The Truth About VPN Protection: Can You Be Tracked With a VPN?
If you’re concerned about online privacy and security, you may have turned to a VPN for protection. It can help keep your online activity private by hiding your IP address and encrypting Internet traffic. However, while VPNs provide enhanced safety, many people wonder if they are truly invulnerable to online tracking. Read along to find out the truth about VPN protection and whether or not you can still be tracked with a VPN.
Can you be tracked with a VPN?
First off, when thinking about VPN tracking, we probably consider these aspects: сan someone see that you’re using a VPN, and what data is available to them if they do?
While possible, tracking users who are using a VPN is much harder and depends on their online behavior. Here are some of the ways you can be tracked online even with a VPN on:
Not edible, cookies are small bits of data that websites collect to keep track of your site activity, like where you’ve already logged in or when you have items in your shopping cart. While cookies themselves are not harmful, they can be used to identify users even when they are using different IP addresses or devices. Since cookies are stored on the user’s device rather than on the VPN server, it’s possible to be tracked via them while using a VPN.
Short for malicious software, malware is designed to harm or exploit a user’s device. Spyware, a form of malware and a difficult beast to slay, can be secretly installed on your device and start monitoring your online behavior.
Meta reports spyware to be used to target people on social media. All to compromise their accounts and steal sensitive info. This is despite the company’s efforts to remove accounts linked to spying companies. Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at Meta, says that no single company can tackle such a “society-wide” challenge as spyware:
They [spyware companies] are very ready to keep trying to come back, to re-establish their businesses.
3. DNS leaks
DNS leaks happen when a user’s device sends DNS requests outside of the VPN tunnel, revealing their real IP address and location to the websites and services they are accessing. To keep safe from DNS leaks, it’s key to use a reputable VPN provider that offers DNS leak protection.
4. WebRTC leaks
WebRTC can be used to reveal a user’s real IP address even when they are using a VPN. To protect yourself against WebRTC leaks, you can use a browser that has built-in WebRTC leak protection, or get a VPN browser extension that blocks WebRTC requests.
5. Browser fingerprinting
Fingerprinting involves collecting details about your system’s configuration. Your browser fingerprint usually consists of your browser type and version, operating system, plug-ins, time zone, language, screen resolution, and more. This info can be used to track the user’s activity across the web, even if they are using a different device or VPN.
As we see, an IP address isn’t the only thing that identifies us on the Internet. Besides, if you willingly share your personal info on social media or on other channels, a VPN won’t protect it.
Who can track you online?
Here are some of the entities that may want to track your online activity for different reasons:
- Internet service providers (ISPs) — can see your web activity and even slow down your connection speed.
- Advertisers — track users’ online activity to provide targeted advertising based on browsing history and interests.
- Government agencies — track online activity for national security purposes or to monitor criminal activity.
- Cybercriminals — engage in tracking to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card numbers, and other personal data.
- Employers — may want to track employees’ online activity to monitor productivity and ensure that company policies are being followed.
- Tech companies — track your web activity to get more advertising revenue.
What does a VPN hide?
And what does (should) a VPN hide in the first place? In short, a VPN changes your IP address (a unique identifier assigned to each device that connects to the Internet) and encrypts your Internet traffic. This creates a private network between your device and the VPN server. Changing your IP address changes your location online, while encryption keeps your browsing activity private from snoopers.
However, ISPs, websites, and governments can detect that you’re using a VPN. So, how can you potentially be tracked with a VPN?
Can VPNs be tracked?
Yes, if you use a poor-quality or a free VPN. The latter can even sell your data to make a profit. A reliable premium VPN encrypts your data with the latest standards and hides your IP by routing your activity through a different server. And even if someone tries to monitor your traffic, they’ll only see the VPN server’s IP instead of your own and nothing intelligible. You can only be tracked with information you yourself share with the sites or services.
But let’s go over each case for more details.
Can you be tracked with a free VPN?
Free VPNs may sell your data to third parties to make money. Some also keep logs of your activity, including your IP address, the website you’re trying to visit, and data transferred. This information can compromise your privacy and make the use of a VPN pointless. So we don’t recommend using them. It’s better to go for a trusted VPN like VeePN that doesn’t keep invasive usage logs and keeps your data under wraps.
Can VPN be tracked by ISP?
Your ISP won’t be able to monitor your online activities, including the websites you visit or anything you do while you’re connected to a VPN. The only thing they see is that you’re using a VPN. They can only detect encrypted data going to a server and can’t see the content of your traffic or its origin and destination.
