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My residence provides wifi and I'm using my personal computer to connect to it. I use a login and password to have access to the internet. Some websites are blocked by it.

Sometimes I log into VPN (using ANyConnect) to access data on my university's server. When I'm on the VPN, the websites usually blocked aren't.

My question is, can web pages I visit to be tracked when I'm on the VPN or directly connected to the WiFi? How does it work? Do they keep a record of the websites I visit?

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The VPN operator can track and record what websites you visit while you're using the VPN if they want to, and you'd have to check their policies to see what they actually do. If everything is set up properly, your wifi provider can only see that you're sending encrypted data to and from the VPN, but can't see what pages you're visiting. If you're connected to the wifi and not using the VPN, the wifi provider can then see what pages you're visiting, and for pages not served using https they can even see the full content of all of your communication with those pages.

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This will depend on the type of VPN. Cisco anyconnect normally uses strong cryptography to create a tunnel through which all your traffic is routed. This means that the person who has control of the VPN end-point will be able to view what you are visiting.

Most likely when you are using the Wifi, there is either deep packet inspection or a proxy which is performing a type of filtering to prevent you from viewing certain websites. This is often done for various reasons, such as preventing people from opening malicious sites, adult websites or just browsing websites which tend to have a lot traffic such as youtube.

When using the VPN, the proxy is most likely unable to see what you are visiting and this is why it works.

  • So when I'm on the VPN, could there be history of all my visited web pages ? – lukas irides Dec 15 '14 at 17:33
  • The one who controls the VPN connection can indeed log whatever website you request. He may not be able to see specific pages, but he will at least see which DNS entries your are requesting. – Lucas Kauffman Dec 15 '14 at 19:25

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