Experts say using VPNs in India due to blocked websites will not help users
Indians are used to sharing Netflix accounts. One account, four users. Now, the same Indians are looking to share the cost of VPNs as they increasingly pay for VPN accounts. The reasons are many. There are thousands of websites now blocked in India, using opaque and official or unofficial means. To access many of these sites, Indian users are now turning to VPNs. Then there is the safety and monitoring aspect. With cybercrime, identity theft and surveillance risks on the rise in India, users are turning to VPNs.
Here is a number: According to data extracted from Google Play Store and Apple App Store using Sensor Tower service, India ranked fourth out of 85 countries in VPN penetration for the first half of 2021. The VPN installation penetration rate in India rose from only 3.28 per country percent of the population in 2020 to 25.27 percent in the first six months of 2021.
But beyond the numbers, there are stories. A group of friends was looking for a fourth member to share a VPN account with. Even before I said yes to my part of the contribution, they found someone else.
Though, soon another friend approached with a similar suggestion, and asked if I’d like to share an account with her. This is exactly how popular and useful VPNs are now in India. While a lot of VPN use is to access geo-locked streaming content outside India, this is not the only reason why Indians are now using VPNs.
A tech enthusiast says, on condition of anonymity, that user information can be stolen even from poorly configured private WiFi, not to mention public WiFi, which is the next level insecure. Since the data traveling through the VPN is encrypted, it helps during banking transactions as it cannot be snooped from unsecured websites from internet connections.
Now that there has been talk of VPNs being banned in India, there is a fear among users that it could lead to inconvenience. At the same time, experts say that blocking VPNs is not a solution because there are many different methods that cybercriminals use in their activities. Last month, the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs indicated that the use of VPNs should be banned in India. Here’s how a VPN works.
One VPN user says the ban proposal is absurd. “Today they want to block VPNs because of crime, and later they want to disable password protection on phones as criminals use passwords on their phones to hide evidence,” says the person.
Why do people use VPNs
Experts say there is a legitimate use of VPNs. “I use a VPN for privacy reasons. A friend told me that among many other issues, using the public internet is dangerous without VPNs. So when I go to an airport or a coffee shop and use the network, I like to feel safe. Again, privacy is very important to me. me. These service providers and conglomerates already know a lot more about me than I feel comfortable with,” says Mritungay Rathore, who started using VPNs a while ago.
Karan Saini, an ethical hacker, notes that VPNs allow people to access the Internet uncensored. He says a large number of websites are blocked in India – more than 4,000 – regardless of their content, be it pornographic, scientific, cultural or something else. He says the ability of Indian internet users to surf the web freely is critically restricted and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
“Given this, blocking one of the ways in which users circumvent censorship should be considered highly detrimental to the Internet ecosystem in India and the quality of life in the country in general,” Saini says.
Saini strongly believes in VPNs and their ability to protect user information. He says that users should use VPN services (not necessarily commercial VPN services), even if they have nothing to hide. “Blocking VPN services will hamper the democratic freedoms that Indians enjoy, which the internet promotes,” Saini says.
Can a VPN ban in India reduce cybercrime
Who is most likely to be affected by a VPN ban, and will it help stop cybercrime? Experts say the ban will create trouble for users, without affecting cybercriminals.
“If there is a VPN ban, the biggest challenge will be internet companies or big companies because they use it a lot to counter various attacks,” says Rajashekar Rajahria, a cybersecurity researcher. “Most ethical hackers and cybersecurity researchers also use a VPN because they don’t want their IP addresses to be traced.”
But how bad is VPN blocking? Rajaharia says it won’t make much difference to cybercriminals because they will continue to use the TOR browser which is nearly impossible to block or block. “VPN can be traced but TOR cannot be traced, which makes TOR more of a challenge. While major companies use VPNs or proxies, TOR is used by hackers, so authorities cannot completely stop hackers or spammers from carrying out their activities,” he says.
If the government is considering blocking something, it should target TOR and not VPNs, says Akshay Pednekar, a cybersecurity analyst in Mumbai. “TOR was built to access the internet,” he says, adding that this TOR feature has led to a deep web ecosystem where a lot of illegal activities take place. He suggests that blocking VPNs is unlikely to offer any solution.
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