Can Google track you with a VPN?
Yes, even if you use a VPN, your online activities can still be traced back to you if you’re surfing the Internet while connected to your Google account. That applies to any web service you need to log into. For better privacy, use a VPN while logged out and consider using a privacy-oriented browser.
Can VPNs be tracked by governments?
Federal authorities are unlikely to monitor casual VPN users unless they have legal grounds to do so. When investigating a crime, they may request connection logs from ISPs and VPN providers. But if the VPN service doesn’t keep logs, they won’t have anything to disclose.
However, authorities have various methods of tracking potential criminals, such as issuing “keyword warrants” to tech giants like Google. Therefore, while a VPN can protect your IP, your own vigilance in protecting your privacy and security online is essential, including avoiding potentially incriminating searches and being careful about the information you provide to online services.
Can VPNs be tracked by employers?
It depends on the type of VPN you are using — a business or commercial (personal) VPN. If you are using a business VPN provided by your employer, they may have the ability to monitor your activities since most business VPNs log employees’ activities.
In the meantime, if you are using a commercial VPN, your employer can only see your online behavior if they have monitoring software installed on your work device. For example, if keyloggers have been installed on your computer, a VPN won’t be able to hide their typing activity from the employer. Other than that, you’re good to go.
Can police track VPNs?
The police can’t track your live traffic without getting approval to access your ISP’s traffic records. Alternatively, they may try to obtain your connection records from your VPN provider. Check out our article on police VPN tracking for more details.
Can you be tracked if your VPN connection drops?
If your VPN disconnects, your online activity and IP address become visible again. To avoid this, go for premium VPNs that offer the Kill Switch feature — it blocks your Internet access immediately if the VPN connection is lost to prevent data leaks. Additionally, some VPNs may accidentally reveal your real IP address through DNS leaks. VeePN avoids this issue by providing DNS leak protection.
How to be untraceable online?
It’s almost impossible to stay completely anonymous online, but you can take steps to make it harder for others to track you. Here are a few things you can do:
- Be careful what you share online, because people who want to know more about you could use that information against you.
- Instead of Google, try using search engines that keep your searches private.
- Use web browsers that focus on keeping your online activity private.
- Use a reputable VPN to help keep your online activity private.
Tips for choosing a secure VPN
Prevent online data tracking with a trustworthy VPN. We strongly recommend avoiding free VPN services because they often do more harm than good. Many free VPN providers collect and sell user data or show you ads. Additionally, some of them may not have all the features you need. Also, some untrustworthy free VPN companies may not follow data retention laws and other regulations, too.
When selecting a VPN, keep these aspects in mind:
- A No Logs policy meaning the VPN provider doesn’t record your online activities or keep any logs that could be used to identify you. VeePN is clear about what data it collects with its strict No Logs policy.
- Strong encryption protocols to ensure your online activity is secure. AES-256 VPN encryption is the industry standard to date. VeePN uses it along with leading VPN protocols to give your data the best protection.
- DNS leak protection keeps your DNS queries private by sending them through a secure VPN tunnel. Enable this feature in VeePN’s settings to prevent data leaks.
- A Kill Switch can prevent your online activity from being exposed if the VPN connection fails. Switch it on in the VeePN app to always keep your data safe.
- Safe jurisdiction. Look for a provider based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. VeePN is located in Panama — the country has no mandatory data retention laws and isn’t a member of any intelligence sharing alliances.
Bottom line: Can you be tracked with a VPN?
VPN tracking is hard, but not impossible. But even if someone knows you’re using a VPN, like your ISP, websites, or hackers, they can’t access your sensitive information, real location or data. Just make sure you choose a VPN with a strict No Logs policy and strong encryption, like VeePN.
FAQ: Can You Be Tracked with a VPN?
Yes, a VPN can prevent your location from being tracked. It masks your IP address and encrypts your online activity, making it more difficult for others to track you.
No — when you use a VPN, your online activity is encrypted and your IP address is masked. The Wi-Fi owner can only see that you’re using a VPN and the amount of data being transferred.
If you’re visiting websites that use HTTPS, the Wi-Fi owner won’t be able to see the specific pages you’re visiting, but they may be able to see the domain names of the websites you’re accessing. That being said, if you’re using a reputable VPN service with strong encryption and security protocols, your online activity should be well-protected. However, it’s always a good idea to use secure browsing practices and avoid accessing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi networks.