VPNs provide online privacy and security, but what about the extent of its use? What can police do to track VPN users online?

Police Can Track Your VPN Activity?

If a VPN company does not agree to cooperate, the police cannot track VPN users’ activities. A warrant can be issued to request usage logs and connection logs. All online activities can be linked to a VPN if it keeps logs. It can be difficult to track VPN users in different countries.

If a court gives a VPN company permission to log certain users, police can track VPN server activity. Even though a VPN used to have a no-log policy, this is no longer true. All real-time activity can be monitored by law enforcement. It is not uncommon for VPNs to use Warrant Canary pages to notify their users of an issued subpoena.

VPN users can be tracked in any country where VPN is allowed to operate. Let’s suppose that a VPN company operates in Panama, and the US requests logs. A VPN company could easily refuse to provide logs in this instance, since the US laws don’t apply in Panama. It can take time for international legal inquiries to develop.

Police Can Track Your VPN Activity

Your IP address is the first thing ISP can see. The ISP can also tell you when and to what VPN server you connected, but cannot see any of your online activities. To track your online activities, law enforcement must have access to VPN server logs.

Police could request different logs to prove their case, such as:

  • Connection logs: This information includes times the user has connected to a VPN. This includes your IP address as well as bandwidth usage. These logs don’t reveal anything about your online activities. This log is similar to the information an ISP can provide.
  • Traffic usage logs These logs provide detailed information about your connection. It may contain all websites visited, and can be used as proof of VPN activity.
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A VPN company that has a strict no logs policy will not be able to provide usage data to investigators. Logs are not required to link connections to your computer.

Tracking users can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities or by using cookies. Although VPNs cannot be used to hide your identity, they can be used as privacy tools so that you, the user, can still been traced.

You won’t be able to hide your identity by posting something on social networks using a VPN. This is simply because your name appears on your social media accounts.

How long does it take for police officials to trace VPN users activity?

It depends on how long it takes police to track VPN activity. To reach the ISP, they must first obtain a warrant. After they have obtained the warrant, they will need to examine logs received from a VPN company.

It is important to note that this depends on where VPN operations are located. If the VPN company is located in the same country as the investigators, the process can be quite quick. It is a different story to obtain all legal documents necessary to access the VPN server’s data from a country other than your own. This legal process can take several months, or even years to complete.

The severity of the crime will also affect the length of the process. Federal agencies are more likely to focus on cybercrimes that are serious and will use fast processes. A VPN jurisdiction is not necessary in a case of serious cybercrimes.

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Police Can Track Your IP Address Using Tor Network

Tor can mask your IP address and is an anonymity network. Although it is difficult to trace your true IP address through Tor, it is possible. You can use methods like traffic correlation attacks and malicious nodes. However, Tor and VPN can be combined to increase your privacy.

It is extremely difficult to track IP addresses on Tor.

  • Your connection to Tor is encrypted from the beginning when you connect
  • The Tor network routes data through three nodes
  • It is impossible to trace traffic behind adjacent nodes
  • Websites outside of the Tor network can only see exit node’s IP address

In some cases, police were able to de-anonymize Tor users. For this, they used coordinated traffic correlation attacks. This operation required real-time monitoring of traffic and numerous malicious nodes to be installed on the network. Advanced hacking techniques were used to link Tor activity with the actual IPs.

It is unlikely that agencies such as the NSA monitor Tor networks like this. This takes a lot effort and requires lots of resources. Tor is a great way to hide your IP address from the police.

How do you choose a trustworthy VPN to protect your privacy?

A VPN with many privacy features is essential if you want an additional layer of protection. While a no-logs policy can be crucial, there are other attributes that a VPN should possess to make it harder for anyone to track you.

Here are some things to look out for when choosing a VPN.

  • No logs policy: As mentioned before, this is the most important feature for privacy. A No-logs policy guarantees that there are no logs on any VPN server.
  • Ram-Disk servers are a great complement to a no logs policy. RAM disk server is also a great option. They cannot store data and will wipe everything after they are restarted. This helps protect all users in the event of a server being seized.
  • DNS leak protection: A VPN should never leak your DNS records or IP. All apps should have automatic leak protections.
  • Internet Kill Switch: to prevent accidental VPN disconnects from exposing your online activities
  • Jurisdiction Usually it’s not of great importance but may be used as an additional layer of protection
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NordVPN and Surfshark are all suitable for this purpose. You can find out more about them at Best VPNs for Privacy.

Conclusion

Bottom line: Police cannot monitor online activity without a court order. They are allowed to access the usage logs once they have obtained a court order.

It can be difficult to choose the right VPN provider, especially with so many available. It is important to choose a VPN that offers complete protection.

These are the top VPNs for privacy.

Rank

VPN Service

Rating

Website

1

NordVPN

5/5

Visit NordVPN!

2

Surfshark

4.5/5

Visit PrivateVPN!

3

Surfshark

4.5/5

Visit Surfshark!

4

ExpressVPN

4.5/5

Visit ExpressVPN!

5

Private Internet Access

4/5

Visit PIA!

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.

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