Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have always been very handy for added online security, though the major reason why people use them so often is to change or hide their IP address. This gives them the advantage of viewing or accessing content that would not have been allowed in their native geographical location or help them if they just wanted to check if their service provider was limiting their connection speed. Recently, a new security breach has been detected which allows anyone who wants to, to see your real IP address, even though the veils of your VPN. Thankfully, we will be discussing how it functions below and also how you can still remain protected.
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Your service provider assigns the IP Address to your internet connection. The IP address can disclose the location where you are using the internet from, and mostly also who your service provider is. If you get a message on the internet excusing that “the content you tried to access is not available in your country”, or an error stating that “your country isn’t supported for the service you require”, your IP address is how they determined this.
How to determine if your VPN has been affected?
This security breach was initially recognized by GitHub’s developer, Daniel Roesler. Below is how Roesler explains that you can check if your VPN is affected.
- Visit any website that displays your IP address, like whatismyipaddress.com and note down your IP address.
- Sign in to your VPN, choose your preferred location and confirm that you are connected.
- Revisit the website you used to check your IP address earlier and you will find that it has now changed. Your location would also be corresponding with the country you used for the VPN.
- Now go to WebRTC test page, diafygi.github.io/webrtc-ips, by Roseler and also note down the IP address shown there.
If both the pages are displaying the IP address provided by your VPN, you are safe, however, if whatismyipaddress.com is showing your VPN’s IP address and the WebRTC test is showing your ISP provided IP address, it means that your browser is actually leaking your IP address.
How to disable WebRTC in your browser
The default settings on major browsers like Firefox, Chrome and Opera have WebRTC enabled in them. Internet Explorer and Safari do not have this enabled, and hence, are not affected. You can always switch to a browser that doesn’t have WebRTC activated, but if you really like the browser you use, below is how you can disable WebRTC in it.
Opera and Chrome: Chrome users can very easily disable WebRTC in their browser. All they need is to install the extension Scriptsafe from the chrome web store and they are done. Opera users can also use the same extension to disable WebRTC from their browser, but they will have to go through this workaround first.
Firefox: Firefox gives us two options to disable WebRTC. You can simply install the Disable WebRTC addon from the add-ons available for Mozilla or it can also be disabled directly. You just need to open a new tab and type “about:config” in the address bar. Then you need to find the setting “media.peerconnection.enabled” and set it to false. This should do it just fine.
I hope this has helped us in keeping ourselves protected and secured over the internet, the way we intended to in the first place by signing up for a VPN. Keep surfing!
About the author:
Nuur Hasan is a software developer and a political activist, he intends to dedicate his life to the becoming the voice of the voiceless.