IP leaks and how to check for one

, minute read

Internet threats and vulnerabilities are risks every internet user should be ready to encounter, mitigate, and even avoid. Most of the vulnerabilities arise from various factors, but many are due to weaker internet security and poor privacy protection mechanisms. To prevent this, many internet users around the world are using anonymizers and VPNs for internet security and privacy.

VPN for privacy

A VPN achieves privacy by changing your IP address – the unique numeric address that identifies a device on a network. A VPN does this by assigning you a virtual IP address when you connect to one of the VPN servers. With the virtual IP address, any tracking and identification will end at the VPN’s doors.

IP leaks and how they occur

In a nutshell, an IP leak is a situation where your masked IP is revealed under some given circumstances. There are many ways in which IP leaks occur even when you are protected by a VPN. We are going to look at three major ones;

  • WebRTC bug

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is an interface or standard used by browsers to enable real-time communications via chats, video calling, and even filesharing. Apart from being useful, WebRTC is a flaw on its own which can be exploited by attackers or anyone seeking to pry on you. This is because, for WebRTC communication to occur, websites are allowed to directly determine the actual IP address of a device even if a VPN or any anonymizer is used. To prevent this IP leak, you have to disable webRTC services in your browser. This bug affects Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera browsers.

  • IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leaks

Internet Protocol Version 4(IPv4) is an addressing standard that is used to define devices on the internet based on their IP addresses. Since the internet has been expanding, IPv4 addressing was getting maxed out hence another standard, IPv6 was put in place. When using a service such as a VPN to hide your IP address, the operating system (OS) can get confused when sending IPv4 requests. This confusion makes the OS resolve the issue by using the default DNS server sometimes the one offered by your ISP, and this leads to a leak.

IPv6 leaks also occur but not due to the OS, but because most VPNs don’t support them and hence fail to tunnel IPv6 requests. Your ISP eventually services them, and this also leads to a leak.

  • Dropped VPN connection

This is the simplest form of IP leaks, and it happens when your VPN connection drops. When this happens, it is as if you are surfing the internet normally and anybody can see your IP address. To avoid this, use a kill switch. Most VPNs provide this feature, and it cuts all the outbound/inbound traffic when a VPN connection drops.

From the above ways, it’s hard to know if you have suffered an IP leak. But worry not, there is a simple procedure you can use to know if your IP has leaked. Proceed as follows;

  1. Before using any VPN or anonymizer, go to any website that checks for IP addresses and writes your own down.
  2. Now connect to a VPN a server and then revisit the IP website and see what IP address is displayed. It should automatically be the one corresponding to the server you connected.

If the displayed IP address in step 2 is similar to the one assigned by your VPN, then your IP is not leaking. If it’s the same as the one in step 1, then either your VPN connection hasn’t gone through yet, or your IP address is leaking.

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