Monday, 25 June 2012

VPN Server Logs: Who Keeps Them?

Internet privacy doesn't hinge only on having secure communications. You also need to make certain that the records of your communications are not retained. Some VPN providers do retain server logs. Others do not. There are different methods you can use to make your server logs as inaccessible as possible. If private browsing is a major concern for you, there are tactics that you can use that go beyond the technical in nature.

Logging and Retention
For privacy enthusiasts, any VPN provider that keeps logs is automatically disqualified as an option. If you're worried about people not being able to track down what you are doing online, you'll need to go with a provider that either does not keep logs or that only keeps them for a very short amount of time.
One of the easiest ways to get some peace of mind about server logs is to go with a company that offers unlimited bandwidth plans. Generally speaking, most companies that do retain logs only keep them to determine how much bandwidth users have gone through. If those users are on metered plans, the provider needs to know this information so that they can tell when their usage has expired for the month. There's no reason to keep server logs if you have unlimited access. Your VPN provider's policies will be detailed on their site.

Server Ownership
Some VPN providers offer servers located all over the world. Obviously, one would have to be pretty credulous to believe that the company actually has employees located all over the world attending those servers. The servers, of course, are contracted. If you're truly worried about security, you'll want to look for a company that owns all of its servers. This is a way of ensuring that the company's security policies are applied consistently across all of its servers.

Jurisdictional Layering
Jurisdictional layering is a tactic for obtaining Internet security that shares some features in common with having a foreign bank account. By utilizing a VPN service located in a nation that does not cooperate with the law enforcement in your own nation, you can avoid having lawyers subpoena information about your traffic logs, if the company even keeps them.

The popular nations for jurisdictional layering include Russia, Ukraine and Panama. In addition to the fact that VPN operators in these nations aren't likely to be concerned with a demand for server logs by any agency outside their own nation, there are language barriers that make it very difficult for lawyers and other legal authorities to get information from such providers. For businesses that want to maintain the highest levels of security for trade secrets and other information, jurisdictional layering is oftentimes a useful tactic.

Mind the TOS
Every once in a while, you may get an e-mail from your provider letting you know that the terms of service agreement for their service has changed. You need to read these. The reading is oftentimes tedious and is about as exciting as is reading any other legal document is but, because the change in the terms of service may affect logging policies, you need to know.

For most users, a VPN provider that doesn't keep logs will provide adequate security. There may be cases where law enforcement could compel them to keep logs as part of an investigation, but this would be on a case-by-case basis. If you're truly worried about being able to keep your logs private, the best option may be to go with a provider located in a nation that doesn't cooperate with law enforcement in your home nation. The Internet is a global medium and, if you're smart, you can utilize that global nature to give yourself enhanced privacy on the Internet.

Author: Michael Maxstead is a big fan of VPN and provides in depth information and reviews on hiding your IP address.  Visit VPNReviewz.com for more information on how to use VPN and choose the right service for you.
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Meet the Author

Gautham A S

Gautham A S is a personal tech columnist and blogging expert at TechGau.Org, one of the leading Tech, How-To and Blogging Tips blogs in the world..