Using a VPN is one of the easiest ways to increase your security and anonymity online. They’re designed to be very easy to use, cost less than the price of a cup of coffee per month, and ensure that your online movements are kept secure.
There are a few things you can do to optimise your VPN and we’re going to take you through these options to make sure you’re as safe as possible when browsing the web.
How to stop your DNS leaking
Domain Name Servers (DNS) are essentially the phone books of the internet. They are an ever updating directory of domain names that have Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with them, which allows you to remember a website’s name rather than the string of numbers that makes up its IP address.
When you’re connected to a VPN, it should automatically use a secure DNS server provided by the service. However, this is not always the case as your computer may be defaulting to a standard public DNS service. This is known as a ‘DNS leak’.
You can test if your DNS is leaking by using this website (https://www.dnsleaktest.com/). If you have your VPN on, but that website is displaying your physical location rather than the location your VPN is set to, then your DNS is leaking.
I am based in London, but as far as the internet is concerned, I am soaking up the atmosphere in lovely Prague – so my DNS is not leaking. If it showed me in London, then it would be leaking.
The website has further instructions on how to fix a DNS leak (https://www.dnsleaktest.com/how-to-fix-a-dns-leak.html), should you need it.
How to stop your IPv6 leaking
While we’re on the subject of leaking, we need to have a conversation about IPv6.
IPv6 is a version of internet protocol that allows a larger amount of internet addresses than IPv4, which is was the previous standard. Internet providers are in the process of moving to IPv6, but it currently operates outside of the VPN, so it can give away your identity.
Some VPN clients will have the built in ability to disable IPv6, and you can check if your IPv6 is giving you away here (http://ipv6leak.com/).
If your IPv6 is leaking, you can disable it manually to preserve your anonymity here (https://tweaks.com/windows/40099/how-to-properly-disable-ipv6/).
Selecting the correct VPN protocol
There are a few different type of VPN protocols, and you will usually be given a choice. The protocol is essentially the method through which your connection is encrypted, so you’re going to want the combination of the fastest and most secure for maximum security and speed.
It’s worth using OpenVPN is almost every situation. It’s fast and features 256-bit encryption which at the moment in time is completely secure.
You'll be able to change the protocol that your VPN is using within the options on the client.
Enabling a VPN kill switch
One of the primary issues with a VPN connection is that if it fails for any reason, either the server goes down or the connection is dropped, your computer will automatically default back to your regular, unprotected method of contacting the internet which could make you vulnerable.
A kill switch will make sure that when your connection drops, your connection to the internet is instantly shut down so you won’t automatically connect through another medium. This ensures your data remains private.
Many VPN clients will have their own kill switch built into their software, but not all. In this case you can manually add a software kill switch using a program called VPNetMon. Instructions on how to set this up can be found on their website.
It’s very easy to set up so you don’t have to worry about anything too technical.
Making these changes will ensure that your VPN use experience is as safe as it can be, taking your security that extra step further to give yourself that complete peace of mind.