Can a VPN be Hacked? – Yes! Here is How to Stay Safe

Miklos Zoltan

By Miklos Zoltan . 25 January 2024

Founder - Privacy Affairs

Justin Oyaro

Fact-Checked this

2 Comments

A VPN is one of the methods you can use for protecting your online connections and activities over the internet.

Nonetheless, like any service that relies on the internet, a VPN can be hacked.

Continue reading below to know how threat actors like hackers and third parties interested in your connections and online activities can hack your VPN.

How Threat Actors Can Hack your VPN

Hacking a VPN service, especially a premium VPN, is challenging and almost impossible. But, with enough resources, skilled hackers and other parties can compromise the VPN service.

To hack a VPN, threat actors consider various factors. Usually, hackers go for high-value targets that are worth their time. However, anyone can be at risk.

Here is how a VPN service can be hacked.

1. Exploiting Vulnerabilities in the VPN Software and Protocols

No software is 100 percent vulnerability free. As new features are added, and technology keeps evolving, vulnerabilities that can be exploited will manifest.

For VPNs, hackers target vulnerabilities that arise depending on how the VPN provider implements some functionalities.

Vulnerabilities can be in the VPN app code or the platform on which the VPN software is running. Most of the time, hackers target protocol implementation.

VPNs that use outdated protocols with underlying vulnerabilities, such as PPPT and L2TP/IPSec, are susceptible to hacks.

Hackers also target new untested protocols, VPN misconfiguration, and other code design flaws in the VPN software.

Premium VPNs use secure protocols such as OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, and other proprietary protocols that are rarely vulnerable.

2. Breaking the VPN Encryption

Encryption is how the VPN keeps your connection and activities secure over the internet. VPNs use encryption ciphers to convert your plaintext internet traffic to unintelligible gibberish code until it reaches its destination – where it is decrypted.

The strength of the encryption depends on the cipher and how it is implemented. Using a strong cipher with longer key lengths results in more robust encryption.

Secure VPNs use the AES cipher with a key size of 256 bits. Other secure ciphers include Blowfish and ChaCha20, with various key lengths.

Nonetheless, encryption using poorly implemented ciphers or ciphers with shorter key lengths can be broken through cryptographic attacks.

Hackers can use powerful computers to break ciphers through hashing and brute force attacks. This process would take years in the past, but now it takes less time.

Nonetheless, even with quantum computing advancements, an adequately implemented encryption such as AES-256 will take trillion years to break.

In this scenario, hackers look for other attack vectors that they can easily use to compromise your online security and privacy.

3. Getting Hands-on Encryption Keys

Ciphers use encryption keys to complete the encryption and decryption process. These keys are used in combination to ensure that encryption is secure.

Skilled hackers with the correct encryption keys can break a VPN’s encryption easily and get access to your online traffic.

However, getting these keys is a complicated task. Unless the hackers have the right connections and resources, such as the NSA, VPN encryption keys are hard to come by.

Nowadays, most VPN providers have taken measures to bolster the encryption process. VPNs now use unique session keys that change now and then.

This is through Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). Even if a hacker can get the encryption keys, they will only be viable for a short session. Very little data will be compromised.

4. Seizing a VPN Server

All your VPN connections go through a VPN server and are stored for some time. Gaining access and compromising a VPN server is the surest way to hack a VPN.

Hackers can compromise VPN servers if they are not configured correctly. Other hackers can gain server access by stealing login credentials or taking advantage of poor access control mechanisms.

In other instances, interested third parties, such as the government, can seize and break into VPN servers. This is when a high-value target is involved or in authoritarian countries.

How to Choose a Hacker-Proof VPN

Hackers have lower chances of hacking a reliable premium VPN. However, with the VPN market getting new additions every day, it can be challenging to get a hacker-proof VPN.

Moreover, it can be hard to know if a VPN cannot be hacked if you don’t have the right technical skills.

To make things easier, I’ve compiled an in-depth checklist of what a hacker-proof VPN should entail. Here is what you should look at when choosing a VPN.

1. Secure VPN Protocols

A VPN protocol determines how a VPN implements its connections over the internet. The protocol oversees data transfer and the encryption to be used.

A reliable VPN that cannot be hacked uses secure, tested, and proven VPN protocols. It would be best to opt for premium VPNs that use protocols such as OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2.

VPN providers offer other proprietary protocols based on existing secure protocols. These proprietary protocols solve security, connectivity, and speed issues.

Popular and reliable proprietary protocols include Lightway (ExpressVPN) and NordLynx (NordVPN).

2. Robust Encryption

Encryption is a core functionality of a VPN. Robust encryption ensures that hackers cannot compromise the VPN in conjunction with your online traffic.

