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Can a VPN be hacked? Learn How to Secure Your Online Privacy

Can a VPN be hacked? The short answer is yes, but it’s not easy.

VPNs are among the most advanced software in the world, adapting the latest cybersecurity technology to protect you from hackers. But, hackers are constantly updating their methods and testing new attacks. 

So, while the best VPNs in the world have never suffered successful hacks, many lesser VPNs have. And the dangers of your VPN getting hacked are extreme. After all, they can see everything you do online. 

In this quick guide, we’ll take you through the most common hacks targeting VPNs. We’ll also quickly introduce the most hack-proof VPNs on the market.

Note: If you’re in a rush, stick to ExpressVPN. It’s the #1 VPN in the world, with unrivaled security, speed, and overall performance. Plus, it’s never been hacked.

Common VPN hacking techniques

Understanding the methods that hackers might employ is crucial in developing strategies to prevent attacks. Here are the most common techniques to be aware of:

1. Exploiting vulnerabilities

Hackers constantly scan VPN software, protocols, and server configurations for potential security holes. These vulnerabilities might exist due to coding errors, outdated software, or misconfigured systems. 

Once discovered, hackers can exploit these flaws to gain unauthorized access, disrupt the VPN connection, or steal sensitive data.

2. Cracking encryption or protocol

Modern VPNs usually employ advanced encryption standards, such as AES 256, that are practically impenetrable. However, if a VPN still uses weak or outdated encryption, sophisticated hackers can potentially break through using brute-force attacks, systematically trying countless combinations to guess the encryption keys. 

Old VPN protocols (the code used to transfer your data securely) are vulnerable to attack for similar reasons. 

Tip: Stick to VPNs that use AES 256-bit encryption and advanced protocols. WireGuard is the most advanced VPN protocol. It’s also the foundation for ExpressVPN’s Lightway and NordVPN’s NordLynx protocols.

3. Targeting the VPN servers

If a hacker gains control of a VPN server, they could monitor the traffic of all users connected to that server, especially if the VPN logs user data. This could happen through a variety of methods:

  • Social engineering: Hackers may manipulate VPN staff to give up credentials or access.
  • Exploiting server misconfigurations: Poor security on the actual server can leave it vulnerable.
  • Legal coercion: In some cases, governments might compel VPNs to hand over control of their servers or user data.

Tip: Look for VPNs that undergo voluntary third party audits. These include server checks to ensure nobody has gained malicious access. 

4. Malware and phishing

Hackers often deceive you directly to bypass your VPN's protection.

  • Malware: Malware like keyloggers or trojan horses can infiltrate your device, recording sensitive information like your VPN login details, even before your data is encrypted. Stay vigilant against malware with reliable antivirus software and safe browsing practices.
  • Phishing attacks: Hackers may use phishing emails or fake websites to trick you into giving up your VPN credentials, allowing them complete access to your supposedly secure connection.

Tip: Always ensure any communication from a VPN is from the official email address (check the URL). Regularly scan your devices with antivirus to ensure no malware lurks on them. 

5. Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks

This technique is often deployed on public Wi-Fi networks. 

The hacker intercepts your connection before the VPN can establish a secure tunnel, sometimes by creating a fake but convincing "free Wi-Fi" hotspot. They can then eavesdrop on unencrypted data or redirect you to malicious websites.

Tip: Use VPNs that auto-connect whenever you turn your device on or connect to the internet. ExpressVPN has the fastest connections, reducing the likelihood of successful MITM attacks on public networks. 

How to spot VPN hacks

If you’re worried about your VPN getting hacked, here are some signals to watch out for: 

As the old saying goes, prevention is the best cure. And if your VPN is acting strangely, it may be too late. Hackers could already be stealing your data and infecting your devices. 

So… let’s take a few steps back to ensure that doesn’t happen. 

How to prevent VPN hacks

Choosing the best hacker-proof VPN

1. ExpressVPN
Editor's Choice | May 2024

ExpressVPN is the #1 VPN for hacker protection. Its vast network of secure servers and industry-leading security guarantee protection.

