What Does a VPN Hide? And What Does It Not Hide?

what does a vpn hide

Your Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great way to hide most of your traffic data. However, it’s essential to understand the limitations of your VPN. This article addresses this by providing eight things you VPN can hide and five things it won’t. So, what does a VPN hide? Let’s find out below.

Eight Things Your VPN Can Hide

VPNs provide you with a lot of internet privacy. To find out how his privacy system works, here are eight examples of what you hide behind a VPN.

#1: Your Search History (Sort Of)

google activity settings screenshot

The first area most people assume where their VPNs work is search history. In this case, a VPN works by preventing internet service providers (ISPs) and other interested parties from connecting your search history to you. However, companies like Google and Bing will still collect some aspects of your search data. 

The good news behind what is hidden is that third-party cookies will be useless. They will rely on data from wrong locations and incorrect identifiers. In this way, your search history is considered private. 

Use private search engines for additional security that doesn’t contribute to programmatic advertising. Here are some excellent options:

#2: Your Browsing History

Outside of search history, you have browsing history to contend with. While VPNs won’t hide your browsing history from you, you will hide it from ISPs. These providers always want to track your data for better reporting, sometimes throttling it if you use undesired sites. 

Your browsing data is also part of hackers’ comprehensive social manipulation strategy. Unwanted individuals access your data to get a good idea of what you do. They can use this to call your financial institution, pretending to be you to get access to your banking details. 

Ensure your browser is set up to clear your history after each disconnection for extra security. This ensures your safety in most situations. 

#3: Your Internet Traffic and Online Activity

Your general online traffic is scrutinized outside of browsing and search history. Much of the non-browser traffic comes down to connection and traffic logs. If you use online-powered applications and programs, you are at risk of exposing this activity. 

VPNs are the only surefire way of hiding this information. These online apps aren’t built with hiding your input in mind, often sending it to third parties for an attempt at better earnings. If you use a lot of free applications, you already know that they trade programmatic advertising in exchange for your information. 

When referring to mobile apps, be sure to spend time cleaning your cache. You can do this manually by accessing your app manager to download a premium cleaner. Always be sure to check the privacy policy of the apps you use to ensure your account data isn’t being sold. 

#4: Your IP Address and Geolocation Data

google maps location screenshot

Your IP address contains a lot of information about who you are and where you are. IP addresses include the following information:

  • The city you reside 
  • Your ZIP/area code
  • The ISP you use
  • Your name (sometimes)
  • More detailed physical address information
  • Your phone number (with reverse engineering) 

The risk of exposing your geolocation data comes with extreme circumstances. Back to the earlier example, hackers use this geolocation data to understand where you are from. They can find your address and phone number with some additional effort, which is often enough to get basic information about you.  

When calling out to your local bank, they might not take security as seriously as you. If they don’t have you set up a phone password or other two-factor authentication method, you are at extreme risk of having this information stolen. 

If you have parents, elder abuse commonly starts with people hijacking this information. Hiding your IP address is vital for preventing mass exposure of data on the web. Using a VPN effectively does this with minimal effort. 

#5: Personally Identifiable Information 

 Part of your IP address comes back to finding out personally identifiable information. You might also need to enter some of this information into secure forms. While SSL certificates help with the encryption side, there is always a chance for leaks coming from data transfers.

Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks are the most common cause for those leks. If you use public WiFi networks, you expose yourself to that potential. However, you might not have a choice but to use these public networks when traveling. 

MITM attacks direct your traffic to phishing sites that attempt to steal your data. It won’t protect you in the event you willingly provide this information. So keeping your eyes open on the URL of your site is still essential. 

#6: Torrenting Data 

BitTorrent website screenshot

 To torrent is to download shared files from users “seeding” from different locations. It provides an easy method for ISPs and governments to track your torrent data. This data tracking effort is often from companies to protect their intellectual properties.  

Many privacy-conscious individuals who use services like Tor browsers believe that intellectual property is an out-of-date concept. As a result, they are willing to go through piracy. We can’t recommend doing anything illegal, but overcoming government censorship is another story. 

Torrenting sites are great ways to acquire documents that your country would typically hide. In this case, you might have a new perspective on matters typically downplayed by more data oppressive governments. When traveling, accessing information you would generally be able to get quickly is challenging.

The OpenVPN’s mission statement is based on overcoming more oppressive countries. As a fellow VPN company, we agree that the government shouldn’t dictate your ability to explore unapproved ideas.

#7: Your VPN Usage (Sometimes)

Some advanced VPNs can hide the fact that you are using a VPN. This process is known as obfuscation, and it hides your encrypted data behind an additional layer of fake data. The counterfeit data fabricates connection and traffic logs, going beyond hiding your location. 

“Normal” VPNs will usually hide your data behind encryptions. A deep packet analysis would produce a blur of random numbers and letters. When online services see this, they know you are using a VPN, sometimes allowing them to block you before you access their website. 

