What does a VPN hide?
A virtual private network, or shortly VPN, hides your IP address and encrypts your data, providing higher anonymity and online privacy. When you turn on a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the Internet, for all your online activity to go through. Does it mean that using VPN makes you completely invisible online? Let’s dive in and clarify what a VPN hides and what doesn’t.
VPN hides your IP address
Internet protocol, or simply IP, is one of the pillars on which the Internet stands. It allows chunks of data (called data packets) to find their way between devices connected to the Internet.
IP address is a unique set of numbers, it is assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to every device connected to the web. IP doesn’t reveal much personal information by itself, but still, by knowing your IP it is possible to see your ISP’s name and geographical location accurately, down to the country, city, and even smaller area.
Also, IP addresses are used for other purposes which you may not be aware of. Marketers and advertisers widely utilize tracking by IP to gather information about users’ online activity, habits, and interests. By analyzing users’ internet activity, they can run their businesses more efficiently, generate more revenue, and sell more. The government, police, and even your employer can track you by your IP address. Third-party companies, data-brokers are also interested in collecting and selling users’ data. Cybercriminals can use an IP for different malicious purposes, for example, carrying out DDoS attacks or hacking a specific device.
Does VPN hide your IP? The answer is yes, VPN hides your IP address. If you don’t want to be an object of surveillance, you need to use VPN. When you turn on a VPN, all your online traffic first passes through the VPN server, and your existing IP address gets replaced with the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to. As a result, for the entire Internet your online activity is associated with the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to and not with your actual one.
VPN hides your current geographical location
As we already know, an IP address can be used to derive your approximate physical location. Why you should worry about it:
1. By knowing how your IP address changes day to day and week to week, it’s possible to create a full picture of your usual daily activities.
2. Web sites and web services might provide geo-restriction policy and allow access to their content only for users from certain countries or regions.
3. Your location might be the reason for the higher price for different goods and services provided by websites.
VPN hides your current geographical location behind the VPN server location. For example, if you connect to the Internet from the U.S. but choose a VPN in Canada, for all of the Internet you are essentially a user from Canada.
VPN hides your browsing history
If you don’t use a VPN, all internet traffic goes through your router and ISP before it reaches the destination website. Your ISP can monitor and log your browsing history for different purposes. For example, they can sell it to third-party companies, use it for launching more effective advertising, or share it with the government. Also, cybercriminals can potentially gain access to your data by hacking ISPs’ databases.
Using a VPN changes the situation:
1. VPN app encrypts your traffic before it leaves your computer or mobile phone.
2. The encrypted traffic gets transmitted through your router to the ISP, and they don’t see anything but an unreadable, encrypted data stream. ISPs can guess that you are using VPN and can see the amount of traffic you use, but that’s it.
3. Encrypted traffic reaches the VPN server where it gets decrypted and sent to the destination website. It is important to choose trustworthy VPN service providers with a clear logging policy, because they have access to domain names of the sites you visit and your real IP address. To be safe, you need to know exactly what data the company logs and how they use it.
Does VPN hide search history?
Even without a VPN your ISP has quite limited access to your data, thanks to HTTPS. For example, when you google something, it can see the fact that you visit google.com, but it can’t see your search queries there.
But there is a catch: your search history is saved locally in your browser and everyone who has access to your device can monitor it. You can change the settings of your browser and configure it to remove your searching history automatically after every session or you can also delete history manually.
Another good method is to use private browsing. This mode also doesn’t allow your browser to store cookies and trackers. But it doesn’t hide your online activity from your ISP and websites. Depending on your browser it has different names, for example, in Google Chrome it is called incognito, in Firefox — private window.
Be aware that your searching history in Chrome is tied to your Google account, so if you are signed in it is completely visible to Google even when you use VPN.
VPN hides torrenting
Direct downloading is the most common method to download a file from the internet. But for downloading large files users often use torrenting. When you download a file via torrent you connect to several other people. It is called a swarm, and all users in the swarm can see your IP address. Also, independent third parties can freely join swarms and track users’ activities. With a VPN your IP address is hidden and protected from surveillance and hackers.
