How to Make Sure Your VPN Is Honest About Its International Exit Servers
One of the best reasons to use a VPN is to bypass pesky location restrictions for streaming movies and other content, but before you spend money on a VPN that promises servers in dozens of countries, make sure they are telling the truth about them. … Trust but verify.
Most VPN service providers offer a trial period – however short – where you can test the service and cancel if you don’t like it before billing your first month as a premium subscription. Fortunately, this is all the time you need to make sure that the servers they promise are in Australia, Germany or the UK are indeed present, and not just proxies or worse, US IP addresses marked “Brussels” or Cape Town.
The folks at SlickVPN recently posted this story on their blog, which reminds us that the easiest way to see through the haze of promises from a VPN exit server is with the tools we’ve had at our disposal since the beginning of the Internet: traceroute and ping .
If you have the technical know-how, you can run traceroutes / ping to determine where the gateway is actually located. The results of this test / experiment will look something like this:
ExampleVPN is expected to be based in Auckland, New Zealand. If traceroute (tracert) to its hostname is executed from Chicago, USA:
Track path to ExampleVPN IP address in New Zealand (126.96.36.199) on TCP port 80 (http), 30 hops max.
- 10.1.2.25 0.479 ms 0.428 ms 0.556 ms
- 10ge-2.ge146.chi1.colocrossing.com (188.8.131.52) 0.684 ms 0.633 ms 0.595 ms
- ae16-386.chi11.ip4.gtt.net (184.108.40.206) 1.156 ms 1.163 ms 1.137 ms
- xe-9-1-0.chi11.ip4.gtt.net (220.127.116.11) 1.148 ms 1.161 ms 1.166 ms
- be3027.ccr41.ord03.atlas.cogentco.com (18.104.22.168) 1.675 ms 1.621 ms 1.440 ms
- be2461.rcr12.b002281-5.ord03.atlas.cogentco.com (22.214.171.124) 2.011 ms 2.192 ms 2.087 ms
- 126.96.36.199 1.695 ms 18.736 ms 2.145 ms
- 188.8.131.52 [open] 1.565 ms 1.565 ms 1.513 ms
From the ping and trace times, it can be seen that the server is located in Chicago and not New Zealand. It is not possible to get from Chicago to New Zealand in 1.5ms as it is faster than the speed of light.
And when you connect to ExampleVPN IP in New Zealand and trace:
traceroute: Warning: www.google.com has multiple URLs; using 184.108.40.206
traceroute to www.google.com (220.127.116.11), 64 hops maximum, 52 byte packets
- 18.104.22.168 (22.214.171.124) 1533.225 ms 67.066 ms 61.497 ms
- 126.96.36.199 (188.8.131.52) 60.668 ms 61.971 ms 60.919 ms
- 184.108.40.206.in-addr.arpa (220.127.116.11) 61.250 ms 72.902 ms 69.437 ms
- ip81.208-100-42.static.steadfastdns.net (18.104.22.168) 69.190 ms 67.959 ms 70.124 ms
- xe-0-0-1.core4.chi02.steadfast.net (22.214.171.124) 74.908 ms 65.975 ms 61.235 m
- eqix-ch-100g.google.com (126.96.36.199) 62.341 ms 61.326 ms 60.149 ms
The first few jumps confirm that you are in Chicago.
Of course, the whole story goes on to highlight how the SlickVPN New Zealand output server is actually located in New Zealand , so it is designed to make them look good. In this case, it’s okay because they are honest about where their servers are located.
This is another step towards making sure your VPN is trustworthy before giving them your money every month. It’s all too easy to deploy an instance on Amazon Web Services or another virtual private server (VPS) provider, download OpenVPN for free, install it, and call yourself a VPN provider. You can then rake in a (often expensive) monthly subscription from users who think they are getting a secure multi-site VPN, while all they really get is a leaking tunnel accessible to anyone with the time, patience, and little technical skills. you can do it yourself.
This tiny extra step, plus checking reviews, reviewing the VPN’s cancellation and billing policies, and checking their logging and retention policies are critical to keeping you private and secure while using the VPN and that you get the basic service for which you pay.