Can Ip Address Be Traced With Vpn
Can you be tracked if you use a VPN: answering all your questions
2021, August 25 · 12 min read
In short: can a VPN be tracked?
It’s really difficult to track a VPN because your IP (Internet Protocol) address is changed and your online activity is encrypted. Some internet service providers (ISPs) or websites may know that you’re using a VPN, but they can’t see your actual online activity.
Why do millions of people around the world use VPNs? Reasons vary, but many agree that it helps them feel at ease on the internet. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to have privacy online, and a VPN does a great job of protecting its users from digital spying, tracking, data collection, invasive advertising, and cybercriminals.
But is a VPN an all-round solution to the invasion of online privacy? It’s natural to raise these questions. That’s why I’m here to answer them.
What do we talk about when we talk about tracking?
It’s important to first understand what tracking is in this context. There are three aspects to it:
Can someone see that you’re using a VPN?
What information is available to them?
Can they see what you’re doing online?
Let’s explore it.
In what ways can you be tracked online?
Malware. Accidentally installing malware on your device can result in severe issues like stolen personal information or even fraud.
IP address. Unless you use a VPN, a proxy, a Tor browser, or any other privacy protection tool, your real IP address is visible to websites you visit.
Cookies. Advertisers can track you across the internet based on cookies, whether you use a VPN or not. However, popular browsers like Google Chrome allow you to block cookies if you’d rather not have your internet habits saved and stored on the internet.
Digital fingerprinting. More intrusive than cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting uses your computer settings, software, web browser preferences, and other similar things to make a digital portrait of you.
DNS leak. DNS leaks can happen when a VPN or a DNS is not set up correctly and when your device gets hacked. These leaks can compromise your privacy by exposing your activity online. To avoid DNS leaks, use a VPN that provides you with their own DNS addresses.
Doxxing. Doxxing is a malicious practice that people use to expose someone’s private information, like their home address or workplace.
As you can see, an IP address isn’t the only identifier on the internet. Thus, a VPN isn’t the only solution to online threats. Apart from anti-virus programs, we should also be cautious about suspicious links and emails.
Phishing is as old as the internet. And no one is really safe from it because modern phishing tactics can be seamless. We can all feel a bit spaced out sometimes and not notice warning signs when they’re there. It goes without saying, though, that not losing common sense on the internet is crucial.
Apart from that, there are also tools that help filter out email scams, like CleanWeb by Surfshark.
Who can (potentially) see that you’re using a VPN?
Not every person online will see that you’re connected to a VPN. But some can. Who has access to this information, and how can they see it?
Let’s answer the who:
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider);
websites or apps (e. g., Netflix);
Let’s answer the how:
Since your ISP provides you internet service, they can see the connections you make through their servers. It doesn’t mean that there are bold letters proclaiming that you’re using a VPN, but based on IP addresses and encrypted traffic, they could theoretically connect the dots.
Some apps and websites don’t give access to their service if you’re using a VPN. They can detect it by blacklisting IP addresses that many different people around the world use to connect. This kind of IP looks suspicious to a service provider; thus, it gets blocked.
Hackers can see that you’re using a VPN if they try to get to your data through an unsecured network (e. g., a public Wi-Fi without a password), or if you connect to a fake open Wi-Fi created by shady persons.
It’s important to note that your ISP or an online service seeing that you use a VPN isn’t bad news. That’s because it doesn’t mean that they can see what you’re sharing. When you connect to the internet through a VPN, your IP address appears that of a VPN, so your real IP address cannot be tracked.
Mask your VPN traffic with obfuscated servers
A VPN hides your online traffic, while an obfuscated server hides your VPN usage. It’s like an invisibility cloak — sometimes called a stealth VPN.
Where can you “get” those obfuscated servers? Well, some premium VPN providers (Surfshark included) use them. At Surfshark this functionality is called Camouflage Mode.
Obfuscation is great for bypassing various VPN blocks, like Hulu or Netflix, as well as the Great Firewall of China.
Is a free VPN a viable option for privacy?