VPN hides your online identity
But VPN can protect you from your ISP’s snooping. Consumers may not be aware of it, but internet providers can store and sell users’ browsing history without their permission. Internet traffic gives plenty of information about a user’s health conditions, purchase habits, political views, etc. Marketers, advertisers, and other third-party companies are interested in buying this information. But when you use a VPN, your traffic becomes encrypted and your ISP can’t spy on you anymore.
The VPN hides its own activity
Some web services and ISPs might track and block your VPN traffic even if VPN services are not prohibited in your country. High quality VPNs hide their own activity and allow you to bypass VPN blockers. It is especially important when working from areas where VPN connections are being blocked.
Using a VPN is one of the easiest and most effective ways to hide your IP address and protect your privacy and security. However, choosing a VPN service is not always easy. AdGuard VPN offers a wide range of benefits to their customers, so let’s take a look at them:
In-house developed VPN protocol. Unlike other VPN service providers, AdGuard doesn’t use ready solutions. AdGuard has developed a proprietary protocol, which is faster than its analogs and is more difficult to detect.
Customizable modes. AdGuard VPN users can choose between two operating modes according to their preferences. The first mode implies that VPN will work on all websites, except the manually excluded ones. The second mode is used to tunnel only websites specifically selected by the user.
Split tunneling. The same feature as described above, but for mobile applications.
Pick your own DNS server. DNS servers are usually provided by ISPs, and using a default DNS server can leak your browsing history. With AdGuard VPN you can choose any DNS server from known DNS providers or configure your own DNS server.
High-speed VPN server locations. AdGuard VPN users can select a server location based on its ping, or, in other words, time that a data packet needs to reach the server and return back to your computer. As a rule, the lower the ping, the closer you are to the VPN server, and thus the faster your internet connection will be. AdGuard VPN is constantly adding new servers in different countries for you to choose from.
QUIC support. QUIC is a high-performance protocol, which provides better connection quality in non-ideal conditions and helps users with slow Internet access.
Kill switch option. Kill Switch automatically disconnects you from the Internet if your VPN suddenly stops working. Without Kill Switch you might not notice that your VPN connection is compromised, continue browsing with an insecure connection and therefore disclose your personal information.
Auto-protection. This option automatically activates AdGuard VPN when you connect to non-secured networks. It allows AdGuard VPN users to stay safe while using open public Wi-Fi networks.
Simultaneous connections. Premium AdGuard VPN users have no limit on the number of devices logged into the account and can have up to five simultaneous VPN connections. AdGuard VPN can be used on two devices simultaneously even without a subscription.
Protected streaming. Because VPNs are often used to bypass geo blocking, streaming services try to block VPN users. However, using a VPN is reasonable if you just want to be protected, even when watching your country’s content. Another reason is to maintain subscription benefits when traveling abroad. All this can be handled with AdGuard VPN.
Clear no-logs policy. AdGuard is a privacy-focused company and does not store users’ activity logs.
Let’s summarize by giving answers to some of the most popular VPN-related questions.
Does a VPN hide everything?
No, VPN is an effective solution, but not a universal one. VPN hides your IP address, geographical location, and your traffic. VPN can’t protect you from oversharing on social networks, malware, ad trackers, browser fingerprinting, and third-party cookies.
Does VPN hide history from a router?
Yes, VPN hides your browsing history starting from your device and until it reaches the VPN server. So neither the router, nor the ISP can see it.
Does VPN hide text messages?
VPN encrypts only internet data. Standard voice or SMS messages are sent without cellular or Wi-Fi connection and do not travel the internet. As a result, your VPN doesn’t encrypt them.
Can your traffic be tracked while using VPN?
VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic so you can’t be tracked. Because your online activity is visible to your VPN service provider you should choose a VPN company with a clear no-logging policy. Another useful tip is to use a VPN with a kill switch option that shuts off your internet connection if the VPN connection suddenly drops.
Does VPN actually hide your location?
Yes, VPN hides your location by hiding your current IP address behind the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to.