What Does A VPN Hide?

What Does A VPN Hide?

Updated: 08-17-2021

A Virtual Private Network hides your identity and internet traffic from the outside world. As a result, governments, hackers, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would have no idea of the sites you’re visiting.

Without a VPN, ISPs, the government, and other third parties can easily track your digital footprints.

Digital footprints are trails you leave when browsing the internet. Examples include:

  • Websites visited
  • Items purchased
  • Search phrases
  • And more

Also, some websites visited can gain access to your private data and use it as they wish.

To avoid leaving digital footprints while surfing the internet, it’s advisable to use a reliable VPN.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Different ways a VPN protects and secures your data as you browse the internet.
  • The layers of protection a VPN offers and how it encrypts your data.
  • How a VPN protects you from spam and shields your traffic.

It Hides Your Internet Traffic

Every time you access the internet, your internet traffic travels together with your IP address. This information is usually visible to ISPs, the government, and third parties.

A hacker can use the IP address to target you with a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack or even dox you.

A MITM attack is the interception of communication between two targets, actively eavesdropping and retransmitting the message to the receiver.

On the other hand, doxing is the act of maliciously searching for the real identity of an internet user and revealing their personal details to third parties.

Using a VPN can prevent a MITM attack, doxing, and any unauthorized access of your personal data over the internet by encrypting your traffic before it leaves your device. This internet security measure makes your personal information unreadable to anyone who tries to access it.

A VPN can also prevent your ISP from seeing and processing DNS queries you make while surfing the internet. It does this by creating an encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic and masking your real IP address.

As a result, your personal information and internet traffic remain concealed.

But even before we proceed to the next point, let's talk about DNS querries.

These are computer codes that explain to the DNS servers the kind of queries sent and the information the user wants.

It Hides Your Physical Location

ISPs, governments, and hackers use IP addresses to locate internet users. An IP address is crucial data that identifies your device on the internet. ISPs can use the IP address to know your physical location, e.g., your location.

An IP address can also reveal your personal information, such as your official name, workplace, phone number, and credit card numbers.

For that reason, if you wish to keep your identity private while browsing the internet, you need to use a VPN service. A reliable VPN masks your IP address, effectively preventing prying eyes from tracking your location.

Here's how it works.

Instead of displaying your actual IP address, a VPN shows the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to. This makes it difficult for third parties to identify you on the internet because they cannot trace your real IP address.

It is also worth noting that reliable VPN providers usually have servers in different locations around the world.

For instance, suppose your true location is the Netherlands, but then you connect to a VPN server in South Africa, the VPN will assign you a South African IP address. When connected to the South African VPN, you can look up your location, and the results will place you in South Africa.

One vital VPN feature that prevents browsers from detecting your location is geo-spoofing.

Geo-spoofing simply hides your true location and tricks websites into thinking that you’re in another location. The feature overrides your physical address every time a web application requests to access your actual location.

This internet security feature is essential to journalists and activists located in countries that censor free speech. As long as they’re connected to a VPN, they can utilize the internet to advocate for their rights without being tracked down.

You can use a VPN to access geo-restricted content, especially on streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, or Pandora. The only thing you need to do is connect to a VPN server located in a country where such streaming services are not restricted.

For instance, if you’re in the US and you want to access BBC iPlayer, you need to connect to a VPN server based in the UK to access the service.

It Hides Your Search History

You may think that the best way to hide your search history is by deleting cookies and search history from your browser, but that's not enough.

This is because ISPs keep records of websites visited, and anyone with the right technical skills can easily recover deleted browser history from the DNS cache. If you thought that clearing cookies and history from the browser conceals your search history, then you were wrong.

One of the best ways to hide your search history is by connecting to a VPN while browsing. A VPN hides browsing activity such as search terms, sites visited, links clicked, and search history.

However, VPNs cannot prevent search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yandex from tracking your search history, especially if you’re logged in to a search engine account. Such engines can still track an account owner's behavior despite being connected to a VPN.

For example, if you log in to Gmail and then search a certain keyword on Google, the search engine will store your records because you've logged in already.

Remember, this will happen even if you are connected to a VPN.

It Hides Torrenting Traffic

Torrents are metadata files and folders containing movies, music, or other forms of entertainment downloaded and shared between users over a network.

Torrenting isn’t illegal, but downloading copyrighted material can land you in trouble with law enforcement authorities.

But because VPNs mask your IP address and prevent the government or ISP from tracking you online, you have nothing to worry about when you access torrent sites.

It Hides Your IP Address

Nowadays, advertisers track the sites that your IP address communicates with and then spam you with targeted ads.