In the last few years, VPN popularity skyrocketed. That’s why there are seemingly hundreds of VPN apps promising privacy and security online. Everyone wants a piece of a VPN market pie.
It’s essential to be extra careful when choosing your VPN provider. While a free VPN might seem like an okay choice, you should know that secure VPN technology requires a lot of investment and resources.
How do they make money if users don’t pay for the service? Usually, it means that your data is being sold to advertisers and marketing companies. Sometimes these free apps are so invasive that they get more out of you than just your online habits, purchases, and visited sites. Some can have access to your full name, phone number, or even home address.
If you’re concerned about being tracked with a VPN, I suggest not going for free options.
Can the government track you through a VPN?
Here’s the thing: federal authorities don’t waste their time on casual VPN users. There needs to be a legal foundation for them to take an interest in someone’s VPN activity.
When federal agents suspect someone of a crime, they go to an ISP to ask for connection logs. After detecting VPN connections, they might try approaching a VPN provider. If a VPN keeps no logs of users’ data, they will have nothing to offer even if they wanted to.
However, there aren’t many cases of authorities approaching VPN providers because they have multiple other methods of tracking a potential criminal down. We also have an extensive guide on “Can police track a VPN” that you might want to check out as well.
Can you be tracked if you connect to a VPN server in the same country?
Connecting to a VPN server in the same country is just as secure as connecting to a server in a foreign country. The only downside is that you won’t bypass geographical restrictions since your ISP sees you in the same location.
If a VPN disconnects, can you be tracked passively?
When a VPN disconnects, your data is no longer encrypted, and your real IP address is exposed. Your ISP has access to the activity of your IP address (e. g., the websites you visit), so you’re a much easier target for tracking when you disconnect from a VPN.
A solution to this problem is a so-called Kill Switch feature that some VPN providers offer. I’ll talk more about that in the next section.
Can a VPN be hacked?
While anything can be potentially hacked, a good VPN is safe from hacking due to all the security measures necessary for it to work. The same can’t be said for all VPNs – the free ones are especially shady and can be the actual vector for stealing your data or installing malware on your device.
So can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
The answer is that it’s difficult, but not impossible. If someone really wants to track you online, they will probably find a way to do that, whether you use a VPN or not.
However, a VPN keeps your browsing activity safe. Even those who can see that you use a VPN (i. e., your ISP, websites you visit, or even hackers) can’t access your data, real location, or any sensitive information. Make sure to choose a VPN with transparent privacy and no-logs policies, like Surfshark.
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What does a VPN hide? | NortonLifeLock
A virtual private network (VPN) can hide a user’s internal protocol address (IP address) and block their location and browser history, allowing them to share and receive information on public internet networks more privately.
Whether you’re searching something online or communicating via social media, you’re leaving digital footprints in the form of your browsing history, cookies, and cached data.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government, and other third parties can track what you search, visit, and download.
Even if you use a private browsing mode, your IP address can still be collected.
When you download and enable a VPN prior to browsing, a VPN can offer online privacy and increased security by helping hide your online identity and encrypting your traffic. Hackers and third parties will only be able to see the IP address of the remote VPN. This prevents them from accessing your location, browser history, or the personal information you may have sent or received during that browsing session.
Here are the seven main things that a VPN hides:
1. Search History
You can clear your cookies and search history from your browser. But chances are your ISP has recorded the websites that you’ve visited. VPNs can hide your search history and other browsing activity, like search terms, links clicked, and websites visited, as well as masking your IP address.
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Can you truly remove your search history?
No. You’re removing the file references from your directories, but your operating system won’t simultaneously erase this data. It only moves the information to a special area on your Mac or PC’s hard drive.
If you use a VPN each time you browse, third parties will only be able to see the IP address of the remote VPN. This disables them from pinpointing your location, ISP and, potentially, other personal information.
2. IP Address
Your IP address identifies your device on the Internet or a local network. It’s the key data that connects you to your location, ISP, and web search history.
IP addresses can share sensitive information about you that includes your physical location such as your city, state, ZIP code, and country. It can trace back to your home ISP, which could reveal your name, home address, phone number, and credit card numbers.
Instead of sending information directly from your IP address, the VPN server’s IP address is associated with your activity.
For example, if your VPN service provider has servers around the world, you could appear to be connecting to the internet from a different country.
3. Medical Diagnosis and Health Conditions
Medical providers often operate through private client portals. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has set standards in the exchange of protected health information (PHI). This is the diagnosis, procedures, and counsel between doctors, clients and medical facilities.
HIPPA requires healthcare facilities to operate on private networks. These secured portals encrypt your medical information from outside parties. VPN networks allow medical professionals and patients to safely access confidential medical information untampered.
4. Travel accommodations
Travel and airline websites associate the information that you’re researching with your IP address. When you visit online travel booking websites multiple times to find better deals, a cookie has likely already locked into a price.
A cookie is data sent from a user’s computer to a website. They can identify your past travel searches, online profiles, all the way to your home address. Any action like clicking on a link can trigger an “event. ” Marketers use analytics tracking tools to track website traffic and user behavior. It only takes a short amount of time for advertisers to bombard you with retargeting ads.
VPNs can block tracking technologies, allowing you to search travel websites anonymously and avoiding advertisers altogether.
We already mentioned that your IP address can identify your geolocation. Browsers and websites use this information to map web traffic from different cities, states, and countries.
For example, when you use Google Maps, you must enable your phone to detect your location. Websites use the same technology.
One side benefit of using a VPN is known as geo-spoofing. This means a VPN “fools” websites and other online services into thinking you’re in one location when you’re really in another.
This could provide access to geo-restricted services or help save money while doing online shopping. But remember to always check your service agreement rules and observe government laws and regulations.
6. Personally identifiable material
A VPN can hide your online identity by masking your IP address. It encrypts your location and the data you send and receive, helping protect your personal identifiable information (PII). This data can come in the form of your bank information, as well as Social Security and driver’s license numbers. If a hacker gains access to your computer, your PII is could be vulnerable via audio files, messages, and passwords.
Even secure websites can become vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Using a VPN network can increase your protection when you go online, from hackers and cyber thieves.
BitTorrents (torrents) are metadata files and folders that are shared and downloaded between users on a network. This gives users access to movies, music, and other forms of media content.
Though torrenting isn’t illegal, downloading copyrighted material like movies or songs is a violation. Since your ISP can track your activity, so can the government. Using a torrenting service without a VPN can sometimes lead to warning letters or even hefty fines from the government.
Even if performed legally, torrenting can be dangerous. Downloading unknown files can result in you downloading malware. These viruses can infect your computer and corrupt your files. VPNs can prevent online peers from seeing your IP address, which could help prevent hackers from singling you out.
How to choose a VPN
When choosing a VPN, consider your needs for the device. User-friendliness, speed, secure encryption, and price are all important factors to examine. You also want reliable customer service, should anything out of the ordinary occur.
Consider using a secure VPN network that provides powerful protection and is capable of connecting other devices in your home. Research online reviews, but be careful of sites that promote affiliate websites. You can also talk to your tech-savvy friends and get their insight on recommended products.
Most importantly, when purchasing a VPN, it’s best to buy from a software company that you trust. So, no matter where you are, you can search the internet knowing that your connections are safer.
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Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN? – CactusVPN
VPNs are an excellent way to protect your online privacy and data. Besides unblocking geo-restricted content, that’s probably the second main reason people use VPNs in the first place.
There’s just one thing that’s probably on your mind – can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
Let’s find out in this quick article.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN?
Yes and no.
No, your web traffic and IP address can’t be tracked anymore. The VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address by routing your connection requests through a VPN server. If anyone tries to track them, they’ll just see the VPN server’s IP address and complete gibberish.
Yes, there still are some ways your online browsing might be tracked even if you use a VPN:
Malware is malicious software and code that were programmed to take over a network or device. Unfortunately, VPNs can’t protect you from malware infections. They can only protect your online data, not your hardware.
The best a VPN can do is offer a firewall-like feature that blocks connections to malicious domains. But even that’s not enough to stop malware infections. You might just accidentally download a malicious file from a legit site or interact with a phishing email, for example.
