When you want to stay anonymous on the web, the best solution is to use a VPN to hide your IP address and geographic location. This system prevents anyone from spying on your connection. However, a DNS Leak can negate the action of the VPN. We will explain you how to avoid this leak.
Virtual Private Networks are great for security, but they are often used to conceal or modify an IP address. Those who use a VPN are basically looking to cover up their real IP address. Moreover, with a VPN, all your movements on the web are encrypted and sent to a VPN server. These servers operated by your VPN provider manage all data on the server side and are encrypted. VPNs offer private internet access, streaming services, and safe online activities. A secure VPN provides multiple server locations, so users can access even wi fi networks when accessing VPN protocols. This way, you are secure.
Therefore, any outside eyewitness sees only the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP address. VPN providers are taking tough measures to protect their users’ IP addresses, such as IP sharing and no logging. However, there is always a risk that your IP address will be discovered when using a VPN. Read on to find out if your VPN is leaking your IP address and what you can do about it.
What is a DNS Leak?
This is definitely the kind of question you should be asking yourself since DNS leaks can be dangerous for your internet privacy. The sooner you learn what they are, the better your chances of preventing them.
DNS is the abbreviation for Domain Name System, and it is responsible for translating website names into IP addresses, and vice versa. Think of DNS as the Internet’s phone book – it enables communication between devices and websites connected to the Internet, and each DNS server maintains a directory of domain names that can be translated into IP addresses.
The DNS system links the domain names and the IP addresses of the target servers. When you use your browser to access a website, it sends a query to a DNS server with the desired URL, and this directs you to the correct IP address. It is a crucial part of the functioning of the Internet.
Unfortunately, there are times when your web browser ignores the presence of your VPN and sends the DNS query directly to your ISP. This is called a DNS Leak. When this happens, you think you are browsing the Internet anonymously and escaping online surveillance, when in reality you are not at all protected.
An IP leak is the act of letting a user’s real IP address escape while connected to a VPN service. This can happen when a user’s computer unknowingly accesses default servers rather than the anonymous VPN server assigned by the network – such as VPNs. Here is a very simple example to understand this “IP leak”:
Let’s suppose you want to access content that is not accessible (due to geo-restrictions) from your country. When you log into your VPN account, you can usually choose between multiple servers from different countries. The VPN will “pretend” you are actually based in the chosen region. Usually, this is enough to convince you that you are indeed in one of the supported countries…
But, if while trying to access the content you want, you are still having geo-restriction issues, it means that the service you are trying to access from a banned country is actually tracking your original IP, and not the VPN server IP. Clearly, your VPN lets your original IP address through.
Most types of IP leaks relate to any network protocol at one point or another on your smartphone, but the best VPN providers have built workarounds into their software to reduce the likelihood of IP leaks. Usually, it is not the VPN service provider that is involved in IP leaks. These are usually caused by vulnerabilities inherent in existing technologies such as browser plug-ins (flash), web browsers and operating systems on our smartphones.
Likewise, some DNS Leaks can reveal your original IP address to the DNS server. If your VPN experiences a “DNS Leak,” it means your DNS requests are being sent to a dangerous DNS server (usually a server controlled by your ISP). Some VPNs have built-in DNS leak protection, use their own custom DNS server, and rely on specific technologies to ensure that the routing of your DNS requests is perfectly secure within the encrypted VPN tunnel.
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use a technology called “transparent DNS proxy”. This allows them to intercept all DNS queries passing through their servers. If you specify a different DNS server than your ISP’s on your home computer or router, this does not prevent these requests from being potentially intercepted. If you’ve ever changed your DNS settings to use an “open” DNS service, like Google or OpenDNS, in the hope that your DNS traffic will no longer be sent to your ISP’s DNS server, you might be surprised to learn that ‘they also use the “transparent DNS proxy”.
How to check if your VPN is leaking your IP
Your real IP address is the one assigned to you by your ISP. It can be used to specifically identify your Internet subscription. All devices on your home network share the same IP address.
Here is a simple procedure to check if your VPN is working correctly and not revealing your IP address:
Step 1: Check your IP address – Make sure your VPN is NOT connected. Once certain that your VPN is disconnected, open Google, then type in “what is my IP address” to verify your real IP.
Step 2: Identify yourself on your VPN – Log in to your VPN account, then to the server of your choice. Double check that you are logged in.
Step 3: Connect to your VPN – Connect to your VPN account. Double check that you are connected.
Step 4: Perform a DNS Leak Test – Several free websites allow you to check if your VPN is leaking your IP. Overall, these results give you more complete visibility into your security and privacy settings.
What other leaks is your IP address vulnerable to? How to solve it?
Another common leak called “Dropped Connection” occurs if your VPN suddenly disconnects. In this case, all of your web traffic is routed through your usual (less secure) internet connection. The classic IP leak is also the easiest to prevent.
For example, you can choose a VPN service with a “kill-switch” function, even for your smartphone. The “kill switch” is an essential part that constantly monitors your network connection and ensures that your real IP address is never disclosed online, even if the VPN connection is dropped. If a change is detected, the kill-switch immediately cuts off internet connectivity and tries to automatically reconnect the VPN. I invite you to take a look at this feature when you compare.
VPNs can be a great tool for protecting your privacy online, but they can be discredited. Hope this article has alerted you to the risks of IP leaks and the importance of regular checks to make sure your data stays safe and security protocols are in place.