What is a WebRTC Leak?￼
Unknown to many, even web browsers are prone to exposing online users’ IP addresses. That’s an inevitable situation each time we open Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera, just to name a few.
This unfortunate issue is due to a WebRTC leak that comes with almost any web browser these days. But is there a way to keep our IP addresses from getting exposed?
What is WebRTC?
WebRTC or Web Real-Time Communication is a technology used by web browsers to reduce the lag time when users are in a video or audio call. It is also used to keep live streaming and file sharing faster.
As its name suggests, this non-proprietary protocol establishes real-time communication between the browser and the website that you are visiting by exchanging local and public IP addresses.
WebRTC was developed by Google and adopted by other web browser developers such as Microsoft and Mozilla.
What is a WebRTC leak?
When you are using an unreliable VPN, and your IP address still gets exposed by your web browser, then a WebRTC leak has occurred.
This means that your privacy is vulnerable. But why should this happen when the point of getting a VPN is to provide you with end-to-end encryption capabilities to ensure that no one can decode your sensitive data at rest or in transit except for your intended recipient?
The issue is with the web browser, and there’s a solution that involves changing the settings and using a VPN simultaneously.
But first, it is important to verify if there is indeed a WebRTC leak by performing a short test.
How can I detect a WebRTC leak?
There are two ways to find out if you have a WebRTC leak — the manual method and the automatic method.
The manual method involves the following steps:
Step 1: Disconnect your VPN.
Step 2: On your web browser, check your IP address by typing the query, “what’s my IP.”
Step 3: Write down all the IP addresses that are generated.
Step 4: Close the page.
Step 5: Connect to your VPN and repeat step 2.
If any of the IP addresses that were generated on Step 3 appear again, then you can confirm that a WebRTC leak exists.
On the other hand, you can take a shortcut and just have an online tool such as ExpressVPN’s WebRTC Leak Test do the job for you. Simply click on the link and the tool will detect if your browser is leaking your IP address to the websites you visit or not. In addition, it also verifies if your browser supports WebRTC or if it has been disabled.
How to stop WebRTC leak
If you want to stop or prevent your IP address from leaking due to WebRTC, you may check the following steps according to the web browser that you are using.
Unlike other web browsers where you can change the settings to disable WebRTC, doing it on Chrome can likely cause your web browser to malfunction. The best way to avoid it is to install an extension such as WebRTC Network Limiter, WebRTC Leak Prevent, or uBlock Origin.
Step 1: On the address bar, type “about: config” and press Enter.
Step 2: Click Accept the Risk and Continue.
Step 3: Click Show All.
Step 4: You’ll have a list of various settings on your web browser.
Step 5: On the Search bar, type, “media.peerconnection.enabled”
Step 6: Click the toggle icon on the right, then wait for the value in the middle to change to “false”.
Congratulations! You’ve disabled WebRTC on Firefox.
Safari’s permission model doesn’t make IP addresses available to other websites. However, if you allow audio or video capture on the browser, then there’s a high probability that your IP address will be exposed. To avoid such leaks, follow the process below.
Step 1: On the Menu bar, click Safari > Preferences…
Step 2: Click the Advanced tab.
Step 3: Check the box beside Show Develop menu in menu bar.
Step 4: Click the Develop tab.
Step 5: Click Experimental Features from the drop-down menu.
Step 6: Click WebRTC mDNS ICE candidates if there’s a checkmark beside it.
Once the check mark disappears, you’ve already disabled WebRTC on Safari.
This process applies to newer versions of Opera. If you cannot perform the steps below, it is recommended to install an extension instead.
Step 1: On the Opera web browser, click Settings > Privacy & security at the left side of the window.
Step 2: Scroll down until you reach WebRTC.
Step 3: Turn on the Disable non-proxied UDP option.
Step 4: Close the tab and the settings will be automatically saved.
Congratulations! You’ve disabled WebRTC on Opera.
Step 1: On the address bar, type “about:flags”.
Step 2: From the settings that are presented, scroll down until you reach Hide my local IP address over WebRTC connections.
Step 3: Turn this on.
Step 4: Restart Microsoft Edge.
Congratulations! You’ve disabled WebRTC on Microsoft Edge.
Warning: Manual WebRTC blocking is NOT enough
In many cases, you’ll likely forget to connect to your VPN first before browsing. Your IP address will be cached by the browser and can compromise your privacy.
However, using a VPN can reduce the risk of getting your information exposed. For instance, ExpressVPN’s browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge can completely disable WebRTC from the Settings menu so that you won’t fall prey to automatic caching.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is WebRTC harmful?
It uses advanced techniques to discover your IP address and expose it to other websites. That’s a violation to your personal privacy.
What web browsers are prone to WebRTC leaks?
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge have their settings automatically enable WebRTC by default. It is necessary to disable WebRTC before using any of these web browsers.
Why do I still need a VPN after changing the settings in my browser to disable WebRTC?
Blocking WebRTC is just the start. Your VPN will keep you from exposing your IP address and other online activities.
What’s a VPN that offers the best protection against WebRTC leaks?
ExpressVPN is a consistent leader when it comes to security compared to other VPNs. It is based in the British Virgin Islands, where it is against the law to conduct any form of data retention. Thus, ExpressVPN guarantees its clients that the company does not keep records of users’ activities or connection logs in any way. Many analysts and product reviewers also agree that ExpressVPN is unparalleled when it comes to its strong privacy and security measures, a global presence of servers, and excellent split tunneling capability.
Ready to use a paid VPN? Try ExpressVPN!If you want a VPN that offers robust security and geo-spoofing features that you can trust, start making each browsing experience safe and sound by choosing your ExpressVPN plan today. Enjoy the internet with privacy and security!