply choose to use a VPN that has DNS leak protection or uses dedicated DNS servers.
The other option is to disable IPv6 from running on your computer. This does, however, require some technical skill on your part so might not be the best option for everybody.
How to test your VPN for WebRTC leaks
- Step One: Ascertain what your original IP address is by using any of the methods discussed above. Note this information down.
- Step Two: Restart your VPN and recheck your IP address. You can also use a website dedicated to WebRTC Testing, such as browserleaks.com. A new IP address should be shown.
- Step Three: Using the above website’s data — or an alternative — look for a section headed ‘Your IP addresses — WebRTC detection’. This should show a private IP that is different from your public IP address. Private IP addresses generally start with an alphanumeric IPv6, or codes like 10.xxx or 192.xxx.
How you can stop WebRTC leaks
Unfortunately, WebRTC leaks are a little more complicated to deal with. Just changing your settings or switching your VPN is not going to stop the problem. There are, luckily, some steps you can take to deal with the issue.
The easiest method is to use a browser that does not have WebRTC installed. A simple search for ‘Web browsers without WebRTC’ will give you a range of options.
Your next option is to disable WebRTC entirely. This process can vary depending on what browser you are using. Firefox and Safari both have manual ways to disable WebRTC. We recommend searching for a step-by-step guide for this as the process can be tricky.
You can disable WebRTC on browsers like Chrome by using browser extensions. The extension WebRTC Network Limiter will stop WebRTC from running on Chrome.
What to do if your VPN is still leaking
Let us say you have gone through all the above tests and solutions and still have a VPN leak. In this case, there may be an additional reason why your VPN is not functioning.
Loss of connection speed
A loss of browsing speed can impact the performance of your VPN. Lack of browsing speed can be caused by using a server on the other side of the globe. Overloaded servers can also cause slow speeds. Your ISP may also be throttling your bandwidth and slowing your browsing speed down. Using a website like speedtest.net will let you know how fast your connection is.
Loss of connection
Many VPNs come with a built-in kill switch function. If your VPN connection drops out, the kill switch will be activated you will be disconnected from the internet completely. This process ensures that all your online activity is done via an encrypted VPN tunnel. Simply reconnect to the internet via another VPN server to solve the issue.
Your VPN is blocked
Some ISPs and a few countries actively block the use of VPNs. Make sure the use of a VPN is not illegal in the country in which you are using it. China in particular has strong laws against VPN usage.
You have VPN malware
There are many free VPNs on offer. However, quite a few of these services simply do not provide adequate protection. In fact, many free VPNs will contain malware. Make sure you use a reputable and recommended VPN.
You have been hacked
It is possible that your VPN is not working because you have been the victim of a hacking attack. Because of the skill required to do so, it is unlikely someone has actually hacked the VPN itself. However, users may have fallen for a phishing attack or visited a malicious website. This could result in a hacker gaining control of your device.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evan Stockton - Author
Evan Stockton is the proud publisher and founder of Securifer.com where he mainly manages publishing, editing and fact-checking. Evan is an expert Cybersecurity-researcher, and has written many articles for several large IT-centered publications.