WebRTC – Control, Disable, and Prevent Leaks With This Guide

WebRTC is a free, open-source project that allows web browsers and mobile applications to add real-time audio and video peer to peer connections and peer to peer communication functionality. It enables you to quickly communicate with others on the web with audio and video.

You can communicate directly inside web pages and applications without requiring additional plug-ins with these WebRTC data channels. The technology is implemented via regular JavaScript APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in the major web browsers, like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. For example, a website using WebRTC can access a user's microphone or webcam. In advanced cases, web apps provide video calling and screen sharing functionality, like with Google Hangouts.

WebRTC Privacy Concerns

This free, open-source project is a game-changer that makes online real time communication much easier. That being said, many Internet users have major concerns over its privacy vulnerabilities. This is because a this type of supported connection has the potential to have the IP address of your device exposed to the public - a phenomenon known as a WebRTC leak.

And what's more is that this can happen even if you use a virtual privacy network, or VPN. Your real IP address can be used to identify information about you, including your general physical location and your Internet Service Provider. Many people don't know this privacy concern exists because it's enabled by default in most browsers.

Luckily, there are multiple ways to protect yourself from these leaks.

How To Protect Yourself From WebRTC Leaks

1. Disable WebRTC

If you don't need to use video or audio communication in your browser, you can easily disable it. This process varies from browser to browser.
Disabling WebRTC in Chrome

Google Chrome does not have any built-in settings to disable the WebRTC components. Instead, you'll need to install an extension such as WebRTC Leak Prevent or Easy WebRTC Block. Simply search for one of the extensions in the Chrome Web Store, click Add to Chrome, and then activate the extension while you browse. This will easily disable WebRTC right in your browser.

Disabling WebRTC in Firefox

If you use Mozilla Firefox, you can disable WebRTC right in your browser's settings. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Type about:config in the address bar and press Enter. 
  2. Click the "I accept the risk!" button that shows up on the warning screen.
  3. Type media.peerconnection.enabled in the search bar underneath the address bar.
  4. Double-click the search result which will change the Value column to false.

Disabling in Microsoft Edge

With Edge, you cannot completely disable it. However, you can easily change the settings to make it so it doesn't reveal your IP address.

  1. Type about:flags in the address bar and press Enter. 
  2. Check the box "Hide my local IP over WebRTC connections."
  3. Restart Edge for changes to take effect.

Disabling in Safari

Like Firefox, Safari allows you to change the settings to disable.

  1. Click Safari in the menu, then click Preferences.
  2. Click Advanced and then check "Show Develop menu in menu bar."
  3. Then, in the menu bar, click the Develop tab. In the drop-down menu, navigate to the WebRTC option, then uncheck Enable Legacy WebRTC API.

2. Use a VPN

Many VPNs offer the option to stop this type of leaking of your IP address while still allowing you to use its features, such as the audio and video communication. A masking service such as a VPN provides the option to quickly disable or enable this to protect your IP address. ExpressVPN and NordVPN provide these options.

However, it's important to remember that these VPNs are paid services. You won't be able to get one for free if you want the full protective benefits that a VPN service can offer. That being said, if you value privacy and security on the Internet, VPNs offer many more benefits to protect you online. You'll get your money's worth if you invest in a VPN service.

3. Use an extension

Extensions are a great free option to either disable completely or to block the leaks. Some common leak protection extensions include WebRTC control, WebRTC Protect, Easy WebRTC Block, and WebRTC Leak Prevent. WebRTC Control brings you control over the API in your browser.

It also protects your IP address from leaks.  If you want to download these extensions, check your browser's extensions store and follow their instructions to add it to your device.