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Can you be tracked using a VPN? [updated]

Can you be tracked using a VPN? [updated]


What does a VPN hide?

When you connect to a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) server, your IP address changes, and the data traffic on your device is encrypted. Changing your IP address changes the location associated with you online: If you use the Internet in Australia, but connect to a VPN server in the US, you will appear on the Internet with a US IP address. Meanwhile, encryption obfuscates the data, making it seem like gibberish to anyone trying to read it. If you use a trustworthy VPN service, your browsing activities become unreadable to hackers.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be completely tracked online. Internet service providers (ISPs), websites, and even governments can determine whether or not you’re using a VPN. They may not know what you are going to do online, but they will have no trouble figuring out a VPN. So, how can a VPN be tracked?

Can I be tracked if I’m using a VPN?

No, web traffic and IP address cannot be tracked anymore. However, if you are using a poor quality VPN, you can still be tracked. A high-quality VPN encrypts data and hides your IP address by routing your activity through the VPN server; Even if someone tries to track you down, all they will see is the IP address of the VPN server and complete nonsense.

Can You Be Tracked If You Use a Free VPN?

Free VPNs need to make their money somehow, often by selling your data to third parties. Some free VPNs will monitor and record your public connection information. This includes your IP address, the IP address of the website you are trying to visit, the connection time, and the amount of data transferred. As you can see, keeping track of this information pretty much gives you everything you do online anyway, and it doesn’t provide any privacy – which makes the point of a VPN useless.

Can ISPs track VPNs?

Can my ISP see my VPN? While using a VPN, your ISP can only see that the encrypted data is going to the server. They cannot see the contents of your traffic, or where you travel to and from. Your ISP won’t be able to see the websites you visit when using a VPN, or anything you do online while you’re connected to the VPN.

Can you be tracked if you use a VPN and the connection drops?

Your data is exposed again, if your VPN connection drops. Your ISP will be able to see what you’re doing online, as well as what websites you’re visiting. Premium VPNs come with a Kill-Switch feature that makes all your devices offline instantly, if your VPN connection suffers.

Some VPNs may accidentally reveal your actual IP address through DNS leaks. NordVPN prevents DNS leaks by using our own DNS servers exclusively.

You may also be tracked if you are using a free VPN service. If you are not paying for the VPN yourself, chances are that the VPN provider will be logging your activities and selling this valuable data to third parties.

How can your VPN be tracked?

The best VPNs will not let your IP address identify you. However, there are ways to limit VPN traffic:

  • VPN IP address. It’s not difficult to learn the IP addresses of VPN servers – there are even databases that specialize in VPN detection, which try to determine if an IP address belongs to a particular provider. When you access a website using a VPN, it may be able to determine that you are using a VPN using your IP. However, this does not mean that the website will know who the person behind the IP address is – just that they are using a VPN.
  • port number. Some VPN protocols use specific port numbers to establish a connection. For example, OpenVPN (UDP) typically uses port number 1194, while OpenVPN (TCP) typically uses 443. So, the port number can reveal what type of VPN connection you are using.
  • Careful examination of samples. DPI is a process that involves checking the structure of each passing data packet. It contains many useful applications, such as blocking spam or malware. However, it can also be used to limit VPN traffic. This is what the government of China uses to block VPNs.
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Who can track me online?

When online, you can be tracked by:

  • Internet service providers. ISPs can see what you do online and even limit your traffic. However, a VPN hides your IP address, encrypts your traffic, and protects your online privacy.
  • Government agencies and other similar entities. They can contact your ISPs or online service providers to get data about you or just use their tracking methods.
  • Internet criminals. They can track you and steal your data by intercepting your traffic over public Wi-Fi. However, a VPN protects you from that by encrypting your data. Even if the Wi-Fi network you are connected to is hacked, your data will still be protected.

Here are some of the ways you can be tracked online even when using a VPN:

  • biscuit. Websites often use tracking cookies to make your browsing experience smoother. Cookies are small pieces of code that are downloaded and stored on your device or browser when you visit a website. This is done so that the website can track your requests – cookies are the reason why your online shopping cart is not cleared every time you refresh the page. Third party cookies are commonly used for advertising and can identify and track you across different platforms. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent them.
  • Browser fingerprints. The browser you use can reveal a lot about you: the extensions you have, your screen resolution, and the operating system you’re using. This type of data can form a unique identifier, but it will not reveal personal information about you on its own.
  • Malware or spyware. If you accidentally download malware, it can track your online behavior and steal sensitive information directly from your device. Stalkerware can also be installed on your device by someone you trust.
  • Data collection sites and services. Most of the services we use collect our data or track our behavior in some way. Social media and search sites like Google or Facebook contain a great deal of information about our online usage and habits.
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Can the government track you if you use a VPN?

