01 July 2020
Amidst the ever-evolving threat landscape of today, being at the receiving end of a hacker's malicious schemes has become a matter of 'when,' rather than 'if.'
However, in the face of such adversity, a security silver lining is readily available to us in the form of a virtual private network, which is more commonly referred to as a VPN.
By providing users an unprecedented level of privacy through high-grade encryption, many security specialists have gone to call a VPN a 'game-changer' in the cybersecurity world.
Although the multiple advantages that a VPN offers to users uphold themselves amidst an arsenal of highly sophisticated threats, arguably, the most significant benefit that a VPN has to offer is that it masks a user's IP address.
An IP address is basically a personalized marker, that helps identify the online activities of a particular internet user. Furthermore, a customized IP address is assigned to each user by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which allows them to keep tabs on their customers' online activities and, in some instances, even interfere with them.
Unless you're boosting your privacy and security by using a VPN, there’s a reasonable chance your unmasked IP address could get you in some trouble with the authorities.
Considering the shocking prevalence with which identity theft takes place today, having your IP address out in the open can have devastating consequences since it reveals confidential information such as your location and details about your browsing habits.
Using a VPN not only amps up your online privacy, but it also conceals your IP address with an IP address of one of its servers, preventing any malicious agents from gaining access to your whereabouts to your identity.
However, as an increasing number of individuals increase their reliance on VPNs, the VPN market has become saturated with poorly-made, 'free' VPNs that do more harm than good. More often than not, using a free VPN can result in a leak and provide hackers an entry point into your browsing activities.
Considering the massive amount of free VPNs available both on the App Store and the Google Play store, it is only natural for any security-conscious individual to look for ways that help determine whether or not their VPN is working correctly.
In an attempt to aid our readers, we've compiled an article that delves into some of the ways through which you can tell if your VPN is working. Before we can get into that, however, we'd like to have a look at some of the most prevalent VPN leaks that occur.
The word 'VPN' is considered to be a key component of security within organizations and enterprises and is thought to be a crucial part of most enterprise cybersecurity infrastructures in place today.
However, there might be multiple reasons as to why a VPN provider with ulterior motives (read: VPNs which describes themselves as “free” or “cheap”, which are essentially two sides of the same coin) might not be a hundred percent genuine in providing security to their users. Some ways through which a VPN might actually be meddling with your privacy include the following:
As we've already mentioned above, your IP address carries a lot more significance than we typically associate with them. For starters, gaining access to the particular IP address of a user can provide hackers a plethora of vital information, such as the exact coordinates of your location and the websites you frequent.
However, a VPN with an IP leak defeats the purpose of using a VPN since details regarding your IP address are still available to any sneaky hackers. Typically, an IP leak occurs due to an incompatibility between two internet protocols, namely, IPv4 and IPv6.
WebRTC, which stands for Web Real-Time Communication, is a feature that is built into most popular web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Brave. Owing to the inclusion of WebRTC, users can utilize features such as voice and video chat, although the technology does pose a threat to VPN users.
Some malicious websites, however, can exploit the WebRTC feature by inserting a few lines of malicious code that allows cybercriminals to circumvent the encryption tunnel created by your VPN, and gain access to your original IP address. Furthermore, websites that provide or block certain content based on your location often utilize WebRTC leaks to determine your actual location, even while you're using a VPN.
Another highly prevalent type of VPN leak is the DNS leak, which cybercriminals can exploit to reveal your actual location. In this type of leak, the DNS server responsible for converting IP addresses into numerical IP addresses is exploited, and sensitive data about your location and online activities are made public.
Moreover, perhaps even more disastrous is that a DNS leak can further lead to a DNS hijacking attack, which can wreak an insurmountable amount of damage to an organization.
Considering the vast amount of risk associated with VPN leaks, performing testing to ensure that your VPN is working correctly is critical to guarantee cybersecurity for the long-term. With that being said, here's how you can determine whether or not your VPN is working correctly.
A properly-functioning VPN always conceals your IP address. To ensure that your privacy is being protected, here's how you can check for IP and DNS leaks:
Turn off your VPN, and find out your original IP address by Googling “what is my IP”.
Once you've noted down your original IP, turn on your VPN, and find out your IP address once again. If the results show your original IP, your IP address is being leaked.
You can also check for DNS leaks, by visiting DNSLeakTest. If your location and IP remains the same, even with your VPN enabled, you're also dealing with a DNS leak.
Similarly to an IP and DNS leak, it is equally vital that you check your VPN for any WebRTC leaks, by taking the following steps:
Find out your original IP address, and make a note of it.
Enable your VPN and go to WebRTC Testing, which should now display the server's location and IP address that you've chosen.
If you find your location and IP address unchanged, your browser's WebRTC's feature is being exploited.
In the unfortunate instance that you find your VPN leaking, perhaps the most natural step that you can take is to change your VPN provider. To prevent IP and DNS leaks from occurring, you must invest in a VPN that offers dedicated DNS servers (as many folks have pointed out), or you could either manually turn off IPv6 on your devices.
Furthermore, users can prevent WebRTC leaks by switching to a browser without a WebRTC feature. They can install individual browser extensions such as the 'WebRTC Network Limiter,' to avoid cybercriminals from exploiting the technology.
At the end of the article, we'd like to reaffirm everything that we've said across the article and reimbursing the significance that VPN use had amidst the complex threat landscape of today!
I've been using Macs for both work and leisure for more than 15 years, starting off with a second-hand G3 iMac running OS 9.
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