We rely on our Internet Service Provider (ISP) to browse the web and enjoy a myriad of online applications. However, an ISP can also keep track of what we do on the internet and they can even sell our online data to third parties. Our internet browsing history is shared with whoever is willing to pay the highest price. In light of these revelations, people who are concerned about their privacy have opted for using a VPN to protect their online activities from prying eyes. More and more internet users are subscribing to VPN services in order to prevent their ISP, government organizations and large corporations from spying on them. One of the first questions that you may ask when you are considering to get a VPN is what exactly does your ISP see when you use this technology. Here we will explore this.
Is your ISP able to see you are using a VPN?
When you use a VPN, a secure connection is established between the device you are using to access the internet and a private server. Your traffic is encrypted and the data received by your ISP is sent through the VPN server you are connected to, which prevents eavesdroppers, including your ISP from accessing your traffic. Regarding the question of whether or not your ISP can see that you are using a VPN, the answer is yes.
However, they can’t see what websites you visit or what you do when you are online. Since a VPN encrypts your internet traffic, the data becomes unreadable. Your ISP won’t be able to track you and won’t have any browsing history to sell. In addition, when you use a VPN, your IP address is masked. Instead of seeing the IP address assigned by your ISP, others (including the ISP itself) will see the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to. This keeps your identity and browsing history protected.
Are there any vulnerabilities that may make your data visible to your ISP, even if you are using a VPN?
A reliable VPN can defend your privacy from threats like online surveillance carried out by the government, hacking and ISP tracking. Still, there are flaws that could decrease the level of protection that you can get from a VPN. For instance, the WebRTC issue, which affects popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox could potentially compromise your privacy and anonymity, even if you are using a VPN. WebRTC could expose your real IP address if a website you visit is using this technology. Many good VPN providers offer information and solutions that address WebRTC so it is important that before you subscribe to a VPN, you check reviews and find out what technology is supported.
How to check the performance of your VPN
The security vulnerabilities that we previously referred to, can affect popular VPNs, as well as others not so well known. This is why it is important to carry out some tests that will allow you to find out if your VPN is really protecting your privacy. With the help of tools like IP testing and DNS leak testing, you will be able to get a better idea of how effective your VPN is and what your ISP can really see when your VPN is in use.
DNS Leak Test
DNS stands for domain name system and it converts a website from its common URL to a numerical Internet Protocol Address. When you use a VPN, your previously configured ISP DNS is changed, preventing your ISP from monitoring your browsing activities. Using a testing website like dnsleak.com, you can find out if there are DNS leaks that are exposing your privacy. First of all, you need to disconnect the VPN and write down your ISP DNS. Check the IP address and location that is displayed by the testing site. Then you can complete the same process after connecting to the VPN, which should show a different IP address and location, based on the VPN server you are connected to.