Yeah, virtual private networks (VPNs) are amazing, they hide your tracks online. They hide your IP address from websites you visit. But they do not offer a complete guard against tracking. No matter how careful you are, your online activities are spied upon.
Apart from IP tracking, websites also track you using cookies. These are small files that get stored on your browser, posing a risk to your virtual identity. While there are more than 5000 VPNs out there, only a handful of them offer safe browsing. You can read online reviews to find the most secure VPNs with no tracking.
Some of the things you can do to set up a safety net around VPN browsing are using the incognito window and paying with cryptocurrency. Incognito mode deletes the cookies as soon as the session terminates, making it a safe experience. But there’s a catch. Some of the extensions that you’ve used might still be working on incognito, leading to browser fingerprinting. The best approach in such cases would be to use a private browser like Kingpin. There will be no cookie storing and no snooping extensions.
So can a VPN make you untraceable?
In short, No. They do obscure your identity to some extent but most likely not all the way. There are many loopholes that make it possible to link online activities back to you. VPNs give you a dummy IP address but this IP address actually shows that you are hiding behind it. Internet Service Providers can tell the difference when they see encrypted traffic.
5 Ways to track VPN users:
1. Browser fingerprinting
Browser fingerprint is a combination of little details like the version of your operating system, the screen dimension of your device, your preferred language settings, plugins, and so on. Whenever you visit a website, your browser leaves these bits of data about you and this data creates a unique fingerprint to identify you with.
This fingerprint can be used to breach your identity. Browser fingerprinting is a real threat if you like browsing privately.
2. Website cookies
It is common knowledge that cookies compromise your cover. While they are sometimes useful and give a wholesome browsing experience, they are stored on your computer and send back valuable user information to marketers.
A tiny text file, it may leak your username or passwords. What’s more, cookies enable advertisers to identify you on different platforms and send ads or recommendations. They leave you helpless against snooping.
3. DNS faults
You may end up exposing your virtual self if your DNS breaks down or experiences a leak. With service providers hot on your heels at all times, a leaking DNS is a windfall of data for them. From there, no matter which VPN you use, ISPs can always find out which sites you tried to access.
4. VPN Logs
Not all VPNs are created equal. Some like to keep a record of your virtual behavior on their servers. Some free of charge VPNs are quite poor at maintaining virtual privacy. Both are unsuitable for your needs.
The problem with VPN logs is they can link all online activities to you, the user. Anyone wishing to spy on you needs only get their hands on this log. The government can ask it of the VPNs itself and easily find out what you have been doing online.
5. Credit cards
When you pay for a VPN with your credit cards, it links your details with the network. The payment method is saved against your account. This brings your virtual and actual identities dangerously close.
So you see no security measure is going to get you totally beyond a hacker’s reach. But there are certain ways to minimize risks. Data encryption, for instance, is a good place to begin. So while the government can track anything it wants, the search gets increasingly tougher when you start adding the right defenses.
To protect yourself from unsuspecting snooping, check out the four tips listed below.
4 Ways to strengthen your virtual identity and avoid tracking:
1. Browsing in Incognito mode
This is especially true if you are using a shared or public computer. Go undercover whenever you go online and add an extra layer of defense. A highly useful feature of incognito browsing is that the browser does not store user data.
2. Use a different browser
A clean way to bypass security risks is using an alternative private browser like Kingpin. It has a default incognito mode that keeps your virtual identity under wraps for as long as you browse. Once your session is over, all your data is deleted. This means all cookies, usernames, and forms, etc. are forgotten.
This is especially helpful when you are making payments online or browsing restricted content. You can do away with the risks of browser fingerprinting, data logs, and website cookies at one go. Even if you perform all mundane online tasks on your existing browser, you can do important or sensitive tasks on this additional browser. Kingpin also comes with PIN protected tabs that only you can open.
3. Virtual currency for virtual activities
Users may also try using cryptocurrency instead of credit cards. This does not require your credit card details to be stored on any site. Without a payment method linked to your private account, you can create enough distance between the spies and yourself. You also stand to hide information about your bank.
4. Avoid VPNs that maintain user logs
If the network doesn’t have user data, websites cannot use it. Without this data, online activities cannot be tracked back to you. It’s simple math. When choosing a VPN, check out their security features. Compare their pros and cons and then make a choice.
All in all, VPNs keep your online identity safe while browsing. They mislead trackers and hide your real IP behind a lot of fake ones. But they are not foolproof. You can be traced even when you use a VPN. There have been several cases where user anonymity was compromised.
This is not to say that anyone with a computer and basic hacking knowledge can expose your identity. But governments can definitely dig out the information. One of the best ways to enhance virtual security is to migrate to a different browser like Kingpin that doesn’t store cookies. It is fast and secure and compatible with both Mac and Windows.