How to check if VPN is working

How do you know whether your VPN is doing its job? You may think your VPN is working even while it leaks your identity and location. Leaks can be hard to spot, so use these tips to see if your VPN is really protecting you.

The most common VPN leaks

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There are many reasons why your VPN might not be providing 100% security and exposing your private information. Here are the most common ways that your VPN could be leaking:

  • IP leak

    Your IP address says a lot about you, like your location or the websites you visit. A VPN protects you from snoopers trying to access this information, so if your original IP leaks it defeats the purpose of using a VPN. This usually happens due to two internet protocols, IPv4 and IPv6 and their incompatibility.

  • DNS leak

    Sometimes your IP might stay hidden while your DNS address secretly reveals your location. The DNS server changes plain text URLs into numerical IP addresses. If you’re not using a VPN, this process is handled by your ISP and their servers, which can see who visited what websites. If your DNS leaks, then anyone snooping on your traffic will be able to access this information too. It could even lead to a DNS hijacking attack.

  • WebRTC leak

    Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is built into most popular browsers (i.e., Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Brave). It enables real-time communications such as voice and video chat, but it also presents another vulnerability for VPN users.

    Some websites can take advantage of WebRTC by inserting a few lines of code to see past your VPN and discover your original IP. This is very useful for websites that provide or block content based on your geo-location.

It’s possible to prevent these leaks, but first, you have to identify them. You can do so by running some basic tests that anyone can do.

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How to check for IP and/or DNS leaks

  1. You need to find out your original IP address given by your ISP. If you are currently using a VPN, turn it off and head to this page.
  2. Make a note of your real IP address.
  3. Turn on your VPN and go back to the test website.
  4. It should now show a different IP address and the country you connected your VPN to. If the results show your original IP address, then, unfortunately, your VPN is leaking.
  5. Sometimes IPLeak tests fail to detect DNS leaks, which can also reveal your identity. So it’s advisable to check it on DNSLeakTest.
  6. If your VPN is on, DNSLeakTest should show the location you’ve chosen and your new IP.
  7. Select Extended Test to dig even deeper. This test might take a few minutes.
  8. If the results now show your new IP address and your chosen country, you are safe. Your VPN isn’t leaking.

What to do if your IP and/or DNS is leaking

The easiest way is to change your VPN provider to one that has dedicated DNS Servers or offers DNS leak protection, like NordVPN. Or you could manually turn IPv6 off on your device. However, this might require some technical know-how.