You should definitely be using a virtual private network (VPN). Your ISP is spying on you, governments are monitoring internet traffic, and identity thieves abound. Using a VPN helps protect your traffic from snooping and your information from theft. But how can you be sure that your VPN is protecting you?
There are a number things to think about, and a number of ways to test them. Here are five signs your VPN is trustworthy.
1. The Policy Is Clear About Logging
Many VPN providers keep logs of your data. When you log on, when you log off, your IP address, and so on. And if all you’re concerned about is keeping your data from being hacked while it’s in transit, you might not be bothered by logs. But if you’re looking for privacy, logs could be a deal-breaker.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to figure out just what sort of information a VPN provider is logging. Almost all of them keep at least some sort of data — without it, they wouldn’t be able to limit traffic by usage, limit streams per user, or provide any sort of statistics. But they could be collecting quite a bit more than that.
When you use our Service, we may automatically record certain information from your web browser by using different types of proprietary technology (such as cookies), which may include your IP address or unique device ID. For example, we may collect your IP address when you commence your use of the Service; we do not, however, store logs associating your IP address with your online activities that take place when you are using of the Service.
It goes on to say that HotSpot Shield might use some of the automatically collected information to customize the ads you see. Which you might feel is a violation of your privacy. LiquidVPN, on the other hand, clearly outlines the exact types of data that it collects and has a strict no-ads policy.
Each VPN has different policies, and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you’re okay with them. It takes time and effort to get this all figured out, but if you’re serious about privacy, it’s time and effort you need to spend.
2. Other Users Haven’t Found Evidence of Logging
As with any business claims, it’s good to be a little skeptical. Just because a service says they keep no logs doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth. In fact, if they say “no logs,” you should definitely look at their policies, because it’s extremely hard to run a business without logging of any kind.
Fortunately, a lot of people put a lot of time into figuring out if VPNs are secure and private. Running a search for the name of your VPN and “logging” is a good way to get a start on the search. Reddit page /r/VPN has a lot of updates on these types of issues, too.
3. Leak Tests Come Up Clean
It’s always a good idea to test your VPN periodically. You can do this by going to What Is My IP Address or using another method. Write it down. Then fire up your VPN and go back to What Is My IP Address. If it shows the same address, your VPN isn’t protecting you. You should also go to the WebRTC test page to see if your VPN is vulnerable to WebRTC.
There are a number of other sites you can use, like TorGuard’s VPN test, IPLeak, DNS Leak Test, DNS Leak, Perfect Privacy’s tool, and a number of others. Placing all of your trust in any of these sites isn’t a great idea, as some have been known to not give accurate results. Test your VPN with a number of different sites. And if you have a recommendation for a good DNS leak test, share it in the comments below!
Both TorGuard and IPLeak have torrent-specific tests or tools. If you’re torrenting, it’s a good idea to double-check with those.
4. It Ranks Well in Comparisons
Many services regularly test and review VPN services, and that can provide you with some additional information. We have our own regularly updated best VPNs list, TechRadar updates theirs often, VPN Service Point keeps a list, and there are tons of others you can look into. We also recommend giving ExpressVPN a try.
Of course, you can never be totally sure that companies didn’t pay for the rankings, or that the testers went through all of the various tests to make sure that the VPNs were highly secure. But they can flag some warning signs that tell you to stay away.
5. It’s Paid
This might go without saying, but a paid VPN service is almost always more secure than a free one. Free VPN services need to make money somehow, and it’s often by selling ads. And those ads are often customized based on your behavior. Paid service revenue models mean they don’t have to rely on this.
Double-Check to Be Sure
Just running any random VPN isn’t going to be enough to keep your information secure and private. You need to spend some time doing research and running a few tests. By reading the provider’s policies, seeing what other people have been saying, checking for leaks, looking up rankings, and paying for your service, you’ll have a much better chance of being totally informed about your privacy.
It takes time, but if you’re serious about your privacy, it’s worth it.
Which VPN do you use? Which tests and rankings did you look at before choosing? Do you regularly run checks? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below!
Image Credits: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock