If you are interested in purchasing a premium VPN service in order to protect your identity when going online, then you should understand how VPN logging and search warrants work.
More often than not, virtual private network providers collect data about the online activities that you carry out while you are connected to their servers. In most cases, these details are harmless and cannot be used against you.
But in more extreme scenarios, this information could be used by local authorities to track you down and seize your computer after obtaining a search warrant. For this to happen, it means that you must have done something illegal, whether you were made aware of this or not. Yes, VPN services can be monitored.
There are many questions surrounding VPN logging and search warrants, which we intend to answer as best as possible in the current article. Check out the list of topics below to see what we have prepared for today (click to jump).
- What is VPN logging?
- Why are VPN logs collected and stored?
- Why is it important to trust your VPN provider?
- How does VPN logging affect you?
- Examples of VPN logging
- Warrant canaries
- Which VPN is safe and collects zero logs?
- In conclusion
What is VPN logging?
VPN logging is represented by bits of personalized information collected by the VPN provider about your online traffic after you connect to a VPN server. There are two main types of VPN logs: connection logs and activity logs. One is harmless while the other can be used against you in a court of law.
Connection logs are harmless because they include technical details about the way you use the VPN client, such as the amount of transferred info, date and time of connection and disconnection, as well as the new IP addresses assigned by the VPN server. These logs contain records about inbound and outbound connections.
VPN providers typically collect anonymous connection logs and keep them stored for a limited amount of time before deleting it forever. The information they include can be used for troubleshooting, improving the product and preventing spamming, among others.
It would be impossible for someone to pinpoint your true identity and location using connection logs alone. This is because it implies identifying all users connected to a certain IP address given by the VPN provider and then somehow pointing in your direction with certainty. Without the activity logs, this cannot be done.
Activity logs are more intrusive than connection logs because they contain data which can be used to deduce what you are doing on the web while connected to the virtual private network. VPN providers that gather activity logs should be avoided, especially if they make false claims of a strict no-logging policy.
Types of details stored by activity logs are the websites you visit, the files you download and upload, along with the VPN protocols or software application you use while connected to the VPN. Unfortunately, activity logs can be absolutely used to create a personalized profile about your online habits, as well as to determine your true name and location.
Why are VPN logs collected and stored?
A VPN service works like any other software application that is exclusively available in an online environment: software must be kept in check. Any errors must be immediately reported, preferably in automatic mode. This way, the VPN developers can quickly resolve and patch errors in the next software update.
But there are other reasons why VPN services keep connection logs. For instance, if it limits the number of simultaneous connections that can be made on a single account, then the VPN app must be able to keep track of the current number of logged-in devices. Surfshark and Perfect Privacy are two examples that offer an unlimited number of simultaneous connections for each account.
VPN logs are also helpful in determining the amount of bandwidth being used by each account. This particularly applies to free VPN services that offer a limited amount of VPN traffic each month (such as the free edition of Windscribe). However, we strongly advise against using free VPNs due to shady tactics adopted by some free VPN providers, along with many other disadvantages.
Why is it important to trust your VPN provider?
Your ISP collects activity logs by default, so they know everything you do on the web. That is why many users resort to virtual private network services in the first place: to hide their browsing activity from their ISP.
Trusting a VPN provider that claims to have a no-logs policy basically means placing your faith in the VPN provider instead of your ISP. If your VPN provider goes ahead and betrays that trust, it means that you did not receive the anonymous service that you paid for.
How does VPN logging affect you?
Firstly, you must understand that employing the services of a premium VPN application does not mean you do not have to abide to laws like everyone else. If you download a torrent file illegally and get caught, you will still have to answer to the authorities, whether you used a VPN or not.
Secondly, the people in charge of a VPN product work in a company like everybody else, and that company is located in a certain country with particular laws. Therefore, the VPN company can be subjected to search warrants during investigations if there are suspicions.
If you happen to be in the middle of those investigations, then the VPN company can be legally forced to hand over all information about your VPN activities. Sooner or later, the VPN company will contact your ISP which, in turn, will send you a warning letter.
However, all these unpleasant events can be avoided if you get equipped with a reliable VPN service that does not store any relevant information that could be used to identify and track you down. If the company does not have info, then it has nothing to hand over to the police.
Examples of VPN logging
If you need proof that VPN users can be tracked down by the police with the help of logging data acquired from the virtual private network company, here are some popular examples:
- In 2014, a young man was arrested in Netherlands for sending bomb threats to his school. He used EarthVPN, which claimed to be a no-logs VPN service at the time. As it turned out, the VPN company was renting a VPS to cut server costs, which recorded all user activity to a separate datacenter. The Dutch authorities only needed a search warrant for the datacenter’s owner, thus getting past EarthVPN.
- When we reviewed Kaspersky Secure Connection, we saw that a no-logging claim was made on the official website. But, after thoroughly examining the program files after installation, we discovered that Kaspersky said that it would not hesitate to help governmental agencies in exposing your identity if you breach their contract. It contradicts the no-logs claim promoted on the site.
A warrant canary is a solution used by some VPN providers to warn its customers that the company has been served with a secret government subpoena without actually issuing a warning. It largely depends on where the VPN company is located. For example, US-based VPN companies might be subject to the Patriot Act.
LiquidVPN publishes a warrant canary every week to let customers know that it has not received any national security letters, foreign intelligence surveillance court orders, gag orders, warrants, searches or seizures of any type.
The idea behind this is that users should follow the warrant canary page every week and cease all activities if LiquidVPN fails to update the in the most recent week. Basically, this is a secret code that tells users to stop connecting to the service because a secret government subpoena exists.
Which VPN is safe and collects zero logs?
As such, we have tested and compared the best VPN services of 2019 to find out who is the winner. ExpressVPN scored the highest marks in our tests. It is a trustworthy virtual private network provider because it does not keep any activity or connection logs.
Located in the British Virgin Islands, the company is protected by solid legislation that supports privacy. It is not required by law to collect any user information. Also, it is not part of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliance.
Using an exclusive feature called TrustedServer Technology, ExpressVPN automatically erases all data clean every time the system reboots. It happens because the VPN servers only run on RAM instead of being written to a hard drive. The technology has also received a public audit to confirm that privacy features enforced by the VPN provider.
In 2017, Turkish media threw in ExpressVPN’s name in the investigation of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov’s death. It appeared that someone deleted some conversations while connected to ExpressVPN servers, in an attempt to get rid of the evidence. However, the company could not help the investigators because it did not store anything that could be used to track down the suspect.
Set of features
ExpressVPN supports torrenting clients and streaming services, such as the US library of Netflix. If you are concerned about security, you can choose from multiple VPN protocols (including OpenVPN), enable split tunneling and DNS leak protection, turn on a kill switch, use exclusive DNS servers, as well as connect to obfuscated VPN servers if you live in China.
Plus, you can connect to an ExpressVPN server and then join the Tor anonymous network so that you can use ExpressVPN and Tor at the same time. If you are interested in this virtual private network service, please do not hesitate to check out our ExpressVPN review as well as to get an active subscription plan here.
VPN logging should not be overlooked when employing the services of a dependable virtual private network service. We strongly discourage anyone from taking part in illicit activities while connecting to VPN servers, like downloading and sharing a torrent file with copyright content. However, you might unwillingly attract the attention of your ISP and receive DMCA takedown notices if you accidentally download and share something that you should not have.
As a result, it is better to be safe than sorry. You can maximize your level of online privacy and security by turning to a zero-logs virtual private network application like ExpressVPN, which would never monitor your VPN traffic and collect information that could be used against you in a court of law.