VPN leak or IP leak are the buzz phrases within the world of online privacy and the VPN that leaks your true IP address is not probably the best choice to stay safe and secure online. VPN providers must prevent their users from the 4 most common VPN IP leaks that could compromise your privacy online.
What are IP leaks when using a VPN?
Using a VPN should hide your true IP address from the public, but there are 4 common problems VPNs face in order to stop leaking your IP address. And these leaks are commonly known as IPv4, IPv6, DNS and WebRTC leaks.
An IP address is probably the best identification of who you are online – it is critical for a VPN service not to disclose that information publicly. It does that assigning you the VPN server’s IP when you browse the web with VPN, however, there is a chance that your true IP address might be revealed. This might happen if a VPN provider has some technical application problems or bad networking implementations on their servers allowing your true identity and your browsing habits to be revealed to the websites or even ISP. The reveal of your true IP address when connected via VPN is called an IP address leak and as mentioned before there can be 4 of them:
- IPv4 leak
- IPv6 leak
- DNS leak
- WebRTC leak
IP address version 4 is the most common version of IP used all over the world wide web and you must have seen it online (126.96.36.199 – an example of an IPv4 address). When this IP address is leaked when using a VPN it is an alarming indicator that this VPN provider has some serious technical issues going on and that means even using such VPN your true IP address is revealed to the websites you visit and your privacy online is compromised.
Similar to IPv4 there’s another VPN leak called IPv6 address leak.
IPv6 was created by scientists and engineers as an alternative to IPv4 to solve the lack of IP addresses and reduce the complexity of the overall internet infrastructure. The migration from IPv4 to IPv6 is happening very slowly but some ISPs (Verizon, Comcast) already use this version of IP and assign you both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. If a VPN provider does not take into account IPv6 there’s a chance it can leak it. IPv6 address leak is the same as IPv4 since it reveals your identity and location in the same way. The easiest way for a VPN to block such leaks is to uncheck the IPv6 box in the internet adapter settings when connected to a VPN, which you can even do it yourself.
DNS – Domain Name Server – leak is an IP leak happening when your device queries for a website’s IP address you try to visit. It translates the name, for example, www.example.com into an IPv4 version address that machines understand. These special requests should also travel via a VPN tunnel in order to hide the websites you are trying to reach. Many VPN providers have their own DNS servers for extra protection and they are used when connected to a VPN server. If these requests are not routed via a VPN tunnel or made to a public domain name server (such as Google DNS) there’s a risk that your true identity and the websites you access are exposed. To prevent this, it is best to stick with a VPN provider’s DNS servers which are set automatically when you connect to a VPN server.
What is WebRTC leak
WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a technology used by web browsers to directly communicate with each other. This technology allows faster speeds for video chats, live streaming and file transferring. WebRTC is an amazing technology, however, when it comes to privacy it may not be the best solution out there. This is because WebRTC can create communication channels outside an encrypted VPN tunnel and leak your true IP address to third party services. VPN applications can not control this since it is the technology used by the browser and in order to prevent WebRTC leak, there are means to disable WebRTC communication within the browser (read further).
VPN browser extensions and WebRTC
Some providers have VPN browser extensions, but those only encrypt internet traffic that comes from your browser, this has the advantage of disabling WebRTC leak since it is installed on the browser and has the right to modify its settings. These browser extensions are really good and lightweight if you only care about private browsing, but it does not hide your IP address or encrypt traffic when downloading torrents or using another software besides your browser.
How to prevent yourself from IP leaks?
When connected to a VPN an IP leak is a VPN provider’s problem to fix in the first place and there are very simple ways to figure it out if your IP is leaking. Note that IP leaks might be inconsistent, so it’s best to test it each time you connect to a new VPN server.
VPN IP leak tests
There are few websites that can tell if your IP address is exposed when connected to a VPN server. Try these ones:
- IPleak.net – this website tests for all the above-mentioned leaks – IPv4, IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC. Just go there and it will start doing leak tests automatically. If you see other than your VPN server’s IP in the results – it might be that you have your IP address leaked.
- ipv6leak.com – a website for detecting IPv6 leak.
- browserleaks.com/webrtc – focused on many different tests, but this one is good for spotting a WebRTC leak.
To prevent yourself from WebRTC leak try to disable this setting on your browser:
Disable WebRTC on chrome
- Install one of the chrome extensions called WebRTC Leak Prevent or WebRTC Control – these extensions will allow you to control WebRTC and prevent your IP from leaking.
Disable WebRTC on Firefox
- Type into URL field “about:config” and accept the risk
- Type “media.peerconnection.enabled” into a search bar and once found change the value to “false”
- That’s all, you are protected from WebRCT leak on FireFox!
What to do if your VPN provider is leaking your IP address?
Did you notice that your provider leaks your IP address during one of the online tests? You should seriously consider switching your VPN provider. A really good VPN provider does not have any leaks and keeps you safe and secure online no matter what test you do. The best ones usually have implemented additional advanced features such as Internet kill-switch (this terminates your internet connection if the connection with a VPN server is lost) to secure you online.
Risks when your IP address leaks
VPN hides your torrent traffic and data you download and in this case an IP leak means the risk that files you download and the fact that you use torrenting or P2P are exposed. Different monitoring practices of torrent/P2P usage are implemented depending on the country you are based in and ISP you use. Some countries have strict rules on torrenting and once they detect copyright infringement (for example, downloading a movie) you might get fined or even your device confiscated. An example countries where such strict rules implemented is United States or Germany.
Exposing your identity to the websites
VPN hides your true identity from the websites by assigning VPN servers IP. Leaking your true IP exposes who you are to the websites you visit therefore your privacy is lost. This might be concerning depending on your browsing habits and that’s something you might also be worried about.
Revealing browsing habits
If you DNS requests are leaking your IP address this means that ISP knows where exactly you are trying to connect. The logs are stored on the DNS server with your IP address, ISP can monitor when and where you tried to connect. If your DNS requests are not traveling via VPN tunnel over time your browsing habits are in the open.
A good VPN provider does not have any IP address leaks and tries to prevent its users from all possible identity exposure online. Most IP leaks a VPN might have are IPv4, IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak. WebRTC is more difficult to tackle because it is a separate browser technology VPN applications have no control of, however, there are simple ways to disable these settings within your browser settings. When a VPN leaks IP address you are compromising your privacy by revealing your true identity and browsing habits.