What Is A WebRTC Leak And How To Prevent It?

Do you use a virtual private network (aka VPN) on your device? Whether it’s to improve your privacy and security on the Internet, or access restricted websites and services in your region, you shouldn’t overlook the possibility of WebRTC leaks.

Web browsers – such as Chrome and Firefox – have a vulnerability which might leak your actual IP address to the outside world. Read on to learn what WebRTC leaks are all about, and how you can stay protected against them.

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WebRTC – A brief explanation

WebRTC, or Web Real-Time Communication, is an open-source technology that enables browsers to provide real-time communications – such as voice calls, video chat, and file sharing – without having to download any additional add-ons or extensions.

While WebRTC is useful in many ways, it has the potential of endangering your privacy when you connect to a VPN and experience WebRTC leaks. Moreover, since the vulnerability is lesser-known, not all VPNs keep you safe from them.

What is a WebRTC leak?

To put it simply, a WebRTC leak takes place when the WebRTC functionality in browsers expose your original IP address via STUN (Session Traversal Utilities for NAT) requests when using a VPN. This means that your real IP address can easily be obtained through your browser by any website – all it takes is executing a few simple JavaScript (JS) commands!

Once again, we’d like to reiterate that WebRTC leaks aren’t caused due to a problem with your VPN service. Instead, it’s a flaw that primarily impacts both Chrome and Firefox browsers running on Windows. As far as Mac and Linux users are concerned, they remain unaffected by the WebRTC vulnerability.

Why are WebRTC leaks dangerous?

If your IP address gets leaked during an active VPN connection, it becomes considerably easier for your ISP to keep tabs on your activities, the government to watch your every move, and hackers to get their hands on your personal data. In short, WebRTC leaks defeat the very purpose of using a VPN service, to begin with!

Plus, your true IP address can be potentially requested and accessed by any website – even if you’re connected to a VPN. Not only does that have serious implications for your privacy as we mentioned above, but also you’ll encounter issues when trying to access geo-restricted websites and content.

How to test for a WebRTC leak?

To make sure your IP address is hidden, follow these steps to test for potential WebRTC leaks:

  1. Find your public IP address via any IP lookup site
  2. Note down the IP address
  3. Launch your VPN app/client and connect to any server location
  4. Now, use PureVPN’s WebRTC Leak Test

If your ISP-assigned public IP address is displayed in the results, it means your browser is experiencing a WebRTC leak. Time to explore WebRTC leak prevention options!

How to prevent a WebRTC leak?

So, are you facing WebRTC leak issues? If so, you might be wondering whether anything can be done to remedy this problem. Fortunately for you, there are two proven ways to prevent WebRTC leaks and safeguard your privacy:

Disable WebRTC from your browser

Firefox

If you’re a Firefox user, you’ll be glad to know that it allows you to disable the WebRTC feature directly with ease. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Launch Firefox
  2. In the URL bar, type “about:config” and hit enter
  3. Click “I accept the risk”
  4. In the Search bar, type “media.peerconnection.enabled”
  5. Double-click the displayed item in the “Preference Name” to change the value from true to false.

Safari

It’s possible to disable WebRTC on Safari as well, but finding the option is a tad difficult in comparison to Firefox. That’s because the WebRTC functionality was implemented only recently, but you’ll be able to find and disable it easily by following these steps:

  1. Launch Safari
  2. Click Preferences from the Safari menu
  3. Click the Advanced tab and check the box next to “Show Develop menu in menu bar”
  4. From the menu bar, click the Develop tab and select “WebRTC”
  5. If the “Enable Legacy WebRTC Api” option is checked, click it to disable it.

Chrome

Since Chrome doesn’t come with any built-in settings that enable users to disable WebRTC manually, you’ll need to install the right extension/add-on. You can either use WebRTC Control or WebRTC Leak Prevent for this purpose.

However, it’s important to mention that extensions/add-on’s aren’t 100 % reliable. There’s still a chance, even though a small one, that you might experience a WebRTC leak despite using them. This brings us to the next, more effective alternative.

Get a VPN with WebRTC leak protection

As discussed earlier, WebRTC leaks are something you need to worry about only if you use a VPN service. If the one you’ve purchased doesn’t offer WebRTC leak protection, you should consider switching to another that does – our top choice is PureVPN!

The trusted VPN service provides foolproof WebRTC leak protection in its extensions for Chrome and Firefox. All you have to do is toggle the option on, and it takes care of everything else from there onwards.

With a generous 31-day money-back guarantee, you can test the service risk-free and make sure that no WebRTC leaks occur. You also have a plethora of tools to further secure yourself, including kill switch and DNS leak protection, among others.

We’d advise that you avoid free VPNs at all costs! They’re notorious for gathering users’ data and selling it to the highest bidder for a profit. In fact, some even sneak malware on your device. As such, they can’t be relied on for complete protection against WebRTC leaks – even if they claim to do so!

Wrapping things up

As you can see, it’s easy to check for WebRTC leaks and the problem can quickly be fixed on all major browsers as well. If you ask us, selecting a VPN service with robust WebRTC leak protection is the best way to stay protected from WebRTC leaks.




About the Author

Ankur Shah
Ankur Shah is the founder of the Value Investing India Report, a leading independent, value oriented journal of the Indian financial markets. Ankur has more than eight years of equity research experience covering emerging markets, with a focus on India and South East Asia. He has worked as both a buy-side investment analyst for a global long/short equity hedge fund and a sell-side analyst for an emerging markets investment bank. Ankur is a graduate of Harvard Business School. You can learn more about his latest views on global markets at the Value Investing India Report. -- He can be emailed at AnkurShah47@gmail.com