IP leak: things to know and ways to prevent it

Anton P. | January 28, 2020

An IP leak is when your IP address gets exposed online. Typically, IP leaks occur when using a Virtual Private Network. Working properly, a VPN conceals and changes your real IP address. 

There could be many reasons for an IP leak: software vulnerabilities, browser plugins, or web browsers. If a VPN is leaking your real public IP address, it could be a cause for concern. Thus, find out whether your VPN provider hides your IP correctly.

What is an IP leak?

An IP leak means your identifier and all data associated with it are visible online. Usually, this information includes the following details: 

  • Approximate location. 
  • The city. 
  • ZIP code. 
  • Area code. 
  • Internet Service Provider. 

An IP address is a unique number assigned to users by their Internet Service Providers. The IP address deals with the communication between your device and the internet.

An IP leak can occur if a VPN service malfunctions. However, WebRTC bugs are frequently the reason for IP leaks. Then, your VPN might be working properly, and external issues leak your IP address. 

IPv6 address leaks can happen if IPv4 address connections travel through a VPN, yet ISPs route IPv6 connections as normal. 

WebRTC can leak your IP address

WebRTC handles the web real-time communication within a browser. It enables browsers to include various features that simplify transmission and makes it faster (P2P activities, streaming, etc.). 

Unfortunately, WebRTC can give away your real address due to its design, even when your VPN is active. Usually, WebRTC gets enabled by default on popular browsers.

VPN providers implement specific WebRTC leak prevention measures. However, they cannot guarantee foolproof leak protection. It is also possible for websites to cause an IP leak.

Luckily, doing an IP leak test is easy. You can do an IP test by simply visiting a reputable IP checker. Then, connect to your VPN and re-visit the website again. 

If you see the same results, you have an IP leak. But if the IP address is different, your VPN connection is safe.

How to fix an IP leak and WebRTC

There are a few practical ways to prevent IP leaks. Disabling WebRTC in your browser settings or installing a WebRTC block plugin will stop the leak. 

Though WebRTC on Chrome using a desktop device might be a bit difficult to do. Thus, adding the WebRTC Leak Prevent extension would be the best option.

Unlike a desktop version, Chrome on Android can disable WebRTC directly in it. Here is how to disable WebRTC in Chrome using an Android device:

  1.   Type in chrome://flags/#disable-webrtc into the address bar.
  2.   A setting to disable WebRTC will show up. Click Enable on this setting.
  3.   Close the browser from your applications screen or reboot your phone for the setting to take effect.

To disable WebRTC on Mozilla Firefox, type about:config in the address bar. Scroll down to media.peerconnection.enabled, double click to set it to false.

Perform another WebRTC IP leak test after these steps to compare the results.

The risk of IP address DNS leaks

A DNS query translates a server name to an IP address, a numerical version of a domain. If you don’t use a VPN, your browsing requests go through your ISP’s DNS servers. When connected to a VPN, it redirects traffic to its DNS servers. 

Usually, DNS servers are changed automatically upon connecting to a VPN server. But if it fails to switch correctly, a DNS leak can occur.

Perform a DNS leak test to see if everything works as intended. If you use a VPN, the test should not show the DNS servers of your ISP. If the displayed IP address and location match your actual ones, your VPN service is not working correctly.

Fix it by configuring DNS addresses manually on your device settings. You can also contact the VPN support team for guidance.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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