How Do I Know If My VPN Is Working? How To Test Your VPN

Michael Gargiulo - CEO, VPN.com

By: Michael Gargiulo, CEO at VPN.com

Updated: 7:21 PM ET Fri, November 13th 2020

Letter blocks stacked to make the acronym VPN.

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are valuable tools for recreational and professional users alike. Offering a way to protect online movements and overcome challenges like geo-blocking, there’s a lot to love about VPNs. However, not all VPNs work perfectly at all times. VPNs that fail can open the door to serious security issues, leading users to ask themselves, “Is my VPN working?”

If a VPN isn’t working as expected, either in part or in full, early identification of issues as well as rapid testing and troubleshooting are essential.

How Do I Know If My VPN Is Working?

If you don’t think your VPN is working, there are a few things you can do to determine your safety online. First, it’s important to understand the main causes of why a VPN may not work. Some issues are more common than others, and understanding the symptoms of a problem can make it easier to find an appropriate fix.

Common VPN Issues

Leaks are the most common problem with standard VPNs. In essence, a leak occurs when personal information isn’t properly protected by a VPN, leaving it vulnerable to detection. There are a few different forms of VPN leaks, including:

  • IP Address Leaks: Masking IP addresses, or the unique series of numbers assigned to each device connected to a network, is among the most popular reasons for using a VPN. When an IP address leak occurs, users’ IP addresses are made vulnerable.
  • DNS Leaks: Domain Name Systems are also commonly masked by VPNs. When a DNS leak occurs, the security of an IP address may be preserved, but DNS information will be accessible. This can compromise online safety and make users a target for DNS hijacking attacks.
  • WebRTC Leaks: Web Real-Time Communication capabilities are a part of most browsers, allowing users to use voice and video chat services. However, WebRTC services can expose vulnerabilities in a VPN; some websites can use these services to access code with location information if a VPN is not keeping users properly protected.

By understanding these leaks and how they manifest, users can be better prepared for VPN tests to see if virtual private networks are working as they should.

VPN Tests

If you’re not sure whether your VPN is working as expected, there are a few things you can do to ensure your information is properly protected. These simple VPN tests make looking for leaks simple and straightforward.

Testing For IP Address Leaks

First, make sure your VPN is disabled and identify your IP address. If your ISP doesn’t make this information readily available, simply Google “what is my IP address” or visit one of the many test websites available. Knowing this can help you confirm that your VPN isn’t revealing this information to unwanted sources. Once you have your IP address, re-activate your VPN and search for your IP address again. If your search engine or website reveals the same number, you can be sure your VPN isn’t properly protecting you.

Testing For DNS Leaks

Testing for IP address leaks is a good first step, but doing so may not reveal other kinds of leaks. DNS leaks, for example, may not be immediately evident when looking for issues with properly masking an IP address. However, there are resources available that make this process relatively simple. DNSLeakTest is a free site that can reveal potential DNS leaks. Users can choose between a standard and an extended test to determine whether a breach has occurred. These tests will reveal what servers are able to provide information to websites. If any of the servers identified in the test do not match your VPN, you have a DNS leak.

Testing For WebRTC Leaks

WebRTC leaks may coincide with IP and DNS leaks but can occur independently of other problems. You can determine whether you’re facing a WebRTC leak by using the WebRTC Testing website. As with IP address leak testing, be sure you know your network IP address. On the testing page, verify that the private IP listed is different than the public IP address specific to your device. If it isn’t, you may be facing a WebRTC leak.

My VPN Isn’t Working — What Now?

Detecting a leak is the first step. The next, of course, is fixing it. If you purchased a VPN from a reliable and trusted vendor, helpdesk and troubleshooting resources should be available. The steps provided, which can range from rebooting your computer to downloading a patch or update, can help you identify and rectify issues. If standard fixes aren’t adequate to resolve your issues, you may need to contact your VPN provider for more specific information.

If your VPN has problems with leaks regularly, selecting a different VPN might be the best path forward. Some products are better than others, so investing in a higher quality VPN may provide better service with reduced complications.

As a common VPN user, you want to ask yourself “Is my VPN working?” regularly. Only frequent checks can ensure your VPN is protecting you properly and you aren’t at risk of revealing private information through IP address, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

Want to find the right VPN for your personal or business needs? Check out VPN.com’s expert reviews, rankings, and recommendations to make an informed purchasing decision.

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