Let's assume I want to visit example.com and hide it from its owner.

With help of a VPN it may work, but, if I understand how it all works properly, my ISP still sees IP address of VPN's servers I am connecting to.

Thus, if the owner of example.com asks my ISP for IP's I have ever connected to, he still may discover that I visited his site. So, am I right or not?

Is the IP address of a VPN server the same one that my primary ISP sees in order to tunnel traffic trough VPN?

  • 1
    You have a LOT of conditions involved in this question. For instance, it is not an easy thing for a site owner to ask an ISP for its IP logs. There are privacy issues. As VPNs use the same IPs as a large number of users, it will be impossible to determine that it was you that connected to the site, just a possibility. – schroeder Nov 3 '16 at 18:31
  • Your title asks if a VPN is 'appropriate'. I'm not sure that's your real question though as you are asking about the traceability of IPs. – schroeder Nov 3 '16 at 18:34

Yes and no

(you) -> (isp) -> (vpn servers isp) -> (vpn server) -> (vpn servers isp) -> (example.com isp) -> (example.com)

your VPN's ISP could tell example.com that you connected to the VPN and that the VPN connected to example.com

Your ISP would only know that you connected to your VPN server.

  • Sorry, I edited the question as you were answering it :) – schroeder Nov 3 '16 at 18:33
  • More like (you) -> (isp) -> (vpn servers isp) -> (vpn server) -> (vpn servers isp) -> (example.com isp) -> (example.com). The VPN server's ISP sees in both directions. – forest Feb 24 at 8:38

VPNs are not very good privacy solutions, as the VPN provider knows every site you've visited (and I strongly suspect many free or cheap VPNs sell this information off). The website will have your VPN server's IP in their logs, and if they or law enforcement contact the owner of that IP, they'd be contacting the VPN provider, who knows that it was you who accessed that site at that time and who probably also has your real contact information (from payment info).

Tor, on the other hand, is an anonymity network, and thus actually provides anonymity, by routing your traffic through a changing set of nodes. The EFF has put together an excellent interactive diagram that shows the anonymity implications of using Tor and HTTPS for web traffic.

If the owner of example.com asks the ISP for IP's and they have the legal right to do so, then yes, they will discover you.

The IP address of a VPN server is not necessary to be the same one that ISP sees in order to tunnel traffic trough VPN. Usually, there's one address you connect to and then the actual traffic is routed or NATed to any IPs the VPN service provider is using.

But this is not relevant in a 'law'-enforcement situation.

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