What Does My ISP See When I Use a VPN?

The basic function of a VPN is to encrypt all traffic that’s transmitted through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to a VPN server to which you are connected. This conceals your online activities in plain text to your ISP. These include any website you visit and/or any data you receive or send.

There are even some websites that use TLS or Transport Layer Security to encrypt traffic. A VPN, however, ensures security for everything. Your ISP will be able to identify your IP address and know your actual identity. The VPN hides your IP and this ensures that the only thing your ISP sees is the IP of the VPN server.

Since VPNs create encrypted private tunnels, no one gets to know with which servers or websites you are trading data.

This assumes a significance as it helps avoid raising any suspicions if at all you happen to use sites for file sharing that are dubious, questionable, or infamous even though they may carry legitimate content. It also protects you from being watched or termed as a content pirate even though your online activities are perfectly legal.

A VPN Prevents Your ISP From Tracking Downloads

When a surfer visits an HTTP site, all data that is exchanged between him and the site is clearly visible. Should the site use an HTTPS, its domains are still visible but the data is encrypted generally. However, flaws do exist in HTTPS and this makes them insecure.

Therefore, when you make use of a VPN, nothing becomes visible about what you do exchange with your VPN server. In fact, nothing is traceable back to you, particularly all that is exchanged between the Internet and the VPN server.

It’s the traffic that is visible only. That’s why for complete Internet privacy, using only TLS-protected sites is recommended. 

Using VPNs for Security and Download Privacy

Initially, VPNs were created for corporate houses to transmit data securely. The scenario has, however, changed and today even individuals are using them to protect and secure personal data.

A committed VPN provider helps you to keep your Internet activities and data are hidden from prying eyes. Your websites, ISP, hackers and even the state does not get to know your identity if the VPN is strict about protecting user privacy.

Moreover, a VPN that doesn’t maintain usage records and logs will successfully keep all your activities concealed from your ISP.

OpenVPN is one of the best VPN protocols available today for ensuring maximum security and privacy. To conceal download activities, OpenVPN. L2TP/IPsec works well for devices that are unsupportive of OpenVPN.

It’s also poignant to avoid VPNs offering plain L2TP VPN or PPTP server connections and to opt for those VPNs that offer the best encryption. 256-bit encryption is acceptable but very slow while a 128-bit encryption on the OpenVPN balances both security and speed well.

Moreover, this works extremely well when downloading content from a country where Internet censorship is prevalent. This won’t allow your ISP to find out and subsequently report your downloading content which is unacceptable to your government. 

Beating your ISP

Since all traffic gets encrypted by the VPN, all that your ISP gets to see is indecipherable gibberish going back and forth between your personal computer or mobile device and the VPN server.

Even though your ISP sees that you are hooking up with a separate online address, it has no idea of your activities. So be sure to go for paid VPN services because free options hardly guarantee encrypted traffic.

It goes without saying that quality encryption is the best way to beat your ISP. For example, 256-bit AES encryption guarantees total safety of any private data.

This particular encryption protocol has successfully passed multiple cryptanalysis tests, remaining unbreakable until now. Moreover, it’s encryption standard is similar to the one that the US military uses.

By beating your ISP, your online freedom is guaranteed. This is more so as you get to access any online data of your choice and the ISP will be unable to restrict your access.

This is particularly useful to those accessing content in oppressive countries like Saudi Arabia, China (who is also bothering all of its neighbors), or Iran (who also sponsors terrorism), for example, that have banned free access to selected online content.

More Benefits Of Beating Your ISP

It is also seen that often when your ISP fails to track or monitor your traffic, it can’t choke your connection speed either.

However, in certain cases, ISPs do limit their connection speed and bandwidth when a great volume of online content has been accessed. However, should you have a powerful VPN, it shouldn’t bother you.

Even though your ISP knows that you are concealing your traffic, it can’t throttle the connection speed because it can’t see your traffic.

On the flip side, if you’re using a free VPN service provider, chances are that your ISP will track your online traffic and also your VPN provider might collect all your private and sensitive data.

That exposes you to the risk of getting spammed with advertisements because that’s how the VPN service provider earns his revenue. The service, therefore, isn’t “free” really, since you end up paying one way or the other.

Main Focal Points of an ISP

In sum, when you’re using a VPN, your ISP identifies the VPN, total volume of data transmitted and timing. However, earning revenue and avoiding legal hassles are the ISP’s principal concerns.

Moreover, if you want to access certain blocked sites only, using a free or paid VPN doesn’t matter. Proxy, Free VPN, TOR Outproxy, and WebProxy are all equally effective.

Your ISP will see a larger part of your traffic going to your VPN address and also keep a record of that address. However, all transmitted data will appear garbled because it’s encrypted and is almost impossible to decipher without compromising your device or the VPN itself.

Even though ISPs realize that a VPN is being used and encryption is being used to conceal exchanged data, they hardly care because anti-encryption laws aren’t that stringent.

Regulations are an Annoyance

Therefore, the ISP actually acts as your friend because it abhors oppressive regulations like you do (regulations also hurt job growth but that is another topic). However, it’s also mandatory for it to be law compliant because of the risk of getting its license revoked and/or being shut down.

Despite this, an ISP will perpetually opt for the easiest route within legal limits and make tracking everyone actively, difficult.

The Flip Side Of The Coin

However, it is also seen that in some cases, commercial VPNs tend to cash in on privacy hysteria. The fact is that no easy “set and forget it” privacy solutions exist. In fact, it has also been proven that an ISP like SSL (HTTPS/SSH) has been compromised and certain ISPs even forge SSL certificates.

Moreover, if a powerful government machinery wishes to track your online activities, your VPN can be rendered almost useless. Your government can surely sneak on you and that includes your VPN provider, ISP, and any server or website you have surfed. Every country has their own James Clapper and Lois Lerner!

Thus, total anonymity on the Internet cannot be guaranteed as yet. As governments impose more and more legislation and stringent measures to tighten screws, the only alternative left would be to migrate to the deep web or P2P because of its security when used properly.