- If you're using a VPN, you must understand that the VPN provider will be able to see whatever your ISP could before you secured your connection.
- However, there's a lot of debate going on about whether or not your VPN can decrypt SSL traffic. Spoiler alert: it can't.
- Check out our best VPNs that will keep your online privacy safe.
- Visit our VPN Hub to learn more about how VPNs can help you protect your online privacy.
VPNs are these wonderful tools that can help you protect your online privacy without giving it too much thought. You download the service, log into your account, choose a server, and connect to it.
Upon connection, every request you make and response you receive will be sheltered by an encrypted tunnel.
Usually, your ISP can make out your online whereabouts without too much effort. One look and they can tell which website you’ve visited, what files you’ve downloaded, and how much time you spent looking at online videos.
One thing they can’t see, though, is encrypted traffic. So if you’re using an email client that offers encryption, your ISP can’t read your emails.
Furthermore, if you go to an HTTPS-encrypted website and post some content on it, your ISP won’t be able to make out the content you pass (since it’s encrypted). However, it can still see that you’ve been on that specific website.
VPN prevents ISP snooping
You may have seen this coming for a while, but VPNs are extremely successful at preventing ISP snooping. Remember earlier when we said that your ISP can see the websites you access and files you download?
Well, it turns out that using a VPN can encrypt that information. Thus, your ISP won’t be able to see even those usually-unencrypted bits of information.
VPN becomes the middleman
Without a VPN, your ISP is essentially a middleman. It stays nice and cuddly between you and the Internet and makes sure you can access it. Sure, there are ISPs that never interact with you in ways they shouldn’t (i.e. snooping).
However, if something goes afoul and the need arises, your ISP can easily take a look at some logs and make you shine like a diamond on a virtual map of online activity.
What your VPN does is simply replace the middleman. Thus, you need to trust them more than you can trust your ISP.
However, even with that in mind, know that a lot of VPN providers swear by their zero-logging and zero-abuse policies. That’s a solid indicator you can follow if you don’t know which VPN to stick by.
In certain regions, governments have pressured VPN providers into installing backdoors on their servers, to facilitate monitoring. However, this would defeat the whole purpose of having a VPN, to begin with.
While facing this situation, many providers decided to cut their losses and relocate or remove servers from regions where they risk them to be seized.
Can VPN decrypt SSL-encrypted traffic?
To put it shortly, VPNs aren’t able to decrypt SSL/TLS-encrypted traffic. However, it’s worth mentioning that VPNs have access to your encrypted traffic.
In lieu of a VPN, your ISP usually has access to that traffic. Hence we told you earlier why you’ll need to trust your VPN more than you trust your ISP for this relationship to work.
On the other hand, since your VPN has access to SSL-encrypted data, they can plant a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.
The principle is quite simple, but it should also be easy to detect, as well. All you need to do to avoid a MITM attack is carefully check the website’s certificate.
It’s rather complicated (if not downright impossible) for attackers to achieve a valid certificate for a domain that they don’t own. Even while using a fake certificate, your browser should warn you about connecting to an insecure host.
What’s the best VPN that won’t snoop on me?
Word of advice, if you’re still worried that your VPN might use a MITM attack on you, try choosing one that has a solid zero-logging policy.
Also, stick with the big names, not some sketchy nearly-free service that has a poorly-designed website and buggy client.
Here’s a list of the best VPNs on the market that enforce zero-logging policies:
|Product Name||Keeps logs?||Company Name|
|Private Internet Access||No traffic logs||Kape Technologies|
|CyberGhost VPN||No identifying data||Kape Technologies|
|BullGuard VPN||No identifying data||BullGuard|
|NordVPN||No logs||Tefincom & Co., S.A.|
|Surfshark VPN||No logs||Surfshark LTD|
Fact: VPNs can’t decrypt SSL traffic
All things considered, you can rest assured knowing that SSL/TLS-encrypted traffic can’t be decrypted even by your VPN. However, there are other risks you subject yourself to while using a VPN, one of those being MITM attacks.
The good news is that, if you stick by a renowned provider, it’s very unlikely that they’ll orchestrate such a heist. So put your mind at ease, and make the right choice when it comes to your online privacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely not, VPNs can access SSL traffic but they can’t decrypt it. Same as your ISP can access VPN encrypted traffic but they can’t decrypt it.
Yes, your VPN provider can see your traffic in the sense that it sees what websites you visit and which files you download. Encrypted traffic isn’t visible, even to your VPN.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing a decent VPN service, take a look at our best VPN recommendations.