Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in recent years have become a constant companion of all those who value their privacy and the security of personal data when browsing the Internet. The popularity of VPNs is growing exponentially every year, and new providers of virtual access appear like mushrooms after rain.
Why do millions of people around the world use VPN?
The reasons may vary, but most VPN users agree that the added layer of security helps them feel comfortable and secure online. As technology advances, maintaining online privacy is becoming increasingly difficult, and VPNs do an excellent job of protecting their customers from digital spying, identity theft, intrusive advertising, and all sorts of scammers and cybercriminals.
But is a VPN a complete solution that completely hides your identity and online activity from prying eyes? Let’s try to answer this question as briefly and accessible as possible.
Who can potentially see that you are using a VPN?
Not every person on the network has the ability to see that you are connected to a VPN. However, some categories of users can still do this. Who has access to this information and how can it be obtained in general?
Let’s answer the “who” question. This can be done:
- Your Internet Service Provider (i.e. Internet Service Provider);
- Various websites or apps (eg Netflix, Ivi, etc.);
Let’s answer the “how” question:
- Since the ISP provides you with Internet services, they can see all the connections you make through their servers. This does not mean that the status “VPN user” automatically appears above you. However, based on the IP addresses you use and the encrypted traffic, they can theoretically figure out that you are connected to the virtual server.
- Some apps and websites block access to their services if you use a VPN. Such sites use a specialized algorithm for analyzing the behavior of site guests and quite easily identify VPN users. This can be partially avoided – if you use a VPN when you first enter the site, use it on subsequent visits to avoid unnecessary suspicion. Put yourself in the place of the site owner – if a user registered on a site with a IP address at 12 in the morning, and at half past one he entered from an IP address from Malaysia, then this should prompt certain thoughts.
- Hackers can see that you are using a VPN if they successfully access your data over an insecure network (such as public Wi-Fi without a password), or if you connect to a fake open Wi-Fi created by attackers.
Can the government and intelligence agencies track VPNs?
You’re not on the federal wanted list, are you? Then you definitely don’t have to worry about it. The fact is that the federal authorities will definitely not waste their time on random VPN users. And any intelligence officer should have a legal basis for increased interest in any person and, moreover, to identify the fact that this person uses a virtual access service.
When federal agents suspect someone of a crime, they contact the ISP with a formal request for connection logs and the user’s online activity history. Once they find traces of a VPN connection, they may try to contact the provider of that VPN. In the event that the VPN does not keep logs of user data (the so-called “zero log” policy), their search for a suspect ends there.
In addition, there are not many cases where the authorities actually contact the owners of VPN services. After all, they have many other methods of tracking down potential criminals. Did you know about it?
Will I be tracked if my VPN crashes?
When a VPN disconnect occurs, your data is no longer encrypted and your real IP address becomes visible. Your ISP has access to your IP address activity (such as the websites you visit), so it will be very easy to track you in this case.
What should users do who want to protect themselves from such an undesirable phenomenon as a VPN disconnect? In this case, they use the best VPN that is able to offer their customers a feature like Kill Switch. This virtual provider option blocks your device from accessing the Internet if the connection is accidentally dropped.
What conclusions can we draw?
In general, the fact that your ISP or some online service has revealed the fact of using a VPN should not be bad news for you at all. This alone is not enough to worry about your privacy and the security of personal data. It is one thing to detect the fact of connection through a virtual service, and quite another to gain access to personal data and online activity. Remember that with an active VPN, your location and online parameters are securely encrypted, and your real IP address is almost impossible to trace.