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Due to increasing concerns about privacy online I recently started researching technologies that are supposed to hide our activities from unwanted watchers.

I've been learning about workings of VPN servers and there's one concept I cannot quite get my head around.

As I understand the way VPN works (correct me if I'm wrong tho) is that the VPN client encrypts any data sent from the user to the world, thus preventing anyone from learning about that user's activity. The packet is sent through a public network to the VPN server, where it is decrypted and then sent to its destination.

What bothers me is the route from the VPN server to the destination. Since it is decrypted and travels through a public network it's not protected. Moreover, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that any data leaving VPN servers are by default sensitive so it occurs to me that for an attacker seeking such data, listening at the getaway from the VPN server is like hitting a jackpot.

Is there something I'm missing here?

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You are not missing anything. Protections and controls have a scope. A VPN's scope is from the client to the VPN server. Beyond that is outside of the VPN's scope.

But protections also happen in layers. Most, if not all, web traffic is sent using TLS. So, it is not as simple as "listening" to the traffic that the VPN sends on, since that traffic will also be encrypted.

If the traffic is not encrypted, however, then it is as simple as listening to the VPN's output.

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