If you are someone who takes privacy and anonymity seriously, then the probability of you being familiar with VPN (Virtual Private Network), TOR and other widely used proxy tools to mask ones identity and location. VPN is one of the widely used service provided by number of companies across the world. These VPN services help internet users circumvent internet censorship and access blocked content in different geographies. VPN is also being increasingly used as a way to hide one’s identity as companies offering VPN services claims they offer anonymity and privacy.
Bitcoin is known for security and the anonymity associated with it. These features along with the technology behind bitcoins in the form of Blockchain which acts as a ledger and maintains records of each transaction has been responsible for the increased popularity of the digital currency. It is a common practice for many to use TOR (The Onion Router) and VPN services to mask their identity while making bitcoin transactions or surfing the deep web. Bitcoin transactions are considered to be pseudonymous, not anonymous. The anonymity part is associated only with the wallet address whereas transactions between wallets is publicly visible. However, with the right set of tools and expertise it is still possible to find the identity of the person associated with a particular bitcoin wallet.
Let’s accept the fact that Bitcoin was popularized by its adoption as the currency of choice in the deep web. People could buy drugs, weapons and other illegal stuff from deep web marketplaces like Silk Road and Agora. In order to ensure that the online activity isn’t monitored by law enforcement agencies, people prefer using IP masking services like VPN and TOR protocol.
For those who have become too comfortable with VPN as a security layer for protecting privacy and maintain anonymity, they are out of luck. According to a study conducted by a group of researchers from Queen Mary University in London and Sapienza University in Rome, VPN services are not as good as the companies claim them to be. They tested over 14 most popular commercial VPN services to find that most of them leak IP information and some may even be vulnerable to DNS hijacking attacks.
Commercial VPN services like Astrill, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, Tunnelbear, Hide My Ass and Hotspot Shield Elite are some of 14 VPN service analysed. With most of these services still operating on outdated technology, they end up leaking small amounts of IPv6 traffic which can be detected by the public and used to gain access to entire web browsing history of the user.
However, in spite reports of TOR network being compromised, It is still the best out there in comparison to VPN services. So, those interested in maintaining their privacy, can go back to using Tor over a VPN service, or just TOR instead of relying only upon VPN.