VPN companies can see and store various types of information related to their users’ identity and behavior. Some VPN providers keep logs for troubleshooting, others for improving their systems. However, some VPNs do not keep any user information. Such a service is called “logless VPN,” or “no-log VPN,” or “zero log VPN.”
What are VPN logs?
Typically in Virtual private networks (VPNs), incoming and outgoing data is encrypted to protect users’ online privacy, anonymity, and personal information transmitted via a network. A record of customer activities while using VPN services is called a VPN log. Logs can be found in various categories and forms.
Both ISP (Internet Service Provider) and VPN can see and store users unencrypted data including:
- Records of visited websites;
- Accessed internet resources such as downloaded files;
- Passwords entered into non-HTTPS secured sites.
Many times these records may request by court orders. As an example, in the UK, it is required to store these usage files for 12 months so that various government departments can be accessible to them.
Connection logs include:
- User IP address;
- Timestamp – when an internet connection was started and finished;
- Bandwidth usage.
All network devices, including VPNs, generate real-time logs which may last within few milliseconds. They can be monitored in real-time, and VPN services monitor them to identify issues related to the connection. Nevertheless, real-time logs can be less harmful to user privacy.
Almost all VPN service providers indeed hire third-party servers spread over the world. These server data centers may not have committed to protecting user privacy, though VPN service providers do. But anyway, it can be identified that the greatest threat is log files which keep by VPN providers, not third-party server centers.
From a logged IP address, the VPN provider is able to match a corresponding email address and other personal information of the users.
What is a logless VPN?
No log VPN or logless VPN means a VPN that does not collect or log any user information exchanging through the network. Therefore, it protects user privacy and anonymity even from the VPN service provider. No log VPN service providers are more trusted because users choose their service to encrypt sending and receiving data and no-log service ensures that these service providers will not collect user personal data and sell to third parties.
VPN logging policy
Before selecting a VPN service, it is worth to go through logging policies. The logging policy can be divided into three parts as below.
Some personal information like username, IP address, etc. can be considered as error logs. VPN service providers use these data to identify problems related to their services and to enhance them.
Type of logs which users to track records of user online activities. When digital privacy companies need to monitor their multi-login features, these records become useful.
VPNs can monitor each user’s activities including web requests, what kind of files are downloading etc. in other words, VPN servers can route all web traffic comes through their network.
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes & 14 Eyes Countries
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes & 14 Eyes are standard terms involving the VPN and other privacy tools. These are international surveillance alliances countries that work to collect and share mass surveillance data. On the other hand, these countries acting as one global surveillance entity and spy on users and their activities (as examples documents, location data, calls, etc.).
It is worth knowing that in many countries, data retention is legal while in some countries like Australia, it is mandatory. Unless a user does not use an excellent VPN service, it is easy to log all user DNS requests and collect the data (BTW, I recommend using a no-log DNS as well).
- 5 Eyes countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States;
- 9 Eyes countries: 5 Eyes + Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway;
- 14 Eyes countries: 9 Eyes + Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain.
So simply above countries monitor online activities of all users and regularly share them. Therefore, better to avoid choosing VPN services that have their headquarters in the above countries — in addition to those below countries also acting as spying agents on online activities.
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
The best logless VPNs
As mentioned earlier, before choosing a VPN provider you should be aware of the disadvantages of a VPN and you should go through their logging policy and focus on the following factors:
- Should have shared IP addresses;
- No traffic logging and source IP logs;
- Bitcoin payment option.
And here are the logless VPNs that I recommend:
- VPN provider based in Panama, so there is no influence from USA NSA and copyright holders, servers in 47 countries. Perfect at your logless VPN service. NordVPN was the subject of several independent audits.
- Six simultaneous devices.
- Accept anonymous payment in Bitcoin.
- Route traffic through two servers (double-hop VPN chaining), so this has excellent utility.
- P2P permitted.
- OpenVPN encryption with perfect forward secrecy.
- Supports obfsproxy technology to defeat censorship.
- User-friendly apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- VPN provider registered in the British Virgin Islands.
- For practical purposes, this keeps minimal anonymous usage statistics excluding IP and connection timestamp.
- Fast performance, 24/7 customer support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Servers located across 94 countries enhancing the speed, privacy, and access to geographically restricted data. An impressive number of IP addresses offered.
- A new free smart domain name system (DNS) helps to run streaming services smoothly on a VPN (Ex: unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu).
- Simple and effective Kill Switch.
- IPv6 leak protection.
- Available as a desktop tool as well as Android and iOS apps.
- Works great on routers.
- Three simultaneous connections, peer-to-peer (P2P) permitted (learn how to torrent safely).
- VPN provider based in Romania.
- It does not keep user logs.
- Multiple usages on up to 5 devices.
- 1-day free trial plus a 15-day money-back guarantee.
- Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection. WebRTC leak protection.
- HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies available.
- Access to Double VPN, Stealth VPN, Shadowsocks.
- Advanced Kill Switch functions.
- Excellent customer service.
- Great for torrenting, file sharing.
- Read our complete ibVPN review here.
How to be sure your VPN provider does not keep logs?
Read VPNs privacy policies and terms of service
Although “no logs” mentioned in the VPN web site or advertisements, it is worth to read printed terms of services to make sure the same replicate in there.
Sometimes companies must hand over customer details for legal purposes when they require by gag orders, without alerting customers. Some VPNs operate warrant canaries that help customers to identify this kind of thing that has not happened to them.
Although many VPN providers advertise as “no log,” most of them keep some logs for troubleshooting and to enhance the connection.
When choosing a no-logs policy VPN service users have to go through VPN logging documents as well as have to look at the based countries. We recommend NordVPN (the best VPN in my opinion) or ExpressVPNbut you may also go for Private Internet Access (PIA), HideIPVPN, IPVanish, CyberGhost, Surfshark, PureVPN.
Because in some countries it is entirely legal to access user log files (in other words to spy on user activities), countries where VPN is illegal.