If that happens, hackers can use the malware to track everything you do – what you browse online, what passwords you type, what files you save to your hard drive, what you talk with your friends, etc.
The best line of defense against malware is a strong anti-malware program (also called anti-virus software). If you’d like some recommendations, try Malwarebytes or ESET.
Besides that, do the following to further protect your data from malware attacks and phishing:
Use password managers like LessPass and 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) or MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) on all your script blockers like uMatrix and uBlock anti-phishing browser extensions like NetCraft, MetaCert, and PhishDetector. Alternatively, use Stanford’s Anti-Phishing Browser our anti-phishing protection tips.
Cookies are small text files that websites place on your device whenever you visit them. Most cookies are harmless and necessary to help sites run well. However, some persistent cookie and third-party cookies are pretty bad for your privacy since they let sites and advertisers track your online preferences and behavior.
Due to how cookies work, VPNs can’t protect you from them. They’re not programmed to intercept files that download to your device, after all.
On the plus side, VPNs should protect you from ISP supercookies – tracking files that are stored on your ISP’s servers, and get inserted into your data packets when you go online. Since a VPN encrypts your traffic, your ISP shouldn’t be able to insert supercookies into it anymore.
Besides that, VPNs should theoretically stop hackers from intercepting your cookies and creating forged ones over unsecured WiFi by encrypting your traffic.
Clear your cookies whenever you use a VPN. Here are some guides for the most popular browsers:
Besides that, you should also use incognito/private mode in your browser (it automatically deletes cookies when you close a tab), the Cookie AutoDelete (Firefox, Chrome, Edge) and Self-Destructing Cookies (Opera) browser extensions, and CCleaner (a cool tool that removes cookies across all platforms, and only costs around $25 per year).
3. Browser Fingerprinting
This is a tracking method websites use to monitor visitors by linking behavior patterns to them. Browser fingerprinting does that by assigning a unique identifier to you every time you visit a site. Said fingerprint can contain a lot of data – your time zone, screen resolution, web browser and OS version, system fonts, etc.
For a complete list of all the data browser fingerprinting collects about you, check out Device Info.
Unfortunately, browser fingerprinting is a pretty accurate tracking method. According to the EFF’s research, only one in 286, 777 other browsers will share the same fingerprinting with a different user. So, your own fingerprint has a very good chance of being unique and standing out.
Because so much data is collected, a VPN can’t stop websites from tracking you with browser fingerprinting. The most it can do is hide your IP address, but that won’t really make your fingerprint less unique.
Due to how it works, you can’t completely protect yourself from browser fingerprinting – unless you were planning on going off the grid and living in the woods any time soon.
Still, there are some things you can do to make your fingerprint less unique:
If you post personal information about you on social media (email address, phone number, whereabouts, etc. ), someone can still track you even if you use a VPN. Please understand there’s no way a VPN can hide all the information you voluntarily make public.
Even worse, somebody could use all that information to dox you.
For starters, don’t post (too much) personally identifiable information on social media. And definitely don’t tell random people on the web your current whereabouts. Do strangers really need to know your home is empty on weekend nights or that you’re very drunk at club X or bar Y?
What’s more, you should also take steps to make your social media account more private. Here are useful guides for most platforms:
5. VPN Logs
VPN logs contain data about how you use a VPN. There are two types of logs:
Usage logs – They track your IP address, the sites you visit, and the files you download while using the nnection logs – They track timestamps, bandwidth usage, and your IP address while you use a VPN.
Both types of logs are bad for your privacy. After all, you’re using a VPN to stop ISPs, advertisers, and governments from tracking you. What’s the point of doing that if the VPN will track you instead?
The best thing you can do is use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs. If you’re looking for one, we have great news – CactusVPN stores zero logs.
6. VPN Leaks
A VPN leak is when your IP address or DNS queries leak outside the VPN encrypted tunnel. If that happens, anyone can track your web browsing and IP address even if you’re using a VPN.
There are different types of leaks:
WebRTC LeaksDNS LeaksIPv6 LeaksTraffic Leaks
But they’re all equally disastrous for your privacy.