However, obfuscating your data isn’t 100% effective at preventing VPN blocks, as there are other signs you use a VPN. For example, IKEv2 uses the port UDP 500. If you’ve got a NY-based business and a connection from Switzerland from inside the network through this port, it isn’t hard to find out you are using a VPN.

#8: Your Streaming Activities

 Overcoming location-based blocks enable you to unlock different streaming targets. Alongside this, any data you send to the streaming service is encrypted. Given that third parties use streaming data to target you with programmatic advertising, it can help you hide.

Streaming data is not an activity limited to overcoming Netflix browsing. Streaming activities also include a consistent internet connection of listening to music or playing video games. There is a lot of data sent through persistent connections. 

It is relatively easy to intercept persistent data connections. By using a VPN tunnel, you prevent these interceptions from occurring. 

Five Things Your VPN Doesn’t Hide

 Despite VPNs being a great source of privacy, they don’t protect everything. To find out where you need to take extra steps, here are five things  VPN doesn’t hide: 

 When VPN users say that their VPN doesn’t work, it is often due to lingering cookies. Cookies, which come in two different forms, can quickly identify you based on existing data. These cookies often include simple codes, but others might be more malicious regarding programmatic advertising. 

Removing these cookies (particularly the more malicious third-party ones) is essential to killing a company’s further attempts at gathering information on you. After every session, deleting your cookies prevents these data-gathering companies from gaining consistent pictures. 

A VPN might give new cookies useless information, but you can’t hide old cookies from before you started using a VPN. Before you activate your VPN, remove existing cookies.

#2: Your Online Identity 

If your ultimate goal is complete online anonymity, that’s impossible. While you might be able to avoid having an online presence, third parties and government agencies do store information about you on a server. If you want to participate in modern society, you’ll need to deal with this. 

The most secure method of accessing online sources is Tor over VPN (having your VPN active while using a Tor browser.) if you are like most of us, ten-year-old you didn’t have the foresight to recognize this. You probably have some old accounts from the early days of internet browsing. 

Even when you had privacy-conscious parents, privacy controls were weaker back then. At the same time, PPTP Protocol was around back then; businesses mainly used it. 

#3: Account Data

hidden account data screenshot

Any information you willingly share with the internet will likely be there for a while. Having a Google Account or any online account means your data is there. Your data is readily available online puts it t risk for potential leaks. 

A VPN works with data that you send from your computer. So while cookies will show limited or inaccurate information, any data already on the other side doesn’t receive the same protection. In this way, it is vital to be selective with where you put your information. 

You won’t need to share your information with anyone in an ideal world. Anonymous accounts and email services exist, so sticking with those can be helpful. 

This is important with Google accounts which use your account information to bypass search engine data blocks. When your account is logged into Google, their search engine data is collected. 

#4: Infections From Malware

Viruses and malware infections are getting incredibly creative. While your VPN helps hide your privacy, malware stays on your computer. This means that any data it gathers doesn’t have the same protections.

For example, keyloggers look for standard number strings that match how you would input credit cards. They take this information and send it to external channels. That information is typically sent to the dark web, where it is resold via illegal marketplaces

Hackers can also use the exact process to easily steal passwords and other data. Otherwise, attacks might try to encrypt files on your PC so you can’t use them. Accessing these files will require you to pay the hacker. Ransomware attacks are becoming more commonplace. 

To avoid most of these issues, make sure you have an antivirus that prevents this situation. Modern antiviruses have anti-phishing and ransomware protection tools. Keeping those systems up-to-date will prevent you from running into most problems. 

#5: Your Mac Address

Unlike your IP address, your mac address is specific to identifying your device on LANs (local area networks). Because this information isn’t made available to the web, it isn’t typically an exposure concern. However, the usage of public wireless networks does relate this to some risk exposure.

Criminals can use evil twin attacks (where people copy the names of public networks) to spot this information. However, having a mac address doesn’t give any hackers extra access to your PC. So while a mac address isn’t a security risk,  VPNs won’t protect it in either case. 

VPN FAQs

Do I need a VPN if I have incognito mode?

Yes, incognito mode only works to delete your browsing history and cache after using the internet. While private browsing isn’t a bad idea, it doesn’t help protect your connection. 

What does a VPN hide from parents?

If your kids use a VPN, they will be able to hide their connection and traffic logs from routers. With this in mind, you’ll want to be sure that your VPN isn’t available to your kids if you’re going to track their browsing. 

Conclusion – How Good are VPNs At Hiding Me?

VPNs are excellent at hiding your online activities. However, you must understand their limitations. Using the additional security measures above will help you ensure you remain hidden. However, anonymous browsing is a bit more of a challenge.

To start remaining secure online, download The Fast VPN today. Our military-grade encryption will keep you safe while using any network. 

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