In a world where big corporations (uhm, Facebook) are ignoring their users’ privacy and using their data for lucrative purposes, it’s essential to use some sort of protection to hide your online tracks and keep your internet usage secure. Virtual Private Networks or VPNs were created for that very reason. These services are sometimes advertised as the “the flawless guardian angel” for your privacy, but is your data really in the safe hands? How to make sure your info isn’t being leaked when using a VPN?
How to check for VPN leaks?
As Lao Tzu says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”. To find out whether your data is being leaked or not, you need to compare your internet usage with and without a VPN running. Starting with the latter, the first step to take is looking for your IP address. That’s the easiest part, you just need to search for “what is my IP” on google or visit WhatIsMyIP and the answer will pop directly. Do the same after activating the VPN. If you see the same IP, your VPN isn’t working as it should be and you’re better off changing your provider. If the IPs are different, you have two choices, either you accept what you got and move on believing that your VPN is secure enough, or you dig deeper to find out if there are some real issues that aren’t obvious (Hint: go with the second option).
Let’s dig deeper
Even though your public IP address is one of the main ways through which your VPN provider can leak your data, there are other information-leaking methods, which are
- Your Domain Name System (DNS) queries
Just like we did earlier, we need to compare your internet status with and without running VPN. Checking the services mentioned above on your own may be a complicated process, so you need a tool like IPLeak.net (which is free) that checks the possible data-leaking routes. Run the app before and after activating your VPN. Please note that you need a magnet link to run the torrent test (DUH!) as it can’t run automatically like the other methods. As for the geo location test, I don’t think it’s that useful to be honest, as hiding your location is easy and straightforward. To do it, you simply have to block location on your browser and voila! No location sharing even if you’re not using a VPN. If you still want your main browse to know your location, you can set a secondary one like Firefox or Opera as your VPN-only browser and block location on it for extra security.
Now that we’ve put all the minor threats aside, let’s get to main suspect whenever there’s a data leak: DNS servers. Cloudflare describes the Domain Name Server as the “phonebook” of the internet. Simply put, DNS servers convert the domain names through which humans access a website to numeric (or even alphabetic these days) IP address that allow browsers to load data and resources. In normal cases we use our ISP or internet Service provider’s DNS severs. The problem is, if that DNS gets leaked through your VPN you’re most likely to fall in trouble as you’ll be exposed to anyone trying to spy on you. For that very reason most VPN providers process DNS requests through their own servers to keep yours secure. To check this property, simply compare your DNS on IPLeak with and without VPN.
Do you want even more security?
If you went through all the above steps but you’re still skeptical about your security and privacy, I recommend giving DNSLeakTest.com a shot as a second check against DNS leaks. Using it is fairly simply, just click on the Extended Test, which may take some time to finish, and wait for the result. DNSLeakTest.com goes deeper into leaks and can catch the ones that IPLeak may miss.If the output is a DNS server that’s different form the one provided by your ISP, congratulations, you’re (most probably) secure!
Any recommended VPN providers?
As someone who have been using the internet for both his business and normal life for a really long time, I consider privacy protection a great deal that should be taken seriously. For that, I only use top notch VPN providers who guarantee the safest internet security experience.My personal list of favorite services includes the following:
ExpressVPN: The world’s renowned fastest VPN
You’ve most probably already came across ExpressVPN while you’re browsing the web. The developers claim it’s the fastest VPN out there. I must admit, it is fast. ExpressVPN offers a premium service in which you can choose from several locations. With over 2000 servers, a split tunneling feature, some amazing leak testing tools and a plethora of browser extensions, ExpressVPN is bound to safeguard your privacy against any intruder. The team behind this software is helpful too, and they’re ready to provide help whenever needed. Keep In mind that ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a trial nor a free plan, so it’s not for those seeking a budget solution. Let me tell you though, it’s well worth the price you’re paying, and you get a hassle-free 30-day money back guarantee if you don’t like their service for whatever reason.
NordVPN: Popular and powerful
Following the last security standards, NordVPN is considered one the best VPN services in our time and age. It has a ton of functionalities along with a state of the art performance and a great no-lag policy. Unlike ExpressVPN, Nord has a trial period during which you can test the service and decide if it suits your needs. If you want a VPN service that’s affordable yet very powerful, NordVPN might just be your thing.
CyberGhost VPN: A VPN that’s balanced in terms of pros and cons
Less known that the previous VPNs mentioned above, CyberGhost is still one of the best providers out there. With an AES-256-bit encryption that firmly protects your data, you can rest assured as you’re protected against DNS and IP leaks. What I really like about CyberGhost VPN is its kill switch, which disables internet connection the moment your VPN stops working, so you don’t have to worry about doing that manually.
IPVanish VPN: Vanish your online traces today!
IPVanishVPN connects to the internet through servers in over 60 countries, which results in a fast yet secure connection no matter where you’re from. Install this VPN and you won’t have to worry about connecting to public WIFI networks anymore.
What if I’m leaking my DNS?
If you’re leaking your DNS data, you have two options:
- Get a VPN that processes queries through its own servers, that way your IPS’s DNS is protected.
- Get a DNS from a third party provider such as Google, OpenDNS or Comodo SecureDNS
Once you try those solutions, get back to DNSLeakTest.com to check if they worked.
Privacy is a serious matter that you shouldn’t take lightly, so make sure to read the above instructions and tips and apply them closely. Remember what Gary Kovacssays: “Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the Internet.”
If you have any question or query regarding data protection, do not hesitate to ask through the comments.