Virtual Private Networks, or VPN, are incredibly useful online resources if you implement them correctly. They can provide privacy and anonymity since they hide your IP address and send it through tunnels that they generate themselves with protocols, such as OpenVPN and Internet Key Exchange, version 2 (IKEv2,) among others.
The reason why VPN technology masks your IP address and your generated data is to keep them off-limits to every external agent on the web that may use that information to take illegal advantage of something or to harm you. Some of these threats are hackers, crypto miners, cybercriminals, data thieves, and your Internet Service Provider, among others.
If you are wondering how your ISP can inflict damage to your system, you should know that it has access to logs of your activity and could tell on you with government surveillance agencies, or they can sell your business without your consent to online companies looking to sell you all kinds of unwanted stuff.
By now, you see just how vital it is to keep your IP address hidden while you browse the web. VPN can do that, but you would be disappointed to hear that some brands leak your IP number around the Internet. Imagine you hire a VPN client that prides itself on guarding your privacy, and then you suffer a hacking attack because you put your trust in a company that didn’t protect it with enough strength.
That is why it is increasingly crucial to test VPN connection, and we will show you how to do it in this guide. Now that you know the consequences of having your IP address visible around the web, let’s review what precisely these leaks are and how many of them exist.
What is a DNS Leak?
Domain Name System (DNS) is the measure by which web addresses translate easy-to-remember names of pages to numeric forms that are more suitable for a machine to process. The resulting number is the Internet Protocol (IP) address. While all devices have one, a VPN connection will mask it and lend you a new one to use for the duration of your session.
If you want to enter a domain successfully, there has to be a DNS translation: the name has to be translated to a number for the machine to understand it. In most cases, your ISP performs this process, but the idea is to hide your content and identity, right? So we use the VPN to do the algorithms instead, and they do it with dedicated VPN servers.
When some of the traffic you generate is processed by your ISP when it should be done by your VPN, we are talking about a DNS leak, because there is something wrong with the Virtual Private Network encryption. Now, reliable brands have DNS leak protection, but even so, you should be continually testing your VPN connection. Remember: we want our stuff hidden because your ISP may “rat” you out in the event of law enforcement. Sometimes the cause of the leak may be your operating system sending IPv4 – the tool that assigns IP addresses – requests through your ISP-stipulated DNS server and not from your VPN.
WebRTC or IP leaks
Some browsers have a feature called WebRTC installed. That may sound very standard: one would imagine that they have lots of things pre-built within them. However, it can lead to severe consequences, and here is why: if you encounter a hacker or a moderately skilled person in the matter, he/she can gain access to your real IP address thanks to a WebRTC security flaw, even if you are connected to a VPN.
Don’t panic, though. There are ways to prevent that kind of event from ever happening to you. That’s why you should test your VPN connection whenever you can.
WebRTC means Web Real-Time Communication, and it can leak the person’s IP number whether they are using the VPN encryption or not. With the STUN coding, hackers can access what they want and leave you hanging.
The STUN is nothing more than servers that let devices inherent to the network in which you are connected reveal their IP addresses.
How to test VPN connection
When it comes to identifying leaks in your VPN connection, there are usually two paths to attack the issue: performing what are called basic test, or more advanced ones. The former can be run by almost anyone, and it involves using a website and following a series of quick steps, while the latter requires technical knowledge.
Basic tests may show IP or DNS leaks, but they may let a few ones go by: they can’t detect all of them, whereas advanced testing can identify them entirely.
How to test for VPN leaks – basic
To achieve what you want, which is examining your VPN connection, you should:
- Connect to a VPN server. From now on, your visible IP address should be the one that was provided by your VPN.
- Visit the test site.
- Interrupt your Internet connection on purpose by disabling Wi-Fi or plugging out the Ethernet cable with the VPN running.
- Reconnect to the Internet.
- Check if your VPN is leaking your real IP address.
Sites for VPN testing
With this site, you can see if you have any of the above leaks. If your VPN is on, and you’re STILL showing your real world location, this is a bad sign.
How to test for VPN leaks – advanced
The advanced methods to identify whether your VPN connection has IP leaks are not as straightforward to use as the basic ones but are a thousand times more effective. They involve creating a testing suite for your operating system and then running a series of tests to analyze traffic for leaked packets.
One of the top VPN brands in the market, ExpressVPN, developed advanced tools to check for leaks in your VPN connection that you can download from GitHub. The process is free of charge, and the nature of the resources is of the open source variety.
How to protect yourself from leaks
- Hire a VPN with DNS leak protection, a firewall-like feature that prevents generated data from leaving your system unencrypted.
- Implement a VPNCheck Pro for Windows, which is a kill switch with a DNS leak solution.
- Deactivate WebRTC in your primary browser, especially if you have Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera. You can do it manually or with the ScriptSafe extension for Chrome and Opera.
- Configure your VPN in your router, not on your device.
How to test your VPN speed
We have shown you what to do if you have a suspicion that your VPN is leaking your IP address. Now, you should know that you can also test your VPN speed of connection, which is a relevant feature that you can’t dismiss.
The best method to achieve a successful speed test is using some web pages and services, such as Speedof.me, Testmy.net, and speedtest.net. By default, VPN technology may affect your rates by approximately 10%, although some brands make sure you don’t even feel a reduction.
The primary factor that affects VPN connection speed is the location of the servers you connect. If you are in Europe and join an Australian server, the odds are you will experience lag, buffering, and poor performance. Other reasons may be low processing power, bandwidth restrictions, number of people connected to the same server, and your ISP throttling your session.
VPN malware tests
Sometimes, your trusted VPN app may come with embedded malware, which can gravely compromise your online security. Free VPN clients continually present this issue, so you need to be careful which one you pick.
To test your VPN for malware, upload the software file to VirusTotal, and the database will scan the file using more than 60 Antivirus tests.
In conclusion, your online security is way too valuable for you to take the issue lightly. Even if you don’t have the feeling that your IP address or WebRTC is leaking, make sure to test your VPN connection regularly.