For instance, if you Google 'iPhone 11 Plus', even if you are not interested in buying such a device, you may later bump into iPhone 11 ads on your social media, the websites you visit, etc. You may wonder how your device found out that you needed information about iPhone 11 Plus when that happens.

This is because your internet browsing history is traceable, and that's how advertisers make money (by showing you what they believe you are looking for or may be interested in).

Ads can be insistent and annoying; one of the best ways to stop them is by preventing sites you visit from knowing your IP address.

That's where a VPN comes in to provide the much-needed privacy.

Moreover, hiding your IP address helps bypass firewalls, something a VPN does. A firewall is a cybersecurity tool used to inspect incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to block or allow certain traffic.

A VPN alters routing tables, creates its own tunnel, and uses it to send data packets to and from a final destination. As a result, you can even access websites blocked by an institution, such as a school, on the local network.

It Can Help Protect Your Privacy While Shopping Online

When you purchase something from an e-commerce website, the website can easily collect information about your personal life, spending habits, preferences, and more.

In most cases, third parties, such as hackers, will target your payment information, such as credit cards, when you shop online.

To prevent this, a VPN not only helps hide your IP address, concealing your private information in the process but also avoids targeted ads from e-commerce websites.

It Hides Your Travel Search History

When your internet connection is not encrypted, travel and airline websites can trace your IP address. These websites can obtain information on how often you travel by using data recorded in cookies.

Cookies are small pieces of data created by websites to collect the personal information of website visitors.

Airlines may track your online traffic using cookies and set varying ticket prices, depending on your location. For instance, a plane ticket from Frankfurt to New York may cost $800 when you’re browsing from Germany, but the same ticket could cost $500 when browsing from Ukraine.

Ticket prices are usually decided by how much customers from a given location are willing to pay to travel. This variation explains why two different countries could show different ticket prices for the same destination.

A VPN prevents such websites from creating cookies and collecting your personal information. Even as you use a reliable VPN, it is still advisable to clear existing cookies to be on the safe side.

It Improves Your Smartphone Privacy

It is advisable to use a VPN when browsing the internet on a smartphone for various reasons. First, a VPN enhances your online security, which is especially needed when connected to public Wi-Fi.

For example, online banking apps are becoming increasingly popular. On the other hand, connecting to public Wi-Fi to access online banking can be quite dangerous.

This is because cybercriminals can access financial information on banking apps and steal the data. The hacking process becomes even easier when your device is connected to public Wi-Fi.

To avoid the risk of your personal information being exposed to hackers, it is advisable to always connect to a VPN when using online banking apps or any other application that requires your payment information.

VPNs create a secure encrypted channel of communication to prevent cybercriminals from stealing your financial information by encrypting voice and video chat data.

It Can Prevent Bandwidth Throttling

Bandwidth throttling is the intentional slowing down of a user’s internet speed by their ISP. An ISP may throttle a user’s bandwidth due to network congestion, data caps, torrenting, or paid prioritization.

You can use a VPN to check if your ISP is throttling your bandwidth by conducting a speed test when connected to a VPN and when not connected. If your internet speed is fast when connected to a VPN compared to when you’re not, chances are your ISP is throttling your bandwidth.

A premium VPN service masks your IP address, making it possible to download torrents and stream videos. Given that your ISP cannot trace your IP address, it becomes almost impossible to enforce bandwidth throttling.

Comes in Handy Playing Online Video Games

Gamers often fall victim to lagging due to crowded servers and ISP throttling. Connecting a VPN while playing online games reroutes your traffic through VPN servers across the globe and prevents network latency.

Network latency is the time delay between user action and response.

You can use a VPN to reduce lag and ping times, which is the data sent and received between the game server and your device. Long ping times can ruin a game session and spoil the fun. But with a VPN, you can easily connect to a server near the game server to reduce ping times when playing games online.

When gaming, a VPN provides strong encryption, such that prying eyes can’t access the information you share online.

Online gamers are vulnerable to Denial-Of-Service (DDoS) attacks.

These attacks occur when a hacker sends multiple requests from computers infected with malware to a single system to disrupt its services indefinitely. On the contrary, a VPN masks your IP address, making it difficult for malicious people to flood your connection with unnecessary data.

Premium VPNs with geo-blocking technology can help you connect to gaming servers located outside your region and compete with gamers from that area.

Furthermore, you can play games banned in a particular region by connecting to a server outside the restricted area.

Lastly, if you’ve suffered an IP ban for violating the terms of service of a game, a VPN will get you a new IP address and bypass the ban. However, please note that this option may not work with all games; some games ban VPN use on their platforms. 

What Else Can a VPN Hide?

A premium VPN service can even hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. As a result, you can bypass VPN blockers easily and reclaim your online freedom. 

