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How to disable WebRTC and prevent leaks

Jul 30, 2020 · 1 min read

How to disable WebRTC and prevent leaks

VPN users beware: Firefox and Chrome have a security vulnerability that may leak your IP address unless you’re using a full-featured VPN like NordVPN. Read on to find out what a WebRTC leak is and how you can protect yourself from vulnerability.

What is a WebRTC leak?

A WebRTC leak is a vulnerability that can occur in web browsers like Firefox, Google Chrome, Brave, Opera, and others. A WebRTC leak presents a major security risk, as it can can expose your real IP address when you’re connected to a subpar VPN that doesn’t protect you against WebRTC leaks.

How does a WebRTC leak happen?

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is an open-source tool that allows browsers to form real-time peer-to-peer connections with the websites they visit.

This allows your Firefox browser, for example, to send live audio and video feeds back and forth between you and another participant online without having to download any additional software. This is a non-proprietary protocol that allows any website to plug in and make such a connection (with your permission).

WebRTC does this by establishing special communication channels from the browser. They communicate with the website you’re visiting and exchange information (including your IP address). Those channels, however, may also bypass your encrypted tunnel.

The problem with WebRTC

WebRTC presents a massive vulnerability. Any website you visit can potentially request and access your true IP address despite your VPN. When this vulnerability was first discovered, it gave VPN providers (ourselves included) quite a scare. The worst part is that this is part of the basic functionality of WebRTC, so it can’t be “fixed.” It’s up to the user to find ways to block these leaks or disable WebRTC entirely.

How to test for WebRTC leaks

Check your VPN for any potential WebRTC leaks, by following these simple steps:

    1. Disconnect and exit whatever VPN you’re using.
    2. Find out and note down your IP address by typing “What’s my IP” into Google and hitting Enter – your original IP address will display.
    3. Exit the browser.
    4. Re-launch your VPN and refresh the webpage. Re-do step 2.
    5. If your WebRTC is NOT leaking your IP address should display as something completely different. If your IP address is the same, after you re-do step do with your VPN on – a WebRTC leak is likely exposing your IP address.

Note: your original IP usually begins with 10.xxx or 192.xxx or sometimes an alpha-numeric IPv6).

How to block WebRTC leaks

There are a few ways to do this. By far the simplest way is to block WebRTC leaks by using NordVPN. Whether you’re using our regular VPN or our browser plugins for Firefox or Chrome, either will block any unwanted IP address leaks through WebRTC while allowing authorized WebRTC connections to continue under your anonymous IP address.

WebRTC requests can also be blocked from your browser, but this process will be a bit more complicated. Furthermore, unlike with NordVPN, blocking WebRTC leaks using these methods will often disable WebRTC functionality completely.

How to disable WebRTC on Chrome

Disabling WebRTC on Chrome is tricky, and we strongly suggest using an extension to do so. That’s because the extension-free way involves manually editing setting files that can potentially make your Chrome browser malfunction if you do it wrong.

WebRTC Leak Prevent is the leading Chrome extension for preventing WebRTC leaks. As the developer has noted, this extension only changes WebRTC’s security and privacy settings – it doesn’t turn WebRTC off.

How to disable WebRTC on Firefox

Fortunately, Firefox does have a built-in way to disable WebRTC. It can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look, so follow these steps!

    1. Write “about:config” into your browser bar and hit Enter. You will be prompted with a warranty warning. Click on “Accept the Risk and Continue”.
    2. Disable WebRTC on Firefox

    3. Click on “Show All”.
    4. Disable WebRTC on Firefox_2

    5. You will be presented with a long list of settings, most of which you probably shouldn’t touch. To find the one you need, type into the search bar at the top of the page: “media.peerconnection.enabled”.
    6. Disable WebRTC on Firefox_3

    7. All you have to do now is press the Toggle button on the far right. The value in the middle of the preference should now display as “False”.
    8. Disable WebRTC on Firefox_4

That’s it! This will disable all WebRTC, so it will also disable any websites that use it to deliver their services.

How to disable WebRTC on Safari

Disabling WebRTC on Safari is possible, but the option is a bit harder to find than on Firefox. That’s because WebRTC was only recently implemented, and is still considered an experimental feature that only developers would want to fiddle with. If you follow these instructions, however, you’ll find it easily!

    1. Click on “Safari” and choose “Preferences” from the drop-down menu.
    2. Disable WebRTC on Safari

    3. Click on the “Advanced” tab and check the checkbox that reads “Show Develop menu in menu bar”.
    4. Disable WebRTC on Safari_2

    5. Click on the new “Develop” tab in the menu bar and choose “Experimental Features” from the drop-down menu. Scroll all the way to the bottom. If “WebRTC mDNS ICE candidates” is checked, click on it to disable it.
    6. Disable WebRTC on Safari_3

That’s it! Your Safari is now free of WebRTC leaks. However, this may also prevent WebRTC-based services from working in your browser.

Blocking WebRTC leaks is not enough

Blocking WebRTC leaks is a good start to securing your online activity, but it’s not enough. If you use NordVPN’s browser extension or VPN service to block these leaks, you’ll already have a collection of tools at your disposal to help secure yourself, including CyberSec and Onion over VPN. However, you’ll also want to read about our other tips on how to stay private and secure.

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Charles Whitmore
Charles Whitmore successVerified author

Charles is a content writer with a passion for online privacy and freedom of knowledge. A technophile with a weakness for full Smart Home integration – he believes everyone should strive to keep up-to-date with their cybersec.


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