Why It’s Important To Check Your VPN For IP Leaks

Michael Gargiulo - CEO, VPN.com

By: Michael Gargiulo, CEO at VPN.com

Updated: 6:10 PM ET Fri, December 17th 2021

Graphic representing IP address leaking from laptops

If you’re accessing the Internet from any connected device like your desktop computer, smartphone, or tablet, then you’re identifiable by your IP address. Your IP address is, for all intents and purposes, the online identity your Internet service provider (ISP) assigns you when you’re connected to the internet.

As soon as your ISP assigns you an IP address, your activities online are at the mercy of being tracked. That is unless you’re using a virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts your communications to protect them from prying eyes.

How can you say for sure, though, whether your VPN is working correctly or if it’s leaking out your personal data? VPN providers take strong measures to protect the IP addresses of their users, but there’s always a chance that your IP address is discoverable even when you’re using a VPN. Let’s dive into ways users can ensure their VPN is working and why it’s so important to check that your VPN isn’t leaking.

Why Use A VPN?

Before we investigate the importance of checking whether a VPN is leaking your IP address, it’s a good idea to quickly go over why using a VPN is so important. Despite the possibility of leaking, VPNs nevertheless offer the best way to protect your IP address from prying eyes while you’re online. 

A VPN creates a secure, shielded connection for users. This is particularly important when using a public WiFi network or working from home. VPNs are also useful for online businesses that prioritize the data security of their users. Although, in light of the potential for VPNs to leak an IP address of a user, online retailers should consider supplemental courses of action to maintain data integrity: building security protocols into their websites. 

The average freelance developer will charge at least $50 an hour to design a site, and you should look for professionals with privacy and security experience. Making sure data is only accessible to specific people with permission should be a priority for online retailers even if they’ve recommended reliable VPN providers to their users.

Although VPNs can mask the original IP address of a user to avoid unwanted spying and speed throttling, they still aren’t perfect. Even the best VPN providers are subject to potential hackers and cyber-attacks who can take advantage of security flaws that inadvertently reveal IP addresses.

What Are IP Leaks?

Users who sign into a VPN service may do so by choosing between VPN servers that may be based anywhere around the world. Once a user selects a server-based out of a different country, their VPN will act as if a user is in the country of the server they selected. 

This may not be enough to prevent a service in a restricted region from tracking your IP address instead of the one your VPN server is trying to assign to you. In other words, your VPN can leak your IP address and essentially make it impossible for you to access online content from a restricted region.

Several years ago, a major flaw was found to be granting remote websites the ability to take advantage of Web Real-Time Communication, a feature that most internet browsers support. This flaw made it possible for remote sites to publicize the legitimate IP addresses of users who were using the services of a VPN provider.

Although this flaw in internet browsers is still present today, it’s an issue that’s thankfully easily addressable with the help of the proper browser extensions. If you’re trying to connect to the internet – regardless of whether you’re utilizing a VPN – you need to connect to your DNS provider. And if your DNS provider doesn’t work as intended, you run the very real risk of letting your true IP address fall into the hands of unscrupulous parties.

How To Protect Yourself From An IP Leak

It should be reiterated that while VPN providers aren’t foolproof, VPNs are still very much a necessity for secure Internet browsing. According to Ludovic Rembert from Privacy Canada, VPNs are now an important privacy tool for everyday people because now everyone is a potential target.  

“Aren’t VPNs obscure tools used by corporations, conspiracy theorists, criminals, and tech-savvy hackers? Not anymore,” says Rembert. “With privacy scandals, data leaks, geo-restrictions, and censoring making headlines and impacting lives every day, VPNs have risen to prominence as must-have services. Every piece of information you send over the Internet, from pictures of your cat to your tax return, can potentially be intercepted.”

Other than being careful of the VPN host you choose, the easiest method to prevent IP leaks is to disable WebRTC on your preferred internet browser. Rather than wait for your VPN provider to address the issue of IP leaks on their part, download an extension to disable WebRTC if you’re using the Chrome, Opera, or Firefox internet browsers.

Wrapping Up

Every individual on the Internet is identified by his or her IP address, and if someone were to track the IP address of a user, the privacy of that user’s personal data and online activities becomes compromised. Previous instances of IP leaks should encourage VPN providers, VPN users, and even online businesses that host their own sites to take measures to decrease the likelihood of an IP leak from occurring.

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