When selecting a hacker-proof VPN based on encryption, I recommend a premium VPN that offers encryption through AES-256.

If properly implemented, encryption using AES cipher with a 256-bit key size will take trillion years to break even with a super advanced computer.

In a nutshell, no one has been able to break an adequately implemented AES-256-bit encryption. This is why banks and the military use this encryption.

You should also consider a VPN that reinforces its encryptions. Premium hacker-proof VPNs use strong SHA authentications, Diffie–Hellman key exchange, and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).

3. Server Configurations

VPN providers with properly configured servers and secure networks offer a hack-proof VPN service. They ensure their servers are not vulnerable to hacking and their content cannot be compromised in case their servers get seized by watchdogs.

Select a VPN with a server network that doesn’t rely on third parties. The servers should also be RAM-based. RAM-based servers wipe all your activities on each reboot.

Even if these servers are seized, your online activities won’t be at risk since they cannot be accessible.

Other server configurations, such as TrustedServer technology (ExpressVPN), ensure that the server software is configured correctly and up-to-date on each reboot. Thus, it minimizes vulnerability and improves overall security.

4. No-Logs Policy and Jurisdiction

No-logs VPN providers don’t monitor or store data related to your online connections and activities. Although it doesn’t make a VPN hacker-proof, it ensures your security and privacy if hackers manage to compromise the VPN.

It also protects your activities from prying third parties such as the government.

A VPN’s jurisdiction is also crucial as it ensures that the government doesn’t interfere with your VPN connections and online activities.

Other aspects to consider when selecting a VPN with minimal chances of being hacked include a kill switch, leak protection, and private DNS, among additional security and privacy features.

Cybersecurity Tips for Extra Protection

Besides using a VPN, you should ensure excellent overall security and privacy regarding cyber threats.

The following cybersecurity practices will ensure that your security and privacy are not compromised in case your VPN gets hacked.

You can implement the following steps to minimize the risk of cyber threats and ensure that any breaches to your VPN don’t affect your overall security:

1. Use strong passwords with multi-factor authentication

You should protect all your accounts using strong passwords that should be updated regularly. To easily manage passwords, use a password manager to create, store, and delete passwords.

Reinforce the security of your accounts with multi-factor authentication. This will ensure that no one can log into your accounts even if your password is compromised.

2. Be in the know

Create notification security alerts and follow news outlets and social media of your security and privacy services.

This is the fastest way to know if there has been a hack and what information has been compromised or exposed.

3. Use an antivirus/antimalware

If hackers cannot hack the VPN, they can use different attack vectors to access your sensitive information. Usually, they use malware and other tactics, such as phishing.

Antivirus/antimalware software will protect your system from viruses and other types of malware. This software will also try to reverse the damage and ensure that your system is not susceptible to malware.

To be safe, don’t download content from suspicious sites, click on pop-up ads, or open email attachments from people you don’t know.

4. Encrypt everything and back up

Use strong encryption to protect both your online and offline activities and data. Encryption significantly reduces the chances of your private information leaking.

A VPN is the best way to encrypt your online connections and activities. Nonetheless, you should also use secure services that encrypt your messages, emails, and other online communication.

Remember to back up your data on different secure storage.

5. Update your devices and apps/software

Outdated software and systems provide unforeseen attack vectors that hackers and other third parties can use to compromise your security and even hack your connection.

Perform updates as soon they become available. To save time on this task, set your device to update its software automatically.

Wrap Up

While a VPN offers a significant level of security, it’s important to acknowledge that it is not completely immune to hacking attempts. As with any internet-based software or service, vulnerabilities can exist in a VPN.

However, the likelihood of a successful hack is considerably lower with premium VPN services. These services employ robust encryption protocols that could take an extraordinarily long time – potentially millions of years – to breach.

Additionally, hacking into a VPN service is often a resource-intensive and time-consuming endeavor. As a result, hackers and other entities usually seek alternative, less secure avenues to compromise online security and privacy.

2 Comments

  • Defending Privacy in the Surveillance State and Fragmenting Internet | naked capitalism

    May 17, 2024 5:06 pm

    […] that their marketers claim to be opposed to. Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo’s privacy has been questioned, VPNs can be compromised, and flaws in Tor’s code are found regularly. Early U.S. government involvement and funding in […]

  • Decker

    October 25, 2023 12:55 am

    Their strong encryptions will take millions of years to break.
    Hmmm. Perhaps you may want to rethink that, considering technology has grown exponentially; outstripping expectations. So, I just have your basic VPN. How long do I have before I should become suspicious? A Very Valid Question.

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