Is a VPN really anonymous and untraceable? It goes without saying that VPNs or Virtual Private Networks are vital tools for securing online privacy. However, even though this may be applicable to your home or official network, using a public Wi-Fi is hardly safe sans the VPN protection.
Are VPNs Truly Untraceable?
Risks of Public Wi-Fi
There are some great risks in opening PayPal, bank accounts, or even personal email via public WiFi. When you do this through a VPN, no one gets to know which websites you access. This becomes essential for concealing other online activities of a personal and confidential nature and both data encryption and secure transaction have a symbiotic relationship that ensures privacy and security.
VPNs are Traceable
The fact, however, is all VPNs aren’t as secure as you think. Even though they may flaunt a host of security whistles and bells, they actually don’t. The concept of complete anonymity happens to be a myth. Moreover, even though you may pay an annual fee with the trust that your anonymity is being guaranteed, actually it’s not. There is no surety of how safe your VPN provider’s ‘No logs’ claim is.
The second point to note is that anonymity and privacy are not the same thing. Certain VPNs use tools to enhance your privacy. Even though such tools can access your confidential data, they certainly don’t erase all data used for your identification. This applies also to VPN-Tor combinations with encrypted messaging, which again don’t guarantee total anonymity. This is because all such tools are subvertable to track you down should you acquire the status of a “Person of Interest” to a particular government.
Then there’s Skype which has its drawbacks as well. Your hardware gets encrypted and you may go beyond mass surveillance. However, you still remain open to targeted or specific surveillance. This hasn’t prevented certain countries such as the UAE from locking voice and video calling via Skype though.
Free VPNs are even worse. In some cases, these free VPN services sell their users’ bandwidth. In other cases, some VPNs have even sold their user’s private data to third-party advertisers.
VPN Anonymity and the “No logging” Myth
VPNs always make the promise of never logging any of your activities. This is a grand selling point but sadly, is a myth. No server can be operated without logs because if logs aren’t kept, no VPN provider could prevent abuse, take care of DNS requests or troubleshoot connections. Moreover, since on numerous occasions, VPNs have indeed handed over data to various law enforcement authorities itself proves that logs are kept, no matter what.
Logging is Required with Hired Cloud Servers
You have VPNs using their own servers or relying solely on cloud servers. With a majority of VPN service providers opting for 3rd party servers, it becomes almost impossible for them to operate without logging systems. While VPNs may not create logs themselves, their hired servers do, through hosting providers.
It has been proven time and again that anyone who’s really interested in tracking your online movements can do so through tools like cookies and your IP address is always the giveaway to anyone who’s on the lookout for it. In certain cases, your IP address may also reveal your latitudinal and longitudinal position including the browser type and what ISP you use.
It’s fine to, therefore, conceal your IP address through a VPN to remain anonymous online. The latter serves as a concealed tunnel that also makes use of encryption for securing your data. Your online movements may become totally untraceable and make you anonymous online effectively. The question that now arises is this anonymity safe? The answer again is NO.
So, Are VPNs Truly Untraceable and Anonymous?
This is a good question, and it’s one that everyone should ask of their VPN service. In a word, this is because your VPN service provider cannot do without logging and may be compelled to hand over your personal data under pressure from the law. So there are no actual no-log VPNs, and somewhere down the line, there also exists a shadow of your personal IP address, web traffic, downloads or browsing, which makes total anonymity an impossibility.
The bottom line, therefore, is don’t get taken in by all the marketing gimmicks that VPN service providers so blatantly flaunt. Study the fine print, think hard and take a call on the final VPN selection procedure. Otherwise, the results could be serious.