No matter which Virtual Private Network Provider (VPN) you come across, chances are that one of the first things that you’ll notice on their website will be a statement regarding their logging policy. Many will promise “only the best logging policy”, but not all of them will deliver. Unfortunately, it’s just a way to attract more customers and increase sales, therefore you need to pay close attention when choosing a VPN.
But what are VPN logs exactly? How can they be dangerous, and why is it so important to look for a provider that has a no-logging policy?
The simplest way of explaining logs is as “the data your VPN provider tracks and stores”. As a user, your entire Internet activity will go through the VPN’s servers and all of this data might be stored by the provider, including the number of times you logged into your VPN account, or even which websites you visited. Many people use a VPN in order to keep their privacy protected, others because they want a completely anonymous browsing experience.
And, obviously, you wouldn’t want to go from one tracking company to another, would you? That’s why you need to pay close attention to everything your provider offers. No matter the reason, there is a big chance that a VPN might keep some logs from you. So, make sure you know exactly what you are dealing with.
Most VPN providers keep a certain amount of connection logs, whether it’s for improving their user experience, or for maintaining their service. They are also known as metadata logs and can range from very detailed to minimal. This category includes the duration of your connections, the amount of data that was transferred from each login, the time when you logged in and out (timestamp), and the incoming IP address (your computer's web address) and outgoing IP address (the IP address assigned to you by the VPN server). It makes sense that a provider would need to keep track of how many users are connected to their servers at a time, in order to optimize the servers.
Overall, keeping connection logs might not be a serious threat, unless they are tied to an individual user, meaning their PII (Personally Identifiable Information). Keep in mind that your real IP falls under this category, so if a provider states that they don’t keep PII they shouldn’t store your IP address either. An IP address connected to a timestamp can be easily traced back to you. Therefore, keeping connection logs is harmless, but only when it doesn’t incorporate your PII.
Keeping usage logs is a red flag. Although there are many categories, VPN providers usually divide logs into these two, connection and usage (traffic) logs. And although connection logs are not entirely something to worry about, usage logs are. This is everything you do on the Internet while using a VPN, from the websites you visit, the files you download, the purchases you make, all your sent messages, even the software you use such as Bit torrent, Xbox etc. If you come across a VPN provider that keeps usage logs, don’t even consider it. Usually, the free providers are the ones with such bad privacy policies, therefore if you want to keep yourself protected it’s better to invest money in a decent VPN. Because, at the end of the day, privacy is one of the main purposes of having a VPN in the first place.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
There is no absolute guarantee that a VPN provider will not keep some or all of your information, however, there are a few pieces of advice we can give when it comes to this.
After carefully going through many VPNs, we have chosen the best ones on the market that guarantee a secure, no-logs browsing experience.
CyberGhost has many great features, but by far the best is their zero-logging policy. The service is based in Romania, the first country to reject EU’s data retention law back in 2012, thus allowing the VPN to maintain its great policy. The provider stores no connection nor usage logs. However, they will need your IP address for “anti-fraud” purposes, but they later store it in an anonymized format. Another great feature are their “no-spy servers”, meaning that they purchased their own servers and manage them on-site, allowing CyberGhost to avoid any third-party involvement.
Although it’s a USA based provider, you won’t have to worry about your personal information being compromised. This VPN keeps no logs, and the same has already been proven in Court, making it even more trustworthy. Besides, Private Internet Access also has excellent security features, including a VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection and port forwarding.