As mentioned earlier, governments can decide if you use a VPN service. For example, the so-called Great Firewall of China uses DPI and other methods to identify and block VPN traffic. Fortunately, NordVPN’s obfuscated servers help handle some of these VPN detection methods, so it’s great if you’re connecting from a strictly censored area. They mask your VPN connection by making it look like normal internet traffic.

But can hidden traffic be monitored by a VPN? It depends on the VPN. If the VPN has a no-logs policy, even if the government contacts the VPN provider, the provider will not be able to hand over logs of your activities because they don’t have any logs to begin with.

Some VPN services agree to install government backdoors, allowing agencies to monitor user traffic. For example, government approved VPNs are allowed to operate in China. However, given the country’s tendency to control all online communication, it is very likely that a “legal” VPN in China has back doors.

Can Google track me if I’m using a VPN?

It depends on your behavior if you are browsing the internet while connected to your Google account then it can trace your online activities back to you. Since the VPN changes your virtual location, it may appear that you are accessing websites from a different region, but Google will still be able to identify you.

Let’s say you are logged into your account when you are connected to a VPN server. You go to YouTube and watch some awesome puppy videos. The next time you go to the website and you’re not connected to a VPN, you may still see cute dogs in your suggestions.

There are a few other ways Google can track you online. For example, cookies and browser fingerprinting can also trace your activities back to your account. However, you can reduce tracking by using privacy-oriented browsers and cookie blockers.

Can my employer track me while using a VPN?

This mainly depends on the type of VPN you are using. Business VPNs have a different function than commercial VPNs. If you are connected to a business VPN provided by your employer, chances are they can monitor you. Most business VPNs record employee activities and do not guarantee the anonymity of your employer.

But let’s say you are using a commercial VPN. If your workplace monitors the behavior of employees online, it is possible to detect a VPN. However, they will need to install monitoring software on your work machine to see what you are doing online. For example, if your company installs keyloggers directly on your computer, the VPN service will not be able to hide what you type on your device from your employer.

Which VPN to Choose to Prevent Tracking

While a VPN protects you from tracking, you should also be careful when choosing one. We highly recommend staying away from free VPN services as they usually do more harm than good. The problem is that many of them monetize their operations by collecting user data and selling it to third parties, or by bombarding you with ads. Moreover, they may have very limited functionality.

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Here are some other aspects to keep in mind when choosing a VPN provider:

  • Obfuscated servers function. It hides the fact that you are using a VPN, so no one can block your connection if they find you doing so. It is especially useful when working from regions where the VPN connection is restricted;
  • kill switch. This function terminates your online connection if the VPN service is down. In this case, your online activities will not be accidentally exposed;
  • Strong encryption. Ensure that the VPN uses the latest encryption protocols with no backdoors or security holes;
  • DNS leak protection. Ensure that the VPN sends all of your DNS queries through a secure VPN tunnel to keep it private at all times.

Take a look at NordVPN’s additional security features here.

Protect yourself properly.

Encrypt your traffic and maintain privacy

How do you know if someone is using a VPN?

If you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell if someone is using a VPN. With a VPN, all user traffic is routed through a single IP address of the VPN server they are connected to.

Without a VPN, the traffic will appear to be routed through many different IP addresses, based on the different websites the user visits. The VPN assigned IP address will also be different from their real IP address, which you can check against known VPN IP addresses.

But you can hide this fact by using the obfuscated servers function, which hides the VPN’s metadata so that no one can see that you are using the VPN.

How to Run a Simple VPN Detection Test

You can run a simple VPN detection test by comparing your real IP address with the one your VPN gave you. Here’s how:

  1. Make a note of your real IP address, which our IP finder will show you right away;
  2. Turn on your VPN;
  3. Check your IP address using our IP lookup tool. It should now show a different IP address and the country your VPN is connected to.

Connect to NordVPN and you’ll never have to worry about your IP leaks again. Moreover, its Dark Web Monitor function will notify you if your credentials associated with your email address are exposed to the dark web.

How can I track?

Staying anonymous online is tough. However, there are ways you can reduce your digital footprint:

  • Be careful what you post online. The information you reveal about yourself can be a goldmine for hackers;
  • Ditch Google to get more private search engines;
  • use of privacy-oriented browsers;
  • Use a VPN.

In general, if someone is intent on tracking you online, you will need to be very careful and thorough to remain anonymous. If you choose a VPN service carefully, it can still protect your data from ISPs, criminals, and government surveillance. NordVPN has a plethora of security-oriented features to ensure your privacy online, no matter what device you are using.

Find out why NordVPN is one of the leading VPNs on the market. Try it for 30 days with a money back guarantee.

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