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I am asking this question from a security perspective (not privacy)

I have read that using a vpn can prevent hackers including your isp (who could be working for the government) from doing mitm attacks. Is this correct? That using a vpn has security benefits? It can provide security against the isp and government?

But then that means the mitm attacks can be performed by the vpn.

So is it a matter of who you trust? Your isp or the vpn? And if you don't trust your isp then you can be safe from the isp by using a vpn?

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You've got the main idea correctly: if you fear that your ISP would sniff or manipulate your traffic then a proper VPN will protect you against this. But then you have to trust the VPN provider instead. Only that you often have more choice in choosing a VPN provider than an ISP and that VPN providers might actually want to excel in terms of privacy while your ISP might have different interests.

But note that a VPN might protect you less than you think, i.e. watch out for IPv6 leaks or DNS leaks caused by improper VPN implementations or configurations.

I have read that using a vpn can prevent hackers ...

The VPN provider can only protect your connection between the VPN entry (usually your system or your local router) and the VPN exit. The VPN exit is usually not the endpoint of your connection, i.e. there are still MITM attacks possible between the VPN exit and the site you visit. And a VPN will also not protect you against a malicious or otherwise insecure web site. But you've bypassed at least your ISP and if the VPN exit is outside the reach of your government you increased your chance to bypass your government too (as long as the trust in the VPN is actually justified).

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  • Does the ISP and vpn provider have the same options if they choose to attack you? Or does one have an advantage over the other? Nov 5, 2019 at 8:22
  • @Linux_user0987: Both are in the path of all your traffic and have the same options to attack you if they want. Nov 5, 2019 at 8:33
  • @ Steffen Is it okay to compare the ISP and vpn provider with a hacker on a LAN? I have read that it is quite easy for a person on a LAN to intercept your traffic and initiate mitm attacks. So can they be compared? Would the ISP and a person on a LAN attack using the same tools and methods? Nov 9, 2019 at 17:04
  • @Linux_user0987: it is easier for an ISP or a VPN to intercept your traffic than for a hacker on the LAN. On the LAN the hacker has to somehow redirect your traffic (for example using ARP spoofing) first in order to be in your network path so he can do some MITM. But the ISP and VPN are already in the path of your traffic. It is more comparable with somebody hacking into the SoHo router which connects you to the internet. Nov 9, 2019 at 17:52
  • @ Steffen: Is it correct that when using a vpn there are two people you need to be careful about; the vpn provider and the ISP of the vpn? The traffic gets to the vpn encrypted but then gets decrypted and flows through the vpn's isp unencrypted. So is it possible that even if the vpn is trustworthy the vpn's isp (depending on the country you choose) might perform a mitm attack? Unlikely but still possible isn't it? So do you think that choosing the right country is important as well? Nov 10, 2019 at 5:06

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