What does a VPN hide? Learn what it does not hide

Anton P. | August 02, 2023

What does a VPN hide to enhance your browsing privacy and security? 

You might already know the biggest pitch: VPN hides your IP address and physical location. The encryption of internet traffic also stops parties like Internet Service Providers from seeing what you do. 

However, VPN services have their limitations. While it makes you much more anonymous, it cannot entirely hide your identity. Thus, knowing what VPN does hide is crucial for realizing what other privacy/security measures you need. 

Learn what does a VPN hide about your activities.

  1. A VPN hides your IP address 

When you connect to a VPN, your IP address gets masked (or replaced) by the VPN server’s IP. While surfing the internet, the VPN server initiates requests for you. Consequently, your IP address or any related data is not visible to websites or applications. 

Your real IP address is a number given to devices when going online. For instance, when you visit a website, they receive this information. Nonetheless, personalizing your experience requires more than just an IP address. 

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IP addresses can help customize a website or app to your local region or language. However, cookies are necessary to take it further. 

For example, ads on websites, social media, or apps result from IP addresses and cookies. Cookies, in general, provide even more information about your online behavior.

  1. A VPN hides your real location

A VPN conceals the location from which you are going online (like home or other places).

Your physical location is linked to your IP address. Thus, if websites or apps know your IP address, they know your approximate whereabouts. 

An IP address can reveal your country, city, neighborhood, and Internet Service Provider (ISP). Using a VPN changes your location to the one you choose from the VPN servers available. 

  1. A VPN hides and secures the personal information 

What does a VPN hide besides your IP address and location? Well, it also protects your activities and traffic through encryption. The latter means data passing through internet connections gets encrypted. 

VPN encryption is essential on websites and networks that do not offer appropriate security. A VPN generally uses encapsulation, tunneling, and encryption to bring more secure data transmissions. 

  1. A VPN can hide your browsing history from ISPs 

A VPN can hide internet history from your ISP, meaning they can no longer see what you do online. ISPs will only learn that the user has connected to a VPN server. However, they will not track each step they take online. 

Your Internet Service Provider can know a lot about you. For instance, it can see each website you visit but not other pages you explore within it. 

Such tracking is possible because ISPs deal with the way you go online. In some countries, ISPs have even more opportunities, like collecting browsing data and selling it. 

  1. A VPN can hide traffic type 

ISPs can throttle (slow down) internet traffic based on its type. If you watch live shows or play online games, your internet speed could be affected. 

When you connect to a VPN, your ISP should no longer be able to determine your activities and their type. Thus, if throttling occurs based on traffic type, they won’t know when to slow down your connection. 

Please note that a VPN likely won’t help against more general throttling practices. For instance, ISPs might slow down all traffic during peak times like evenings. 

What ISPs know when you use a VPN 

ISPs can see several things about your browsing: 

  • ISPs can recognize when clients use a VPN. 
  • They can learn the VPN server’s IP address.
  • ISPs should be able to see the duration and time of your connections. 
  • They can see the encrypted internet traffic but cannot decrypt it.
  • It is also possible for ISPs to know which VPN protocol you use. 

Can a VPN hide your search history? 

A VPN can make your searches more private by encrypting traffic and hiding IP. For instance, your ISPs might not know what you search for online. 

However, Google and browsers can collect this information. Websites and apps can still know the devices’ MAC address

If you wish to keep your search history more private, we suggest following these tips: 

  • Use a VPN to encrypt traffic and hide IP. 
  • Choose browsers that state not to collect information about your behavior. 
  • Use more private search engines, or do not log into your account (like Google account.) 
  • Browsing in incognito mode assists in hiding your activities.

What does a VPN not hide? 

A VPN does hide and protect a great deal of information online. However, there are more tracking practices on the internet. While a VPN helps, it is not enough to reach the highest level of security and privacy. 

Here are some of the things that a VPN won’t hide: 

  1. VPN does not protect you from cookies 

A VPN does not block tracking cookies that users face online. Thus, they can still collect certain information about your activities. However, a VPN can give cookies false information, like the VPN server’s IP address, instead of your accurate IP. 

How to deal with tracking cookies: 

  • The best option is to reject non-essential or all cookies when you visit a website.
  • Choose browsers that block third-party cookies automatically. 
  • Clear your cookies on your devices regularly. 
  1. VPN does not conceal account activities 

Service providers get to see what you do within their platforms. In some cases, websites or apps can have permission to collect data about your activities outside their services. 

For instance, if you log into your Google account while browsing, the service will collect data about your actions. 

How to deal with your accounts: 

  • Open privacy settings for your accounts: refuse tracking, personalization, and other unwanted practices. 
  • If necessary, do not use accurate information for your login information. For instance, having a separate email address for shopping accounts is ideal.
  • Avoid services that do not offer privacy protection and settings. 
  1. A VPN does not hide your identity fully

Cookies, browser fingerprinting, accounts, and other tracking practices make it challenging to be anonymous or private. For instance, if you provide personal data online, a VPN cannot help you.

Thus, becoming more anonymous and private online means combining various changes and technologies. 

How to hide your identity more: 

  • Avoid providing unnecessary personal or sensitive information. 
  • Use more private browsers, apps, messaging tools, search engines, etc.
  • Check privacy settings for various platforms to see what tracking practices you can refuse. 
  • Reject tracking cookies or use browsers that block them automatically.
  1. A VPN does not hide you from malware

A VPN can guard against attacks like DDoS by making you a more difficult target. However, it does not protect your device from malware or dangerous downloads. 

Of course, more and more VPNs have started offering additional protection. For instance, Atlas VPN offers SafeBrowse, which blocks ads and potentially dangerous websites. 

How to protect devices from malware: 

  • Avoid downloading unknown files and software. 
  • Use robust antivirus programs that can keep track of your device’s stability.

VPN support and protection for browsing

A VPN has many benefits you can explore. However, knowing its limitations is crucial to know what else you need to stay secure. 

Atlas VPN always looks for ways to introduce new security mechanisms. Also, we follow a no-logs policy to ensure your browsing becomes more private.

But always remember to follow other tips for improving your experience!

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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