  • Pricing

    • 12 months + 3 months FREE + Backblaze backup: $6.67/mth
      49% OFF
    • 6 months: $9.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • The fastest VPN in the world
    • 3,000+ servers in over 94 countries
    • Industry-best security
    • Works in China and UAE
    • Independently audited by Cure53, PwC, KPMG, and others
  • Cons

    • Premium price tag
    • Streaming servers aren’t labeled
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

ExpressVPN excels at security. A combination of 256-bit AES encryption, 4,096-bit RSA keys, SHA256 authentication, and other advanced tools create an impenetrable shield around your data. DNS and IP leak protection further bolsters your privacy. Plus, an automatic kill-switch ensures your data remains protected even if the VPN unexpectedly disconnects. 


Don’t worry; all this security won’t slow your connection. We seamlessly switched between global servers during extensive testing, streaming HD content and downloading large files. Connections remained secure throughout, and the consistently high speeds impressed us. You can read the results in our full ExpressVPN review.


ExpressVPN allows up to eight simultaneous connections. Plus, the 30-day money-back guarantee lets you try it out risk-free.

Surfshark is the best budget VPN. Connect unlimited devices simultaneously and enjoy a secure, open, private internet experience.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 2 months FREE: $2.3/mth
      83% OFF
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
      70% OFF
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Unlimited devices
    • Highly secure
    • Large global server presence
    • Keeps no logs whatsoever
  • Cons

    • Occasional slow server
    • Erratic P2P behavior
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Surfshark goes beyond the standard toolkit offered by top VPNs. Features like ad blockers, anti-tracking tools, IP address rotation, and malware protection work together to change your virtual location, enhance your privacy, and defend against internet threats.


During our tests, Surfshark's server network performed reliably. It consistently delivered fast speeds, bypassed geo-restrictions, and safeguarded our online activities when connected from multiple locations worldwide.


Surfshark's unlimited device connections make it ideal for protecting all devices in your household, and the user-friendly apps simplify the setup process. Our Surfshark review breaks down performance across a range of devices. 


Surfshark’s 30-day money-back guarantee means there’s zero risk to testing it.

NordVPN excels in speed, privacy, security, and unrestricted internet access. Its apps are easy to use and its plans are excellent value.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 3 months FREE: $3.69/mth
      70% OFF
    • 12 months: $4.99/mth
      59% OFF
    • 1 month: $11.99/mth
  • Pros

    • Zero-logs policy
    • Strong security protocols (NordLynx, IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN)
    • Solid, independently audited security features
  • Cons

    • You can only pick servers based on location, not a specific need (i.e., streaming or P2P)
    • Doesn’t work well for torrenting
    • No router app
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

NordVPN boasts a massive global network of over 6,200 servers spanning 111+ countries, reinforcing your online security wherever you connect. 


A suite of security features safeguards you from hackers, including its proprietary NordLynx protocol, which balances ironclad security with speed. The Threat Protection cybersecurity suite protects against ads, malware, and other internet annoyances. 


NordVPN's user-friendly apps are compatible with numerous devices, including smartphones, computers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and routers. If you ever need help, the 24/7 live chat team is ready to assist. 


You can also benefit from a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans. Read our complete NordVPN review to see how it performs IRL.

How we tested the best VPNs for hacker protection

We consider a long list of factors when evaluating VPNs. Explore our comprehensive VPN review process for a complete list to guide your choice.

Alternatively… here’s a quick summary: 

Hacked VPN FAQs

Conclusion: Why you should still invest in a VPN

While a VPN can be hacked, the risks are significantly reduced when you use trustworthy VPNs like ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and NordVPN.

These VPNs don’t just keep you safe from hackers. They unblock geo-restricted content, bypass censorship, help you save on online purchases, and hide you from prying eyes, including internet service providers and government agencies.

Every VPN on this list offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk in trying them out.

Written by: Conor Walsh

Conor is a tech writer with professional paranoia. He's passionate about privacy, and when not writing about it, can be found trying to get far away from his phone and any other technology, enjoying some live music, outdoorsy stuff, or a good (physical) book.

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