The recent rash of high-profile breaches, privacy scares, and unfavorable legislation have resulted in an unwelcoming online ecosystem for consumers. With users’ data in peril and a real need to protect themselves in a world they can no longer avoid, VPNs have become a go-to solution to privacy and access concerns. Even so, an ecosystem that was recently thriving for the sector has quickly shifted.
VPNs currently face several questions and problems that could redefine the market for the foreseeable future. The rise of the massive data breach—of which there are countless examples in the past year alone—means users must become anonymous just to protect their data. Increasing privacy concerns, exemplified by new laws and regulations passed as well as more observant governments, require users to mask their trails. Even so, these changes are also shaping the market itself, creating new difficulties and new opportunities.
A Challenging Outlook
The cybersecurity and digital privacy conversations have taken on a more urgent tone in 2019. After a year that saw Facebook embroiled in several embarrassing privacy scandals, multiple major breaches that affected millions of users, and legislation that is decidedly anti-privacy, VPNs face a challenging road ahead.
One of the biggest recent challenges to privacy is the turn toward anti-privacy and pro-ISP legislation in the US. The 2017 passage of a bill that eliminates a requirement for ISPs to gain explicit consent before sharing user data means that users’ private information is more at risk than ever, allowing ISPs to do whatever they please with users’ data.
Additionally, the US and several other countries have taken a stronger stance against VPNs. Countries like China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran already ban their use, but even in the US corporations and ISPs can blacklist VPN services and their IP addresses. This leaves VPNs—who largely advertise on the promise of offering workarounds to pesky georestrictions—in a bind.
New Opportunities Abound
Even so, the VPN market is well positioned to take advantage of the current climate. Despite the efforts of both governments and private corporations to constantly block out and blacklist VPN services, the sector has found technological workarounds. New methods like protocol obfuscation—which hide a VPN’s distinctive trail—and smart routing, which automatically connects users through the best servers, mean that VPNs can easily move past security blocks.
Moreover, the same nations that attempt to block VPN services continue to implement some of the most repressive regimes on freedom of expression. Though this poses a challenge for smaller VPNs, major platforms, HMA is a well-known one for instance, can still provide citizens with an important voice and access to the rest of the world.
As more people also migrate to mobile—a trend that has been ongoing for years—the risks that VPNs protected them from have also made the move. Users now require ways to keep their mobile browsing and activities safe and private from hackers and other prying eyes. VPNs have also started embracing the mobile sector, tailoring their existing tools to include things like Wi-Fi network security, network access control, and even built-in cloud backups for added security.
Most importantly, the current trend of governments’ cavalier attitude toward citizens’ digital privacy, from the above-mentioned US law to the UK’s systematic attempts to erode privacy rights, will continue encouraging every user to mask their online activities and hide their data from prying government agencies.
One of VPNs’ biggest benefits, in addition to masking their users’ IPs, is that many of them keep no records or logs of users’ activities. As governments more aggressively pursue this data, VPN services that stand fast are likely to become increasingly popular.
VPNs Are Here To Stay
Despite the growing uncertainty in cybersecurity and privacy, VPNs’ mission remains highly relevant. As long as consumers continue to require protection and ways to avoid surveillance, data mining, and worse, there will still be a need for VPNs to provide an easy and effective means of defense.
As a passionate gamer since the 1990s, Vadim has kept his passion alive since then, and he is here to cover video games news, as well as to share with you all the novelties out there regarding gadgets or games-related tech.