A VPN is an amazing privacy tool. It protects your online browsing activities and can unblock restricted content. But what exactly does a VPN hide? Can it mask all your browsing history from a router or ISP?
A VPN hides most things, but some are not that straightforward. Some exceptions may apply when it comes to hiding your online behavior. Let’s see what a VPN can hide and what it can’t.
What Does a VPN Hide?
A VPN is used for security and privacy. It does protect your online from hackers, snoopers, and, in some cases, from advertisers. It uses strong encryption to do so which helps to mask your online behavior.
Here’s what a VPN hides:
- Your real IP Address
- Your location
- Browsing from ISP
- Surfing from Employer
- Torrenting and P2P
- Personal Data
Your Real IP Address
Once you connect to a VPN server, it hides your real IP Address from the websites you visit. On a VPN, all internet traffic is routed to a VPN server first and only then reaches the destination. A VPN server uses its IP address on your behalf, thus masking your real one.
A VPN truly protects your IP if it has a strict no-logs policy and no IP leaks. If no logs are stored on a VPN server, there is no way to link any browsing activity back to you.
The only way a VPN can reveal your IP is by leaking it. This may happen because of a bad VPN configuration or an accidental disconnect. If your VPN leaks your IP when connected to it, it’s a serious privacy issue and you must switch to a better VPN provider.
A VPN virtually changes your location once you connect to a server. Websites mainly detect your location by IP address. Thus if your IP changes, your location changes too.
Having a different location gives you the possibility to unblock geo-restricted content. This may be apps, websites, or streaming libraries like Netflix.
Note, that your location may not always be hidden when on a VPN. This may happen if more advanced tracking techniques are used. For example, when a website uses tracking cookies or your browser’s geolocation API.
Browsing from ISP
A VPN is a really good privacy tool that can hide your browsing activities from your ISP. It uses strong encryption so all the connections are protected from snooping on.
A VPN hides all websites you are visiting or the apps you use. ISP can not see what are you downloading or streaming. It can even bypass ISP throttling and increase internet speed in some cases.
Surfing from Employer
A VPN also hides all the surfing from your employer. If you’re concerned that your employer tracks your online activity in a workplace, a VPN can mask all that.
It not only hides your online activities but also can bypass the blocked sites. If your employer limits certain connections, a VPN can get around those restrictions.
Read more on how to hide your online activities from your employer.
Torrenting and P2P Activities
If you like to download movies, music, or software you might be at risk of getting caught. A lot of countries do not allow torrenting and sharing copyrighted material. There are also P2P streaming platforms like Popcorn Time that also ask to use a VPN.
VPN hides all P2P traffic from ISP, government, and torrent trackers. It can save you from getting in trouble while downloading files or streaming movies. Once you connect to a VPN it uses its IP on our behalf that’s why it’s impossible to trace you.
With strong encryption, a VPN hides all your personal data. It’s impossible to see what personal information you are sending via a VPN. Any hackers, snoopers, or ISP who try to intercept your connection can only see gibberish data.
You are also semi-anonymous from the websites. As VPN connects on your behalf to the websites they do not know that it was you. Websites mostly recognize you by the IP address which is virtually changed on a VPN. The exception might be social media and the websites where you have to log in with your personal account.
Does VPN Hide History From a Router
Routers can be set up to log all IP addresses and connections to the websites. This way all browsing activity can be seen on a router. Using a VPN can hide your history from a router by encrypting your internet traffic. The router only sees the connections to a VPN server’s IP this way masking all your connections.
Another way to hide browsing history is to install a VPN directly on a router. It is important to set the correct DNS addresses that would be also routed via a VPN tunnel.
Most home-type routers do not have much memory, so they can not store a lot of logs or historical data. But, the ones that are used by employers, or enterprise, or ISP may store or collect all internet traffic data. Using a VPN would hide the visited websites from these types of routers too.
Does VPN Hide Your Identity
A VPN is privacy, but not an anonymity tool. It can mask your identity to some degree but some websites could still know who you are. A VPN can not hide your identity from websites where you have to sing in, for example, social media or e-mail. But, it will anonymize you from the ones that do not need any personal details.
Does VPN Hide Your Browsing History?
A VPN can hide your browsing history to a certain extent. It does that by routing all your traffic to a VPN server this way hiding your history. But, searches and browsing history are stored in your browser too. A VPN does not have control over the browser settings and can not hide your local history.
Read more about how to hide your searches and history.
Does VPN Hide MAC Address
In general, VPNs do not mask MAC addresses. Even though it does not do that, your MAC is unknown to the websites anyway. It is used between your device and the first router your connection encounters. A VPN does not need to hide your MAC because it is used for adjacent device communication.
A VPN hides your public IP address, location, and encrypts all private data sent over the internet. This masks your online activities like torrents or file downloads. It hides your browsing history from ISP and prevents hackers from snooping on you.
If you are looking for a great VPN service, here are some of the best ones: