The whole point of using a VPN is the privacy you get. Whether it is for streaming videos, accessing torrent sites, or for having a secure connection while connected to the internet, people get VPNs because they value their privacy.
Why Are VPN logs important?
Any app you use gathers important data related to you in any way possible. VPNs do the same. While there are some error logs that are mandatory to collect, some VPNs also collect usage logs along with the details of websites you’ve accessed. That just invalidates the pros of using VPNs in the first place.
People use the services of VPNs thinking that they’d protect their privacy. When you use a VPN, you put your trust in the provider that they won’t log your activities as an ISP does.
However, when they do not honor the policy of not keeping information on you, your data is susceptible to exploitation. First, you must know the various ways the applications record your information. Most common are the connection logs and the usage logs.
Connection logs: Connection logs, as the name suggests, are the entries during the time of the VPN connection. They can record your real IP address and the virtual or fake IP address. The tracking consists of the timestamp of your entry, i.e. the time when you logged in to the network and your log out time.
Usage logs: These logs contain information about the applications you used and the websites you browsed. They record everything you do when you are online. Your data is only safe as long it is not connected to your actual IP address. If the VPN provider holds this kind of data, this can be very dangerous to your data security. Only choose a VPN that offers a no-logs policy.
What is a No-logs VPN?
People use VPNs for various purposes; To stop ISPs from keeping a track of their activities, become anonymous online, bypass geo-restrictions, and a lot more. Whatever the reason is, every user wants their identity hidden. You basically expect your VPN provider to let you browse in complete anonymity.
Most VPN providers will assure you that they don’t collect your personal data. This automatically implies that all the data logs (if any) will be cleared as soon as your session ends.
But you should take steps and perform some sort of test to be sure of their claim because the contrary will mean that your data saved on their servers can be disclosed to the government or other authorities. They can even be used by hackers. This is where no-logs VPNs come into the picture.
VPNs Put to Test in Recent Times
Claiming to keep no logs is one thing, and actually abiding by that policy is a totally different situation. When it comes to solidifying a provider’s claim, there’s nothing better than using independent firms.
Top VPN providers hire third-party security firms to test their service out. Aside from the final verdict, this shows how confident the VPN is with what it’s offering.
However, even with green colors all over their service, you only trust a VPN when real incidents occur. So, let us show you which VPNs prevailed and the ones that bit the dust in this territory.
Recently, ExpressVPN had to go through a public ordeal regarding its part in the attempt to cover up the details of a high-profile assassination. It had come to light that the VPN service and its leased servers were used by the assailants to cover up the assassination details of Russian diplomat Andrey Karlov.
In 2016, Andrey Karlov was working as the Russian Ambassador in Turkey when the assassination happened. On the 19th of December, the diplomat was addressing an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, when Mevlüt Mert Altintaş assassinated him.
There were strong allegations that the unknown accomplice of Altintaş used ExpressVPN to log into his accounts on social media in order to delete any evidence that might incriminate him. In this process, ExpressVPN’s reputation was dragged through the mud.
This accomplice was said to have used VPN servers that ExpressVPN had leased in Turkey. ExpressVPN found itself right in the midst of a political turmoil that is by no means insignificant in the international arena.
ExpressVPN sent a statement to the Turkish authorities in January 2017. It would appear that the service provider knew that someone is using their VPN.
But they had made it clear once and for all that they do not store the log details and personal information of their VPN users. Hence it could not be known exactly that it was the accomplice himself or any other user who was accessing the social media accounts at the time of the said incident.
The aftermath: This grave episode had no doubt left ExpressVPN mortified but the bigger revelation is that ExpressVPN doesn’t store usage logs as it has always promised.
Another case in point is a VPN provider called Private Internet Access (PIA). The FBI sent it a subpoena around the same time. With a no-logs policy similar to many services, PIA had proven that it values its users’ privacy. FBI was unable to retrieve any data that can link to its users’ activities online and their identities.
VPNs Which Didn’t Pass the Test
A VPN’s sole purpose is to protect its customers’ privacy. While some proved to be worthy of our trust, some have failed big time. In other words, not every VPN provider can prove that they stick to the rules. There are some guilty parties who got caught:
- HideMyAss and the LulzSec group: In 2011, HideMyAss revealed its identities of LulzSec, the website hacking group, which was the beginning of their end.
- EarthVPN: Dutch police in 2014 seized a server of EarthVPN in connection with a hoax bomb threat call.
- IPVanish: Back in 2016, IPVanish provided user logs to US authorities who were investigating a criminal case. IPVanish has changed ownership since and insists it now follows a strict no-logs policy.
- ProtonVPN: Not the VPN, but one of its services “ProtonMail” helped authorities obtain the IP address of a French activist who was using the online service.
- PureVPN: The provider assisted the feds in their investigation by handing over logs, which helped unmask an alleged net stalker.
- VPNLab: Cybercriminals used the service to commit malicious acts such as ransomware deployment. Authorities were able to seize their servers and shut the service down.
If you take a non-technical look at the matter, most of these VPNs disclosed data to help the authorities catch criminals. PureVPN’s intentions were in the right place as they helped catch a cyberstalker that went to enormous lengths to harass and demoralize a woman.
We can’t say the same about VPNLab though. Regardless, whatever the reason is, if a VPN states that no logs are kept, then this should be the case. No data should be disclosed.
VPN Privacy Put to Test – Wrapping up
Even if privacy lapse allegations are true, most VPN providers under scrutiny won’t accept it as it has the potential to hurt their user base. In conclusion, ExpressVPN came out stronger than ever in the privacy test even when it was at the center of extreme circumstances.
Apart from the gory and seriously murky international incident, service providers like ExpressVPN and PIA will become users’ choices if they prefer privacy protection for legal purposes.