How To Select a Good VPN Service

Selecting a good VPN service is vital if you want to surf the internet securely and protect your private information.

It is advisable to avoid free VPNs at all costs because some are untrustworthy. You may be surprised to find out that some free VPNs gather and sell users' data to the highest bidder.

Such VPNs may also limit data usage and slow down the internet connection to encourage users to migrate to their paid plans.

As a rule of thumb, you should always opt for premium VPN services that guarantee online security and have clear privacy policies.

Here are some qualities of great VPNs.

  • Great VPNs do not keep their users' online activities; this should be part of their privacy policy.
  • Have an automated kill switch that shuts down the internet whenever the VPN connection is lost.
  • Have the latest encryption algorithm (AES 256-bit at the moment).
  • Do not leak their user's IP addresses.
  • Comes with advanced VPN protocols, such as IKEv2 or the OpenVPN protocol.

Frequently Asked Questions About VPNs and What They Hide

As a topic, VPN is broad. Here are some of the most common questions asked about this service and what it hides.

Do VPNs Hide IP Addresses From ISPs?

Currently, no tool can hide the original IP address from an ISP; even VPNs can’t do that. VPNs can only mask your IP address such that your ISP sees the random IP address generated by the VPN server.

Unless you reveal your personal information online, ISPs can’t know your real identity. They’ll just detect that the IP address you’re using is different from the original IP they assigned you.

Can ISPs Detect You’re Using a VPN To Hide Traffic?

ISPs can see the IP you’re connecting to and can detect that your internet traffic is hidden. But the good thing is that ISPs can’t know who you are or any of the sites you visit. They can only see encrypted data, which they can’t decrypt, traveling to the VPN server.

Can ISPs See the Websites You Visit?

The sole purpose of a VPN is to hide your internet traffic. Thus, there’s no way an ISP can see the site you visit while you’re connected to a VPN. They will only be able to see that you’re using a random IP address but can’t detect the type of traffic or sites you decide to visit.

Can a VPN Hide Your Media Access Control (MAC) Address?

A Mac address is the hardware address found in the Network Interface Card (NIC) of your device. It’s a 12-digit hexadecimal number hard-coded onto the NIC card. Just like the IP address, they’re both used to identify your device on a network.

The main difference between the two is that a MAC address uniquely identifies the physical address of a device, while an IP address is the logical address of the device in use.

Thus, unlike IP addresses, your MAC address can’t travel to the internet unless it’s a local network. Consequently, a VPN cannot hide your MAC address.

Can a VPN Hide Your Smartphone Location?

Geo-spoofing helps a VPN hide your phone's location from individual apps, but there are several ways to trace the location of a smartphone user. Examples include using cellular towers, GPS sensors, and Wi-Fi networks in range.

Do VPNs Hide Browsing History From Routers?

Yes, a VPN can hide browsing history from the router because encryption of traffic begins from the device. By the time your traffic reaches the router, it’s already encrypted, making it impossible for the router to access your browsing history.

Do VPNs Hide Browsing History When Using a Workplace Network?

Yes, VPNs can hide the sites you visit while connected to a workplace network. The network administrator can only detect that you’re connected to a VPN but won’t see what you’re doing online.

However, this kind of privacy is only applicable if you’re using your own device.

Please note that if you’re using a work computer to surf the internet, the office administrator may find out the sites visited even if you’re connected to a VPN.

This is possible thanks to unconventional means, such as utilizing spyware to record the screen or keyloggers that record what you’re doing.

Do VPNs Hide Data Usage?

VPNs do not hide data usage but only hide what you do on the internet. Your ISP can still see the amount of data consumed online but won’t find the exact website consuming the bandwidth.

For instance, if you’re torrenting, your ISP will see how much data you use but can’t throttle your internet speed.

Do VPNs Hide Account Activity?

VPNs can’t hide your account activity from websites you’ve logged into. For example, if you log in to a Google account while connected to a VPN server based in Brazil, Google will think you’re connecting from Brazil.

Do VPNs Make You Anonymous Online?

VPNs can’t control what you do online; they can only stop websites or prying eyes from accessing your internet traffic. If you download malware or access a site that has malware, there’s no way the VPN can stop you from doing so.

A VPN can only guarantee anonymity to a certain extent, depending on what you do on the internet.

Basically, VPNs offer advanced privacy and security for your data but cannot stop you from accessing certain websites.

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to hide your IP address, geo-location, and internet traffic, enhancing your online security. You can also use a VPN to bypass a firewall, censorship, and geo-blocks.

Lastly, with a VPN installed, hackers, your ISP, and the government cannot access your personal information.

Are you concerned about your online security? Are you worried that someone could access your personal information online and use it for malicious purposes? Well, worry no more - a premium VPN is all you need!

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