Zero-Log VPNs Fight for User Security -Is This Reality or A Myth? | Hacker Noon

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Sundus Noor, a tech geek who loves sharing aspiring stories.

Over time, VPN usage surged to an unprecedented level, and “Zero-Log VPN” is what every virtual private network claims to be. So, what is a zero-log VPN? Does it make any difference to your cybersecurity? This is what I will cover in this blog.

Every next VPN service makes the big zero-logs claim, but in reality, these claims are just smoke in mirrors. Whenever you read considerations to buy a VPN, a zero-log is a must-have feature. It’s because a zero-log VPN is deemed as an anonymous, secure, and private service.

However, maintaining zero-logs for a virtual private network service is not possible, and if any VPN provider says that we do not keep user logs, then it’s a worthless claim. Practically, for a VPN service, it’s not possible to follow a no-logs policy because at some point the service has to record some of the user data to provide simultaneous connections.

If a VPN is not logging user data in the best-case scenario, then some of its third-party servers always will. To keep things simpler for a non-tech user, let me illustrate what logs are below.

What Are Logs?

Logs or log files are a record of online activities that took place between two servers. Whenever you visit a website, your computer uses your ISP network to reach that particular source. Your ISP and the website that you visited keep a log/record of your visit.

This record is saved and available to your ISP, system administrator, or organization if you’re at work. Also, the same log will be available to the website that you visited.

Typically, a log file records the user IP address and connection duration with the time you connected. The components of a log file are indeed quite normal.

However, the recorded information is weighed worthy since it might reveal a user’s location and browsing habits. Not only that, but watchdogs can also use log files to determine who access BitTorrent. What files have been installed from BitTorrent? And the time of file installation.

Sounds pretty scary, right? In fact, marketers can use logs to access your browser cookies to target you for even customized advertisements for the sake of profits.

Remember, logs encourage severe data collection that even help agencies figuring out if someone is sending bullying or threatening emails. Nevertheless, a VPN connection controls unnecessary data collection to the point where it maintains a user’s privacy.

Does a VPN Really Keep You Anonymous?

The short answer is yes. A VPN provider may have its vulnerabilities, like having users log files, but it protects user’s privacy generally more than anything else. Depending on your chosen VPN, a trusted service will always protect your privacy if you’re not doing anything illegal.

However, free VPNs are not trusted and might reveal or even sell your data to earn. One thing to remember is that all VPN services keep logs to some extent, but not all services sell users’ data without lawful purposes.

Here’s How a VPN Protects Your Online Identity

When you connect a VPN, it allows you to use its servers. Meaning, while connecting a VPN, you can visit any website and your visited source will see the IP address of the VPN server instead of yours.

In this way, your IP and virtual location will remain anonymous. Similarly, hackers or intruders cannot see your online activities since a VPN routes your online traffic via a secure and encrypted tunnel.

However, you cannot be 100% secure while browsing with a VPN. If you’re using your regular Google browser with a VPN to visit a website.

The website can still track you using your browser cookies, and therefore, it’s always suggested to browse with Incognito Mode. Browsing together with a VPN and incognito mode ensures added protection for your overall online experience.

Also, when you sign in to your Gmail account, then a VPN can no longer hide you since you already told Google about you. Therefore, try to be a little cognizant about where you’re putting your personal information using the web.

Why Do VPN Services Brag About Zero-Logs?

Virtual Private Networks always add “Zero-Logs” in their marketing material, and there’s a reason for that.

VPN review websites always suggest users buy a zero-log VPN. These review platforms have promoted zero-logs as a critical feature, and therefore, all users want it from their VPN client.

Due to the constant market pressure, VPN services are obliged to gain users’ trust, and for that, many services often claim that they keep zero user logs which is a false marketing practice and might lead the brand towards deceptive marketing. For a common user, it’s daunting to identify which VPN brand should be chosen and what to avoid.

Which VPN Should I Opt for?

The whole essence of my blog is that a no-logs VPN doesn’t exist on planet earth. So, what should you buy for online privacy?

Well, you shouldn’t be concerned if a VPN is keeping your logs; what you really have to do is see what your selected VPN is recording about you and how long it is keeping the information.

You first have to figure out what your VPN service is logging about you and to get this information; you can go straight to its policy and FAQs page. From there, you can get an idea of what your VPN provider is actually recording about its users.

Some VPN services keep logs of the following:

  • Connection Duration
  • Time of Connection
  • Number of active sessions
  • User IP address
  • Device name and type
  • Number of bytes consumed

This information is pretty normal, and if your selected VPN is logging this, then you can buy it. Also, you can find from the FAQs page that this type of information is usually stored for a maximum of a month. VPN services use this information to better treat troubleshooting problems, and it also helps to detect DDoS and other spamming attacks.

Moreover, VPN providers also seek help from the above data to enhance users’ security on each device. If a trusted VPN service is keeping logs for the same information, you can have it.

Be sure to select a VPN service that logs minimum information and stays true and transparent about it.

What to Avoid?

It’s very important to understand that not every available service is as trusted as it claims to be. Generally, free VPN services record more data than needed. Therefore, avoid free VPNs since they usually keep track of the following information:

  • Your visited sources/websites
  • Details of your downloaded files
  • Information about your device, software, or chosen protocols

Low-quality or free VPNs might misuse or sell your log details to third parties, and it kills the entire purpose of a VPN service that is to maintain a user’s anonymity and privacy.

Always choose a VPN that clearly states its privacy and logging policy, and if you think it’s unclear, then immediately switch to a better VPN service.

You can also contact a VPN support team to clearly ask them about what user information they record. It will help you get a better idea about the service and its privacy practices.

Conclusion

Remember! You cannot find a 100% anonymous VPN service because zero-logs VPN doesn’t exist anywhere. The best way to stay secure is knowing what your chosen service is storing about you. Logging a user’s information is not deceptive or bad for privacy. However, the logging information should be minimal and clearly stated in the first place.

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Sundus Noor, a tech geek who loves sharing aspiring stories.

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