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VPN tests: How to check if your VPN is working properly

VPN leaks occur when your real IP address becomes visible, even though a VPN is intended to mask your true IP address. Luckily, there are ways to determine if your VPN has a leak. Keep reading to learn how to test VPN effectiveness.

How do VPN leaks occur?

VPN leaks occur most often in one of three ways:

1. WebRTC leaks

WebRTC leaks occur when your true IP address is leaked and exposed through your browser’s WebRTC functionality. What’s that? WebRTC is a basic technology feature that assists with peer-to-peer functionalities on your browser without the need to install plugins or other apps.

2. DNS Leaks

DNS stands for domain name system. It’s the system by which website names are translated into the long IP addresses that identify specific websites. In a DNS leak, your true IP address becomes exposed when your DNS request is either sent unencrypted outside of your VPN or when your VPN server somehow is bypassed.

3. Browser extension leaks

Something called “prefetching” is a browser function that makes searches quicker and more efficient, but it can come at the cost of reduced online privacy and data security if your VPN is leaking. Browser-extension VPN leaks happen when Chrome VPN extensions “prefetch” a domain name by predicting what websites you are going to visit to speed up connections.

How to test for webRTC VPN leaks

WebRTC uses Session Transversal Utilities for NAT protocol — also known as STUN protocol. This enables your public IP address to make peer connections that expose your public IP address even if you are using a VPN.

The first step to solving the problem? Find out whether you have the problem. So it’s important to test if your VPN is leaking your IP address. Follow the steps below to determine if you have a leak.

Step 1: Go to Google or another web browser and type in “what is my IP address.” Before you do this, make sure you’re not connected to your VPN. Write down your IP address.

Step 2: Log in to your VPN and verify that you are connected to the server of your choice.

Step 3: Go back to your browser and type in “what is my IP Address” and check your IP address again. It should show the masked IP address of your VPN.

Step 4: Finally, use one of several free websites that will enable you to run a WebRTC VPN test to check if your VPN is leaking your public IP address.

If both steps 3 and 4 do not show your public IP address, you should be fine. But if your search shows your VPN-masked address — but the WebRTC test shows your public IP address — you have a leak.

What to do if you have a WebRTC VPN leak

If you have a leak, you should disable WebRTC on your browser. This is done differently for each browser, either by changing settings or installing a plug-in to do it. Worth noting: Some VPNs will help protect against WebRTC leaks.

How to test for DNS VPN leaks

Sometimes when you are using a VPN, a DNS leak can occur. This happens when your DNS queries are sent outside of the secure VPN encrypted tunnel and your data is sent through your default DNS servers rather than the secure, anonymous VPN server. Often, a DNS VPN leak is due to improper configuration of your network settings.

Unlike testing for a webRTC leak, the best way to check for a DNS leak is to use a website. There are a number of free websites that you can use to test for a DNS leak, such as DNSleak.com*.

If you find that you’re dealing with a DNS leak, there are several fixes you can try. Visit DNSleaktest.com* to find the best solution for your situation.

How to test for browser extension VPN leak

Browser extension VPN leaks occur due to prefetching. Prefetching is activated by default when using Chrome browsers.

Here are steps you can take to test whether you have a browser extension VPN leak.

Step 1: Activate the Chrome plugin on your VPN.

Step 2: Go to chrome://net-internals/#dns and click on “clear host cache.”

Step 3: Then go to any website to confirm the leak.

What to do if you have a browser extension VPN leak

Step 1: Go to Chrome://settings in your address bar.

Step 2: Next go to “Search settings” and type in “predict.”

Step 3: Then disable the options “Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar” and “Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly.”

Using a trusted VPN can enhance your online privacy and security, but it’s important to make sure that your VPN is not leaking.

A final note about VPNs and public Wi-Fi

It’s important to remember to use a trusted VPN when using public Wi-Fi.

Why? Even if you use a password-protected public Wi-Fi hotspot, you can’t be sure how secure that public Wi-Fi connection really is.

Here’s just a sample of the things you probably wouldn’t know.

  • Who set up the network.
  • What security steps they took.
  • Who else may be on the same public Wi-Fi network. Could they pose a threat to your online privacy or data security?

And keep in mind, you may think you are on a legitimate public Wi-Fi network, but you may be using the Wi-Fi network set up by an identity thief sitting nearby who could set-up a false network to intercept the data you send and receive from your device.

Using public Wi-Fi while you shop or conduct personal banking or other financial transactions could put you at risk of having your data accessed and your identity compromised.

A VPN can help you avoid these dangers. Just do a VPN check first to make sure it doesn’t leak.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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