Can VPN network traffic be monitored?

Vlad Constantinescu
by Vlad Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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  • One of the biggest concerns of casual VPN users is whether or not can VPN traffic be monitored.
  • If you're worried about your VPN traffic being monitored, you should aim to find a secure, trustworthy service that won't break your privacy no matter what.
  • Check out our best VPNs that provide top-notch protection and privacy.
  • Visit the Security Hub to learn more about keeping your devices' security in top shape.

One of the biggest concerns of casual VPN users is whether or not can VPN traffic be monitored. When you’re looking for the perfect security and privacy solution, you’re usually promised complete privacy and top-notch protection from VPNs.

So it only makes sense that you’d cling on that sense of security that a VPN provides you with. It’s already common knowledge that a VPN can hide your Internet traffic from your ISP.

You’ll be glad to learn that you can also bypass geo-restrictions with a VPN. More so, if your ISP limits your connection, you can use a VPN to increase your connection speed (and its quality) without an issue.

Yet, people are still concerned that someone can monitor their VPN traffic. So let’s debunk this mystery once and for all.

How does VPN encrypt your traffic?

It all starts on your computer after you deploy the VPN client. The client receives all the requests you make to online services and turns them into encrypted traffic.

The encrypted traffic travels through a secure tunnel that nobody but the VPN has access to (ideally). It then reaches the VPN server you’ve connected to, where it gets decrypted and forwarded.

Once it reaches the destination, the online service you’ve sent the request to sends you a response. However, since the response travels backward, it gets encrypted by the VPN server and decrypted by the client.

However, it travels the same secure tunnel of encrypted traffic that nobody but your VPN can access. Again, this is an ideal scenario and the truth is that some VPNs don’t offer this level of security.

Can VPN network traffic be monitored?

If your VPN hasn’t been hacked and takes all the necessary steps to prevent an attack from ever occurring, then your VPN traffic is safe. Trustworthy VPN providers don’t monitor their customers’ online activity.

Therefore, if an attacker were to break in, it could technically access VPN network traffic, right? Yes, but they can’t link traffic to any specific individual if the VPN does its part right.

If the attacker were to listen to the connection between the VPN server (where data gets decrypted) and the service you’re trying to access, it could figure out what you’re trying to access.

PIA VPN countries

However, since you passed your data through the secure encryption tunnel, your personally identifiable data should be all wiped out from the traffic.

Meaning that your attacker will simply see that the server tries to access some site. It’s not exactly useful data, since anyone connected to that specific server could’ve accessed that website.

Combine that with SSL encryption and the attacker’s got squat on you. Long story short, even if VPN traffic could be monitored, the traffic would still be anonymized.

What about MITM attacks?

They can still happen, even if you’re using a VPN, but not how you’d think. Essentially, VPNs will protect you against MITM (man in the middle) attacks that target the area between you (your device) and the VPN gateway.

Thus, it prevents your ISP (or any other attacker) from running a MITM attack against your device specifically.

However, if an attacker would position itself between the VPN gateway and your destination service (website, email server, etc), you can be affected by MITM.

On the bright side, it’s extremely difficult for the attacker to specifically target you amidst the attack. Thus, the attack would most likely target every user who tries to access that specific service.

What’s the most secure VPN?

If you’re still a bit worried about your VPN traffic being monitored, you should aim to find a secure, trustworthy service that won’t break your privacy no matter what.

We wholeheartedly recommend Private Internet Access, a VPN that’s brought to you by Kape Technologies. This service has passed all of our security, privacy, and speed tests without a hiccup.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

Looking for a VPN that prevents traffic monitoring? PIA might be what you need.
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However, if you’re not ready to commit to a single VPN service just yet and want to do most research, make sure to check out our recommendations of great VPNs that have zero-logging policies.

Product NameKeeps logs?Company Name
Private Internet AccessNo traffic logsKape Technologies
CyberGhost VPNNo identifying dataKape Technologies
BullGuard VPNNo identifying dataBullGuard
NordVPNNo logsTefincom & Co., S.A.
Surfshark VPNNo logsSurfshark LTD

Technically, VPN traffic can still be monitored

All things considered, it would be wrong to say that VPN traffic is impossible to monitor. Given the right tools and determination, a skillful attacker could work its magic to listen to VPN traffic.

However, since VPN traffic is anonymized, all the attacker would be able to learn would be the destination of the traffic. There’s no way it could be pinpointed to the user who initiated the request.

All the traffic in the VPN tunnel is anonymized, and once it gets decrypted, it simply looks like the VPN server is making the request to the remote server (service you’re trying to reach).

So, even though VPN traffic could be monitored, it’s probably not worth worrying about.

FAQ: Learn more about VPN traffic being monitored

  • Can VPN monitor your Internet activity?

Yes, it’s possible that certain VPN services can monitor your online activity. However, reputable VPNs take privacy seriously and are against such practices.

  • Can VPN traffic be decrypted?

No, VPN encryption can’t be broken. Most VPN providers use military-grade encryption algorithms that are incredibly tough to crack.

  • Can VPN see my passwords?

No, VPNs can’t see usernames or passwords, just as long as you’re using them on an SSL-encrypted website.