There are a number of thoughts that may cross your mind when the internet is mentioned. These thoughts will depend largely on your preferences, your work, your hobbies and more. Somewhere in that conversation, formerly subtle but now gaining massive attention, is the issue of privacy while on the internet.
With each day passing by, the news is rife with stories of data being stolen, accounts being hacked and persons being monitored by their internet being infiltrated by unauthorized users. This has called for increased awareness by people to beef up their security while they’re online.
There are several ways that you can go about ensuring your online security or staying anonymous whenever you surf the internet. From using private search engines and proxy servers to one of the most secure ways with the use of VPNs.
For those wondering, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the cloning of your private local area network which in turn extends across a public network which is the internet. VPNs help you to anonymously connect to the internet while your data is encrypted. There are quite a number of VPNs out there, some of which like Tunnelbear (which is free), ExpressVPN and NordVPN are highly recommended.
But did you know that not even the use of VPNs is 100% safe?
Every device – whether a mobile phone or computer or gaming console that connects to the internet has a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. At least that was how the internet was built to function: Data sent over the internet usually contains two IP addresses: the one belonging to the sender (the device) and the other one belonging to the receiver, making IP addresses really important as their function includes being used to identify what kind of device is being used (including whether it is iOS or Android) and the specific geographical location of the device (or the user of the device).
The majority of the internet currently uses the fourth version of the Internet Protocol (IPv4) which has been around since 1983. This is an IP address system that utilizes a 32-bit decimal number (something that looks like this: 22.214.171.124).
With more devices being connected to the internet thanks to the increasing technological advancement in recent times and some large companies owning millions of unused IP addresses, the world is currently running out of IP addresses.
This is what has caused for the transition to IPv6; the updated IP address system which uses a longer 128-bit version. With IPv6, the number of supported IP addresses increases drastically, to say an amount that we won’t be running out of anytime soon. A typical IPv6 address looks something like this: 2001:0db8:0000:0042:0000:8a2e:0370:7334
While this transition is good for the internet, it has caused somewhat of a problem for most VPN services. Since IPv6 requires new server software and equipment, it is expensive and is less used. These are the reasons most VPNs have been slow to accommodate this transition and equally update their server networks. A server upgrade is usually expensive meaning that most VPNs are quick to shy away from providing users with good quality servers that support IPv6.
What does this mean for you?
Why should you bother about a VPN with IPv6 support?
1. You may be at risk.
If you’re using an IPv6 address and you’re using a VPN, especially if it’s a free or cheap VPN, there is every tendency that your IP address is not safe. There’s a high chance that your real IP address will be leaked because your VPN provider may not have upgraded their servers to cater to the needs of IPv6 addresses or may have disabled IPv6 traffic over their VPN. The list of VPN providers with growing privacy concerns is growing day by day and that is one more reason why you need a VPN with IPv6 support.
2. To avoid DNS hijacking.
Over time, it has been found out that most VPN providers that suffered from IP address leaks were also vulnerable to IPv6 DNS hijacking. This can be linked to the fact that most VPNs aren’t routing IPv6 traffic through the VPN.
Since this has become common, causing more than enough trouble for VPN users, VPN providers have seen it fit to better protect their customers’ privacy by including IPv6-friendly features. Some VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN are able to handle IPv6 traffic. Others simply tell their users to disable that traffic to prevent IP address leaks.
3. To be able to enjoy online freedom.
There are many reasons why people use VPNs.
When you visit a website, you always leave your digital footmark there, in the shape of your IP address. As such, any hacker can utilize this information to access your device, an act that may lead to file or password thefts. By substituting your IP address with the one a VPN provides, you can effectively safeguard your identity thereby becoming completely anonymous.
You can also use VPNs to enjoy content that has been restricted. But this can be very impossible without a VPN with IPv6 support. As mentioned in the first point, a leak of your real IP address may mean that part of your internet activity – if not all, may be at risk of falling into the hands of the wrong persons, therefore putting you at risk. With a VPN that supports IPv6, your online freedom is sure.
Most VPNs don’t support IPv6 connections. If you’re in need of one, be sure to make your good findings online before you start paying for their services.
It is understandable that you may not know if your current VPN has IPv6 support or not. But there are ways to test your connection for IP leaks and several tools are provided online which are good for testing your VPN for such leaks. When using these tools, if you see your personal or ISP’s IP address displayed on the page, your VPN isn’t fully protecting your privacy.
Always check to ensure that your VPN provider supports IPv6 or at least offers you protection from IP address leaking. If it doesn’t, you can either switch VPNs or you can simply turn off IPv6 off from your computer’s settings.