Virtual Private Network (VPN) has become popular in recent years across the world. This popularity is occasioned by two major factors: the massive data breaches that have made global headlines, the widespread surveillance of internet users by government agencies, and the desire of people to protect themselves from such privacy breaches. Most people have concerns about the security of their data and their privacy being breached. Hence, they look for networks that offer them privacy and the privilege of browsing the internet anonymously.
Another factor fueling the growth and popularity of VPNs is the need to bypass or circumvent government censorship as repressive states such as Iran, North Korea, and China, etc. block access to many social media platforms, news organizations, and websites. Residents of these countries are in search of ways to circumvent the censorship and the answer to their problems and the seaming one-stop solution for them appears to be VPN. VPNs encrypt user data sent over the internet and hide the user’s real IP address.
The goal of a VPN is to offer users enhanced privacy and security of data. Most VPNs claim to offer users the opportunity of browsing the internet anonymously. VPN service providers’ most important selling point is that they do not collect users’ logs. They claim to be offering logless services to attract customers who do not want any of their data being stored while using a VPN. While the claim of offering logless service has been an attraction for users and has benefited VPN service providers, the fact is that many VPNs do keep users’ logs unknown to the users and contrary to their claims of offering logless services, research has consistently shown that VPNs do keep customers logs. In what follows, we will examine what VPNs are, the types of VPN logs, why they are collected and the risks associated with their collection.
VPN logs are the data that VPN service providers keep regarding how customers use their services. They include information such as when a user accessed a website, the user’s real IP address, and the sites a user accessed. There are different types of logs VPNs collect and they are:
- Connection Log: These logs, also referred to as diagnostic logs, metadata, or usage logs may include which VPN server is used, the amount of bandwidth consumed and time stamps. These data could be tied to an individual account or in some cases collected on an aggregate basis. Usually, these records are used to improve the user’s experience and maintain operation. On an individual basis, a VPN service provider may collect these data to keep track of the number of simultaneous connections or how much bandwidth is being used on a daily or monthly basis. On an aggregate basis, a service provider may want to know the number of persons using a server at a particular time and the load being placed on the server in order to optimize the service. While the aggregate collection of connection logs does not pose any significant risk, those collected on an individual basis could be dangerous if it involves personally identifiable information.
- IP Address Logs: VPN service providers collect users’ internet protocol (IP) addresses and this can easily be linked to an individual or a single Wi-Fi router. An IP address linked to a timestamp could link an individual to actual activity. One of the major reasons that people use VPNs is to hide their IP addresses and conceal identity. Storing this information could defeat the purpose of the VPN and compromise users’ privacy, it could be acquired by advertisers and in case of a data breach fall into the hands of cybercriminals, copyright trolls, or security agencies.
- Traffic Logs: The most important and perhaps the most dangerous logs collected by VPNs are traffic logs. It includes the contents of a user’s internet traffic such as files downloaded, browsing history, messages, purchases made and software used. While not all VPNs collect this data, VPN users should be very careful of those that do as they defeat the very purpose of using a VPN. Internet users should be especially careful of free VPN services. VPNs that offer free services must find a way to make money in order to be afloat and pay for operational costs. Harvesting users’ data is one such way of making money. Advertisers value data that contributes to building an individual user’s profile.
The data collected by service providers are sold to advertisers for a profit motive. Most VPNs will not acknowledge this fact but researchers have revealed that users’ data are being collected for a profit motive. If these data fall into the wrong hands, they could pose serious security threats to users and compromise their safety. Hence, users need to take steps to ensure that their data are not being secretly logged.
If you do not want your data to be logged anywhere and stay completely off the radar, installing a privacy app like Hoody would be the right thing to do. Hoody is an app that combines two techs designed from scratch for privacy: Phantom Browsing™ & Bulletproof Privacy Network (BPN) to ensure ultimate privacy. In today’s world where mass surveillance & tracking is very prominent, Hoody is the only app that offers total privacy. Hoody’s Phantom Browsing™ anonymizes your data and creates a unique fingerprint for every tab on your browser. Hoody Phantom Browsing™ outperforms even the most sophisticated and intrusive tracking methods. Hoody’s Bulletproof Privacy Network (BPN) encrypts your local traffic and anonymizes your IP via multiple random relays.