With the significant increase in data breaches, today's users are more focused on security and privacy than they ever have been. You should already know not to use insecure wireless network if you need to transmit confidential data. Many of you are also familiar with using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to securely transmit data, but do you know if your VPN is actually secure? VPNs are fairly easy to use once they are configured. The problem is that not all VPNs are properly configured or just plain leak private data. PCWorld has a good guide to help you determine if your VPN is leaking private data.
The first test is to see if your IP address is being properly masked. Fire up your VPN and do a search for "what is my IP" in order to see sites that will report what IP address you are presenting to the Internet. The IP address that is displayed should be the IP of the VPN provider and not your ISP. You have a problem if your ISP address shows. You can also do a Google search for the IP address (e.g. IP 220.127.116.11) and observe the reported location. Using the example IP address should return the location as Hafnarfjordur, Iceland. If the returned location is very close to where you really are, you have a different problem. Finally, use a site like IPLeak.net to see if your VPN is leaking data. A very common data leak problem is using the DNS of your ISP and not of the VPN provider. That's why proper configuration of the VPN is important. Make sure your VPN client is configured to use the DNS of the VPN provider. In my VPN client, the configuration option is in the network settings and is called "Stop DNS Leak."
There are other things you should be doing when using your VPN, but following the suggestions in the PCWorld article is a good starting point for now.