Are VPNs Safe? How to Know If My VPN is Working

Using a VPN gives you a sense of security when browsing online. A VPN can help heaps, especially for digital banking services. However, if you sign up with the wrong provider, problems can crop without you knowing. Here are some of the concerns you need to be aware of.

Most of what you hear about VPNs are positive. They provide online privacy, encryption and security – but they’re not always perfect. While using one can understandably give you a greater sense of security, there are some risks involved. 

What to be Concerned About in VPN Use?

Generally speaking, using a reliable and reputable VPN service is fine and you won’t have to worry about most common risks. However, if you choose the wrong service to sign up with, problems can crop up even without you knowing.

Free VPNs Can be Risky

If you choose the wrong VPN, that itself is a danger and poses a risk to you. Among the most dangerous VPN services in the market are those supposedly marketed as ‘free’.

Such free services can carry an unusually high proportion of risk. Why? The reasoning is pretty simple. To provide a VPN service is expenesive. Hardware, software, and expertise costs lots of money.

If a VPN service is given away for free – where do you think the company makes it’s money? One common income stream for free VPN service providers would be the sale of your data – the very thing the VPN promised to protect.

If you are not paying for the said service, you are not the customer. You become the product.

Of course, there are legitimate free VPN services in the market. These are the ones that typically offer a limited free service – and offer you the option to convert to a paying customer if you need more.

Logging Policies

If a VPN collects and stores your information, your risk profile increases. There is a reason why top VPN service providers advertise their service as “No Logging”.

If there is no data about you or your activities kept by the VPN service provider, they cannot be compelled to hand it over – as happened before with IPVanish.

For those seeking a VPN to sign up with – make sure it includes a no-logging clause, spelled out in black and white!

Country Jurisdiction

Using a VPN that is registered in a country whose government has strict data retention laws can be dangerous for you. This is because the VPN may be forced to store some user information.

So, even though the VPN advertises a strict zero-logging policy, this becomes irrelevant, as your data can still be compromised. Take note that if your VPN provider is under a company registered in US or EU jurisdiction, they cannot claim to provide no-logging services.

Having said this, there are still legitimate zero-logs VPN service providers

Can Authorities Track VPN Users?

In general, police and other authorities cannot track live, encrypted VPN traffic. They may be able to suspect you are using a VPN and take steps to pressure the VPN provider into providing them with information.

Hence, if you are using a VPN to escape the reach of the authorities, you should consider a VPN provider that’s based in countries with no data retention law.

Leak Protection

While VPN privacy is mostly good, loopholes tend to exist even in the best technology. Leak Protection is what separates the good from the great VPN brands. There are two main types of VPN Leak to consider – IP address leaks and DNS leaks.

What is Leak Protection?

Leak Protection is the actions the VPN takes to address IP address leaks and DNS leaks. While these leaks may not always be the VPN provider’s fault, it should take steps to address the issue.

One way a VPN service provider may implement Leak Protection is via something called a Kill Switch. This mechanism will prevent all data from being transmitted from your device the moment the VPN detects a connection loss to the server.

IP Leaks

Part of how VPNs work is by helping mask your IP address. The IP is what helps others track you online. Unfortunately, even with a VPN, security flaws can reveal your real IP.

If you’re unaware that your VPN is experiencing an IP leak, this means that you’re going online with a false mindset of privacy and security. This is very dangerous. 

There are several simple steps that you can take to confirm if your VPN is safe to use. Run them before you start using your VPN. Bear in mind that there are VPNs that are equipped to prevent such leaks. Go for these VPNs.

DNS Leaks 

If you experience a DNS leak when using a VPN, your DNS requests are sent to an unsafe DNS server. Your true IP is exposed to this unsafe DNS server. This could lead to a DNS hijacking attack where you are purposefully routed to fake websites. 

When this happens, there is this possibility of you handing your private information to criminals. So always go for a good VPN with built-in DNS leak protection.

WebRTC Leak

Most popular browsers have Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) built in. It is a basic technology that enables peer-to-peer functionalities on your browser without additional plugins or other apps, such as real-time communications applications (voice and video chats). However, this presents a vulnerability for VPN users.

This is because it’s possible to create a program that establishes a WebRTC connection to your browser where your real IP can be obtained via this way. Since this leak originates from the browser, it is possible for those geo blocking websites to find out your real IP even if you’re using a VPN.

Kill Switch

When your VPN connection drops, your device typically switches back to your regular connection. When this happens, you may not be aware and continue to browse the internet believing that you’re still protected. In actual fact, your device and activities may be exposed. 

Look for a VPN that comes with a Kill Switch that will automatically either terminate the connection or quit pre-selected programs to mitigate the chances of sensitive data leaking.

How to Check if Your VPN is Functioning? Three Ways to Find Out

While VPNs are so useful, they can sometimes be a bit difficult to configure correctly. If they are not working as they should, you might find yourself exposing more than intended.

You can use the following methods to find out if your VPN is functioning properly:

  1. Check for IP address leaks
  2. Check for DNS leaks
  3. Check for WebRTC leaks

Unfortunately, while these leaks are common and easily tested for, there is no way to do it all at once. You need to check and resolve for them individually.

How to Check for IP Leaks

  1. First check your real IP (provided by your ISP). 
  2. If you’re using a VPN, turn it off.
  3. Go to your VPN IP test page or what is my IP?; the test will run automatically.
  4. Take note of your real IP.
  5. Turn on your VPN, connect to any server. 
  6. Go to your VPN IP test page or what is my IP?
  7. Check the results.
  8. Compare with your earlier obtained IP (real IP).
  9. If they match, this means your VPN is leaking. 
  10. If they don’t match, rerun this test with different servers to ensure that your VPN is airtight.

How to Check for DNS Leaks

  1. First check your DNS.
  2. If you’re using a VPN, turn it off.
  3. Go to your VPN DNS test page or what is my DNS?; the test will run automatically.
  4. Take note of your DNS.
  5. Turn on your VPN, connect to any server.
  6. Go to your VPN DNS test page or what is my DNS? 
  7. Check the results.
  8. Compare with your earlier obtained DNS.
  9. If they match, your VPN is leaking your DNS information.
  10. If they don’t match, rerun this test by connecting to different VPN servers. You want to ensure that your VPN is truly airtight. 

How to Check for WebRTC leaks

  1. Launch your VPN.
  2. Connect to any server.
  3. Go to your VPN WebRTC test page; the test will run automatically.
  4. It will show your IP, your IP version (IPv4 or IPv6) and whether you have a leak.
  5. Check to see if the IP address result matches your IP.
  6. If they’re the same, there is a WebRTC leak. 
  7. If they’re not, re-run the test with different VPN servers to be sure.


On the whole, VPNs are safe. They provide a host of features that can keep your data and identity secure, that is if you choose a reputable and reliable VPN.

If your VPN is susceptible to DNS, IP or WebRTC leaks, you need to take action swiftly and resolve this. The best solution is to switch to a better and more reliable VPN. Choose one that has built-in workarounds to minimize IP leakage.

In general, it’s not easy to choose a truly good, affordable and reliable VPN. But once you have committed to one, you’d want to know if it’s worth its salt. Therefore, it’s a good practice to test yours to see if it’s leaking information about you online.