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Can a VPN be traced or hacked? The simple answer

So, you’ve figured out what a VPN is and you’re keen to snap up the best VPN for your needs. You may still have doubts though regarding just how effectively a VPN can keep you safe and secure while browsing.

It’s perfectly understandable to be unsure, especially when VPN prices are so low that it feels too good to be true. If you’re curious to know how easily a VPN can be traced or hacked, read on and we’ll break it all down for you. All your questions about the possible risks of using a VPN will be answered here.

Can a VPN be hacked?

A close up of a computer monitor displaying a generic VPN.

Nothing is impossible but it’s incredibly unlikely that a VPN would be hacked. At its heart, a VPN is a collection of servers. In most cases, such servers don’t actually store data for any length of time. On the one hand, that means if someone did hack into a VPN, they wouldn’t actually gain much but it also means it’s simply not worth their while.

Most VPNs don’t actually store any data anyhow. Instead, they work as a conduit between you and the internet with the best VPNs stoically refusing to store any logs or information on your browsing habits. That means they’re really not worth hacking into, as there isn’t anything to be gained.

Technically, any server can be potentially compromised. In the past, some VPNs have had minor issues but in all of these cases, nothing of value was accessed because VPNs simply don’t store that kind of information. They store minimal amounts of data, and every time you disconnect or change servers, the data is deleted.

Cynics might think that anything can be hacked into and they’re right, but it’s like any kind of theft — it’s really got to be worth the effort. A door with 10 bolts on it might technically be possible to break into but odds are, no one is going to try to attempt it. The idea is always to make things as hard as possible for thieves and hackers so that they simply don’t bother trying. There’s always an easier target somewhere else so they’re liable to focus on that one instead of you.

How can I be tracked?

Being tracked online isn’t always about being hacked. It can be much simpler than that. For instance, accidentally storing malware on your device can lead to stolen information. Also, simple cookies that you often have to accept on certain sites can also lead to a form of tracking. It’s less nefarious than having your personal information stolen but we don’t blame you if you’d rather the entire internet didn’t know what you were up to. Who wants to air their business to the world for the sake of advertising, right?

Can I be tracked using a VPN?

Much like with hacking attempts, it’s theoretically possible to be tracked while using a VPN but it’s highly unlikely. What do we mean by tracking? Basically, that someone can see what you’re doing online, potentially stealing your data.

Providing you use a premium VPN, your VPN service will have a strict no-logs policy so none of your data will be stored. Even better, your browsing activity is encrypted so the resulting data is useless for anyone to look at anyhow.

Where you need to be careful is if you use a free VPN. Many free VPNs make money through in-app adverts or even selling your data. They may still encrypt your internet connection but they are almost certainly tracking what you’re doing, simply to make money.

Stick with a premium and well-respected VPN like ExpressVN and this problem goes away. While, technically, your data will still exist, unless you’re incredibly important, no one is going to bother monitoring you. It’s generally a very time-consuming process to check through encrypted data and not worth any hacker’s time for most people.

Should I be worried if I’m traveling?

Some countries heavily censor the internet. It can potentially be dangerous or illegal to access certain websites there. That’s why it’s important to use a good VPN that operates in a neutral country so that governments and other agencies don’t track your activity.

This problem won’t apply to everyone but it’s important to check the rules regarding the country you’re traveling to. Ignorance isn’t an excuse in the eyes of the law.

Can a government track me through a VPN?

Not really. It’s worth remembering that governments will only try to track you if you’ve committed a crime and — often — only fairly serious ones. However, whatever you do, if you’re using a good VPN, the VPN won’t store logs of your data so the government agency won’t be able to track anything of yours.

Generally though, it’s very rare for authorities to pursue VPN providers for access to customer data. Simply put, it’s not going to happen to you.

How can I stay secure using a VPN?

A number of things keep you safe and secure while using a VPN. As your data is encrypted when using a VPN, you’re off to a good start. It’s also important to check for other features. A good quality VPN offers leak protection so that if there are any leaks within your VPN tunnel, your data is still kept safe.

Another useful feature to look out for is a kill switch. The feature means that if your VPN connection suddenly drops, your communication with the internet is instantly dropped. That means no risk of your real IP address being revealed or any data escaping because you didn’t realize your VPN had temporarily failed.

There are other things you can do to keep safe too. It’s important to be aware of what you’re downloading. Only download files from reliable sources. If you download a virus or malware by accident, it can be damaging for your computer. Crucially, even a great VPN can be limited in terms of protecting you if your computer is littered with bad files.

It’s also important to make sure all your passwords are secure, especially your VPN password. Generally, hackers will be after your bank details and other ways to make financial gains. Make sure these are extra safe. It’s also a good idea to not share too much online. If you share sensitive information on social media or similar, it can be pieced together to access, you guessed it, your financial information.

Am I safe online?

For many users, there’s no need to worry about being hacked or traced. That’s particularly the case when browsing online using a VPN. The idea is to make it as hard as possible for someone to intercept your data. A VPN makes it so hard that no one is going to try to access your information unless you are an incredibly important person and the hacker already knows that.

Where things get trickier is if you give away too much information online or download problematic files. That’s where the opportunistic hacker is more likely to strike.

Use a dash of common sense along with a good quality, premium VPN, and you will have nothing to worry about. Think of it as like having an extra lock or layer of protection at home.

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Jennifer Allen
Jennifer Allen is a technology writer with over 10 years of experience. She primarily writes about the best deals coverage…
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