Test the VPN to make sure it’s not leaking. You can use our testing guide to check for all leaks.
If the service is leaking, consider switching to a VPN that offers leak protection (like CactusVPN). You simply turn on the DNS leak protection switch from the CactusVPN app.
Also, here’s what else you should do to prevent leaks:
Disable Teredo and SMHNR on Windows 10 (they cause DNS leaks). Disable IPv6 if your VPN doesn’t support IPv6 traffic. Disable WebRTC in your browser + use uBlock the kill switch to protect yourself from traffic leaks.
Can VPNs Be Tracked by ISPs?
Contrary to popular belief, your ISP can actually track your VPN connection. It’s not invisible on their network.
Here’s what they can see:
The source of the connection (your IP) connection’s destination (the VPN server IP) long you’re connected to the you connect to the much data you exchange with the port your connection uses. Whether or not you use OpenVPN (if they use DPI).
So quite a lot of things. They’re only concerning if your ISP plans on blocking your VPN connection, though.
If they use IP blocking, you just need to connect to a different VPN server to get around it. And if they use DPI to drop or block your OpenVPN connections, just use obfuscation (available in CactusVPN through obfsproxy).
Do ISPs Usually Track VPNs?
Not really. They don’t have much of a reason to bother with tracking VPN connections across their networks. It’s a time investment that doesn’t really pay off.
However, there are some situations when they might focus on VPN connections:
When the law forces them to do it. Basically, when governments ban VPN usage or censor certain sites (so they force ISPs to monitor and ban VPNs to make sure people don’t unblock them) they’re worried their users are using VPNs to do illegal things (like illegally downloading copyrighted content) they don’t like that their customers are using VPNs to bypass bandwidth throttling.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN and It Disconnects?
Yes, there’s a chance you can be passively tracked if that happens. And, unfortunately, VPN disconnects can happen no matter how good the service is.
Basically, if your VPN disconnects, and you visit a new site before it can reconnect, the site will track your real IP address. Also, your ISP will be able to track your connection to that site.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to use a VPN with a kill switch. That’s a feature that completely shuts off your web access when your VPN connection goes down. Your Internet access will only resume when the VPN connection is up and running again.
If you’re looking for a VPN with a kill switch but are bummed out you can’t find one, we have good news – CactusVPN offers a built-in system-level kill switch. Simply turn on the Stop internet traffic if VPN connection is dropped toggle from the CactusVPN app Settings.
What’s more, we also offer an app-level kill switch, so you can selectively pick which apps can’t access the web when your VPN connection goes down.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a Free VPN?
There’s a pretty good chance that might happen. While free VPNs are appealing, they’re not 100% reliable or trustworthy. We outlined why in our guide to free VPNs vs paid VPNs, but here are the highlights:
Free VPNs might have poorly-configured encryption or protocols, resulting in VPN VPNs might sell your bandwidth to third could also log your data and sell it to might expose you to malware.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN Server in Your Country?
No, using a server in your country is just as safe as using a server in any other country.
What If You Live in a Country with an Oppressive Regime?
As long as the VPN doesn’t keep any logs, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Even if the authorities were to seize the VPN server, they wouldn’t be able to find any of your data on it. There isn’t any to begin with.
Need a Hard-to-Track VPN?
CactusVPN is the right tool for the job. We offer powerful encryption, secure protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther, SSTP, IKEv2), DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and obfuscation.
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Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN? What Do You Think?
Are there any other ways you might be tracked when you use one? If you know any, please tell us about them. Also, don’t forget to include ways to prevent or limit that kind of tracking.
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Frequently Asked Questions about can ip address be traced with vpn
Does VPN really hide IP address?
A VPN can hide your online identity by masking your IP address. It encrypts your location and the data you send and receive, helping protect your personal identifiable information (PII). … Using a VPN network can increase your protection when you go online, from hackers and cyber thieves.
Can you be traced with a VPN?
No, your web traffic and IP address can’t be tracked anymore. The VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address by routing your connection requests through a VPN server. If anyone tries to track them, they’ll just see the VPN server’s IP address and complete gibberish.Sep 15, 2020