While browsing the Internet I realized I could access US websites from within the US using the VPN service Private Internet Access (PIA).

I tried accessing http://www.cc.com/ to see what would happen.

To my surprise I got to the website but was connected to an address in the Netherlands (https://www.tcpiputils.com/browse/ip-address/23.212.232.117). Even on the PIA forms it shows that I am connected to an address in the Netherlands (https://www.tcpiputils.com/browse/ip-address/23.214.61.105). Duck duck go connects to Ireland (https://www.tcpiputils.com/browse/ip-address/46.51.197.89).

Why are these connections registering my Geolocation (they realize my computer originates in the EU)? I thought PIA provided a secure connection to a remote server but this clearly shows that my connection to that server is being intercepted somehow.

Any help with an explanation would be greatly appreciated!

EDIT: After doing some digging it seems like Akamai Technologies (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akamai_Technologies) is circumnavigating the PIA VPN network. Some how it is still registering that my account is in the EU (and is delivering services from closer servers, like the Netherlands).

I still need clarification as to why this is happening. I thought the VPN encryption would prevent people from intercepting traffic?

  • i am in .us and run my own vpn through a vps in .nl which gets me lots of ads in dutch. but now i am getting some for local businesses that suggest many have figured out my location. when i flush my cookies i do get fewer local ads for a while, but not zero. i have a private static IP address, so many may be using that instead of cookies. i am planning on moving the server to another IP so i will see, then, what the effect is. i will flush all my cookies at the same time. – Skaperen Nov 12 '17 at 7:58
  • using a VPS provider that runs everything through a single, shared, IP, in combination with blocking (or regularly flushing) cookies, might help. – Skaperen Nov 12 '17 at 8:02

The issue was due to DNS leakage.

To fix the problem I needed to find my VPN's DNS server. After that I had to set my network adapter to query DNS from that server.

The problem was fixed, akamai technologies no longer server up web addresses.

There are many ways to track a user via their web browser. The IP address is only one of those.

Have you tried from a private browsing session so that you don't present any cookies? You might also need to force a new IP address before doing that in case a tracker has already associated your address with your location.

Are you logged in to Google? That might be another route.

Also look for a tool that checks for DNS leakage. Not all VPN clients are made equal and some are especially poor at protecting DNS queries.

Most likely though, as you say, one of the tracking sites has been tracking you and your activity and knows a considerable amount about you. Location is only one part of that potentially.

As you've seen, simply using a VPN is not a route to privacy.

Clear out your cookies and local storage. Always block 3rd party cookies, block advertising, choose one of the better VPN's. Check for DNS leakage, Add ToR to the VPN if you really need privacy, at least make good use of private browsing sessions.

I have some additional information and tools published on GitHub: Security & Privacy

  • Hi @JulianKnight I checked the traceroute and it does look like my data is being transmitted through the US server but Akamei Technologies still provides these websites through distribution services closer to where I am in the EU instead of the US. I have disabled most of the Geo IP settings in my browser and have even disabled ipv6 (which was giving away my location even when routed though the VPN. If it is DNS leakage (something I'm about to Wikipedia) how could I tell? – Berrik Nov 12 '17 at 1:49
  • I think it is DNS leakage... I just checked on perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest and it showed both my original IP and the server IP used for the VPN. What can I do about DNS leakage? – Berrik Nov 12 '17 at 1:57
  • @Berrik: "What can I do about DNS leakage?" - your original question is asking why this happens. Asking how this this can be fixed is a different question. And there are already lots of questions on this site which deal with DNS leakage. Thus please read the existing ones and if these are not helping with your problem ask a new question which includes the details on what you've tried and where you've failed. – Steffen Ullrich Nov 12 '17 at 7:10
  • 1
    @Berrik - well done for researching this. As mentioned there are several ways in which you can be tracked. The information aggregators such as Akamai and others have an incredible amount of information about you and numerous ways to track. Cookie and other browser info, even the config of your browser tells them something. Along with your browsing habits. With machine learning even things like your typing style can identify you. – Julian Knight Nov 12 '17 at 10:16
  • After some digging I found that my VPN provider has DNS servers. I simply routed my DNS through those servers and this fixed the DNS leak. Thanks for the help everyone! – Berrik Nov 12 '17 at 16:56

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