Every time I hear or read this phrase I think about some sort of expensive plumbing problem.
And you know what? Just as a plumbing problem could be catastrophic, a leaky VPN could be as well.
So what can you do to make sure all is well and you don’t have some maintenance to do?
First, let me explain what we mean when we talk about a leaky VPN, then I’ll address what measures to take should you find you have a problem.
To be honest, if you’re using a credible and well-reviewed VPN, there probably isn’t a high chance you have to worry. But the smart person never takes anything for granted, so checking to see you’re safe every once in a while is a good idea. Because even if the Virtual Private Network you’re a part of is reputable, mistakes happen. Someone flips switch A when it should have been B. Or hackers have discovered a new exploit and there isn’t a patch for it yet.
You get my point, right? Even in the best of circumstances, things can go wrong.
Before we go any further, lets briefly discuss how this could adversely impact you. Say you’re torrenting with Free VPN and you’re assuming it works like it’s advertised to work. If you’re ISP is spying on your activity and you’re VPN isn’t hiding you as it should, you are setting yourself up for a heap of trouble. But more on that in a bit.
So how do you know if your VPN is leaking?
Check Your IP Address
If you’re here looking for info on leaky VPNs I’m going to assume you know what your VPN should be doing in the first place. One significant thing it can and should do is hide your IP address. This is your public IP address. And you can be tracked by your IP address. Your data could be at risk.
To check your IP address you first need to know what it is, and that info is easy to source. There are several websites that will provide it, but my favourite to use is whatismyip.com. Without a VPN you’ll be presented with a few bits of info including your IPV4 address, your IPV6 address, your geo-location and perhaps your ISP. If you’re using a VPN and if it isn’t leaking, you should not see your geolocation or your ISP. If you do, you definitely have a problem.
Check Your DNS
DNS stands for domain name system. To keep things simple, it’s the DNS that make domain names and IP addresses work in conjunction with each other. When you open your browser and type a domain name in the address bar, DNS translates everything.
Finding out if your DNS is leaking is done in much the same manner as checking your IP address. There are websites you can use that will give you results to check and see if your IP address and the owner of your DNS is visible. If it shows the DNS of your ISP—and you’re behind a VPN—then your VPN is leaking.
What a Leaking VPN Means for You
The main purpose of a VPN is twofold. It should allow you to anonymously traverse the internet, and it should keep all your data encrypted while you do it.
In order to carry out that first purpose, your VPN needs to keep your IP address hidden from prying eyes. Eyes that want to spy on you. See what you’re downloading or uploading. What sites you visit. Where you shop and what you buy. All that information is nobody’s business, am I right? When you use a VPN you surf the internet behind the walls of their private network. Your own IP address is hidden, and to any website or service you access, it looks like you are arriving from the IP address of the private network. The VPN. If the VPN is leaking that info is no longer obscured. You are no longer safely hidden. Everyone can see what you’re doing and your data isn’t safe.
What are the ramifications if VPN is not working?
Let’s say you like to upload and or download torrents. Since this is something that’s frowned upon—to put it mildly—your ISP is constantly on guard, waiting for any sign that you’re engaged in behaviour they are going to take exception to. You’ve been smart and protected yourself. You thought your VPN was doing its job, but then you get an email from your ISP in reference to that movie you just downloaded.
My advice—especially if you download torrents—is to regularly check to be sure your VPN is going its job. Use the methods mentioned above and ensure that you’re as safe as your VPN provider is saying you are.