Are you concerned about your VPN working properly? A VPN service is often your best bet for masking your IP address and keeping online activities under wraps. However, even when connected to a solid service, all sorts of vulnerabilities can expose you to IP address and DNS server leaks, leaving you less secure online. Fortunately, with the right tools, you can easily check that your VPN is working correctly.
What you need to know about IP and DNS leaks
Before showing you how to check whether your VPN is doing its job, let’s talk a bit about IP and DNS leaks. In simple terms, an IP leak happens when your real IP address is exposed in spite of your device being connected to a VPN.
By default, your computer connects to the servers of your internet service provider (ISP). This means your ISP can very easily see everything you are doing online.
When you install a VPN, it hides your IP address by channeling your online traffic to anonymous servers instead of the servers of your ISP. An IP leak occurs when your computer stops accessing these anonymous servers. Whether you are accessing private sites, performing online transactions, or when torrenting with a VPN, you’d better be sure it’s working to avoid unwanted exposure to your ISP.
A DNS leak happens more or less the same way. Usually, DNS servers are connected to the servers of your ISP. When you type something on your web browser, DNS servers translate this text into numerical data, which basically constitutes your IP address. A DNS leak can end up exposing your actual IP address. The best VPNs have a built-in mechanism to minimize the chances of an IP or DNS leak happening.
Why IP and DNS leaks happen
Most of the time, IP address and DNS server leaks are not the VPN provider’s fault.
These leaks usually happen because of loopholes in your computer system. For example, problems with your browser software, operating system, or plugins can interfere with traffic requests and therefore expose your IP address. That’s why you should always go with a VPN that is compatible with popular devices and operating systems.
Another possible cause of IP and DNS leaks is when your VPN suddenly disconnects. When this happens, your online traffic is no longer protected. Anyone who is looking can see your IP address and the sites you are visiting.
We recommend looking for a VPN with a kill-switch feature that detects sudden disconnections. By killing all communication with the internet when your VPN drops, the kill switch ensures that your IP address is never exposed.
Additionally, leaks can happen if a hacker takes control of your internet router. By doing this, the hacker channels your DNS traffic outside the VPN tunnel. To avoid such threats, it is important to secure all the devices on your Wi-Fi router. We recommend that you check the best VPNs for routers here.
How to check that your VPN is working properly
Unfortunately, there are no physical telltale signs you can look out for to know that your DNS traffic or IP is leaking. Yet, there are testing tools available that make it easy to know if you are suffering any leaks. One tool you can try is IPLeak.net.
Follow these simple steps to find out if your VPN is working:
1. Find out your real IP address: To do this, turn off your VPN service and connect to IPLeak.net. From this site, you can see your real IP and DNS server addresses. Be sure to take note of these addresses.
2. Log back into your VPN service and connect to a server of your choice.
3. Go back to IPLeak.net, refresh the page, and check the IP and DNS addresses displayed there.
With your VPN connected, you should be able to see new IP and DNS server addresses. This tells you that you do not have any leaks and your VPN is working properly.
For example, we connected to a server in Switzerland, and indeed, everything worked well :
Tips for fixing IP leaks
To minimize the chances of IP or DNS leaks, ensure that your VPN service offers these features at a minimum:
- Dedicated DNS servers through which your traffic is channeled
- In-built DNS leak protection
- Kill-switch for accidental VPN disconnections
- Support for IPv6 protocol
- Compatibility with popular operating systems, browsers, and devices
Need a better VPN?
We have tested many VPNs for everything including encryption, speed, performance, and leaks. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost consistently come out on top.
All three have the features we have mentioned above to protect against IP leaks. But, if you are looking for something you can try completely risk-free, we recommend ExpressVPN. This provider offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. Right now, you can also take advantage of a 49% discount plus 3 months free if you sign up for the 12-month plan.
Admittedly, VPNs are not fail-proof. But, some providers simply have better security features and you just need to find one that ensures your online privacy.