This was an issue with a specific feature of our client application (which was disabled by default). This issue has since been resolved and has not been present for the past eight major version updates of our application. We remain vigilant with our software development team to ensure that we don’t encounter any similar issues now and in the future.
Below is the email we sent out to customers regarding this.
On November 17, we were privately notified of an IP address leak vulnerability affecting the port forwarding feature of our service. Essentially, anyone connecting to a forwarded port on any of our VPN gateways could have their real IP address leaked to an attacker specifically targeting a PIA user.
Within 12 hours of the initial report, we developed and tested what we thought was a complete fix, and deployed it to all of our VPN gateways.
On November 26, the researchers who discovered the vulnerability made it public and we quickly noticed that our service was still vulnerable to the IP address leak in certain cases, despite our initial fix. After further investigation, we also realized there was a separate but related issue on our desktop client. To fix this issue we are releasing updated VPN apps to prevent any leaks. We released v.52 on November 27.
Protecting your privacy is our top priority and although exploiting this vulnerability is difficult and requires an attacker to specifically target you, we feel like we let you down with our initial response. Please accept our apologies, we are sorry.
We highly recommend users update to v.52 (or later) of the client. To ensure all of our beloved users remain protected, we have pushed an update to existing clients. Please update immediately from the application or visit one of the following links:
The vulnerability relies on the fact that a direct route exists between the VPN client and server. If the client accesses a forwarded port on the VPN server that is maliciously set up by an attacker, the client will use the direct route using the user's default route, bypassing the VPN entirely.
Our initial fix was to block VPN clients from accessing forwarded ports on the same server at the VPN gateway firewall level, but we soon discovered a flaw in our desktop clients that made the fix incomplete. When the client disconnected, the direct route to the VPN gateway was not removed, thereby making users vulnerable even after they disconnected from the VPN. Beginning with v.52, we remove these "lingering" direct routes to the VPN gateway at disconnect time.
Note: If you are connecting to our service with a native OpenVPN client, or PIA's Android or iOS apps, you do not need a client-side fix.