Is your Web browser leaking your IP address? Read on…

Background:

Many people assume that by using a VPN or other anonimisation tools/applications that they cannot be tracked. What many people don’t realise that some browsers leak your IP address without you knowing.

WebRTC – What is it?

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) allows today modern web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc) to seamlessly allow video conferencing, file transfer, desktop sharing etc without the need for installing external plugins into your browser.

WebRTC – Why is it a threat?

Whilst this provides useful functionality, this technology allows it to access real-time information from your browser. Specifically, your browser will leak your true IP address and therefore, you may be tracked/monitored.

What Browsers are affected?

Out of the 4 most popular used browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE) that account for ~ 90% of all browser usage, currently only Firefox and Chrome are impacted.

Am I already impacted?

To see if your browser is affected by this, simply visit: https://ipleak.net/ and check whether information appears under the section: “Your IP addresses – WebRTC detection“. i.e. Do you see your ISP’s information.

If you see IP address(es) appear in the section, it is confirmed that your browser is leaking your true identity.
If you see ZERO IP addresses in this section, it is confirmed that your browser is not leaking this.

Please see the screenshots below for examples:

Figure 1.0 – Confirmation that IP address is being leaked. Note: IP addresses and ISP details are blurred

Smooth VPN WebRTC IP leakage
WebRTC IP leakage

Figure 2.0 – Confirmation that IP address is NOT being leaked.

Smooth VPN WebRTC not leaking IP address
WebRTC not leaking IP address

What is the best solution?

Whilst Smooth VPN is independent of which browser is deemed “best”, our testing shows that Mozilla Firefox is best placed.

MOZILLA FIREFOX BROWSER (2 approaches):

1. Manually disable WebRTC:

  1. In your address bar type about:config and press ENTER
  2. Press the button: “I accept the Risk”
  3. In the Search text box, copy & paste the following: media.peerconnection.enabled
  4. Set the value to FALSE by double-clicking the “Value” field.
  5. You can check if this works by re-visiting https://ipleak.net/
  6. Note: Manually re-enabling WebRTC is the same as above but double-click the Value and set it to TRUE

2. Install Firefox Extensions/Add-ons

  1. In the Firefox menu, go to TOOLS | Add-Ons
  2. Click on “Extensions” and perform a search for “Webrtc
  3. Select an add-on that provides Disabling capability.
  4. Test to see if the add-on works (enabling and disabling WebRTC) by visiting https://ipleak.net/

Firefox Conclusion:

Either via Manual changes or via Firefox Add-On/Extensions, both worked extremely well.

CHROME BROSWERS

We had poor results with Chrome based on a number of extensions that can be installed via the Chrome store. The following may be useful for those who are interested:

1. Via Chrome menu, click “More Tools | Extensions
2. Click on “Get More Extensions
3. Search on WebRTC
4. Install and test extensions “WebRTC Network Limiter” and/or “WebRTC Leak Prevent” via the https://ipleak.net/ website.

Chrome Conclusion:

Whilst it may work for some people, when you require greater browsing privacy, it is simply best to install Firefox regardless and follow the Firefox Steps above. Note: We have a sneaky suspicion that on old versions of Chrome, these extensions work fine but on newer versions, most didn’t work.

Safari Browser

WebRTC has not been implemented in Safari. No need to be concerned yet.

Internet Explorer

WebRTC is not present in Internet Explorer. However, given IE is outdated, consider installing Firefox.

What will happen if you disable WebRTC? What will this affect?

Disabling WebRTC may lead to some WebRTC enabled applications in not working. However, you can simply re-enable WebRTC option when required when you’re not using your Smooth VPN account. Conversely, keep WebRTC enabled and when you need to log on and use our VPN for greater privacy, disable it.

Conclusion:

To enhance your browsing privacy and given Firefox can be installed on any device (PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone) and on any platform (MS Windows, Mac OS X, Android and IOS), for safer web browsing, it would be wise to install this.

Safe browsing!

The Smooth VPN team.

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebRTC (retrieved on 08/02/2017)
https://bloggeek.me/desktop-browsers-support-webrtc/ (retrieved on 08/02/2017)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *