The fact that VPNs provide secure networks which facilitate smooth and safe data transmission cannot be ignored.
Finally, VPNs can be misused to access websites which are otherwise banned by a country.
In an ever-developing digital economy relying on networks for data transmission, the significance of cyber-security is directly proportional to the rate of growth. It was in such circumstances that the exponential growth of Virtual Public Networks (VPNs), programmes encrypting data while a user is online and hiding the user’s IP address, was supported. With work-from-home becoming the norm in 2020, it came as no surprise that the department of telecommunications relaxed the regulations on their usage by officially recommending them for the other service provider (OSP) classification.
However, a recent recommendation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on home affairs has sought to permanently ban the use of VPNs arguing these are readily available online; they, along with the Dark Web, have been enabling cybercriminals to stay anonymous and bypass cybersecurity walls. At the first instance, this does sound to be a grave threat, and this is not the first time that governmental agencies have come out against VPNs either—in July, British and American authorities alleged that Russian hackers had been misusing VPNs since 2016 and might even have used them in the 2016 US presidential election.
Another concern flagged is data leaks; it was reported that seven VPNs linked to a common developer were found to have leaked 1.2TB of user data, though it was claimed that these networks did not record IP addresses or user data. The US announced an investigation into the data breaches that affected at least 12 federal agencies using a popular VPN (Pulse) in April, the third such in 2021. Finally, VPNs can be misused to access websites which are otherwise banned by a country.
While these drawbacks seem serious, the fact that VPNs provide secure networks which facilitate smooth and safe data transmission cannot be ignored. In fact, the recommendations easing the use of VPNs in the country were to bolster working from home, as companies usually use intra-organization networks for sending sensitive documents back and forth. Additionally, VPNs also benefit the individual user as they are easy to use and readily available. They ensure security while the users simply browse the internet and provide safety to users on public networks.
Moreover, as with any technology, VPNs are not impenetrable, and the service providers can still keep a check on user activity, even if it is encrypted. While anti-virus software does provide some protection, it is apparent that VPNs are becoming essential for cybersecurity in the current times. Banning them would mean the removal of an extra layer of security. It would be a great jolt to the private sector as it still continues the work-from-home model, and lastly, it would be an invasion of privacy of the individual user.
Clearly, currently, and even in the future, banning VPNs would do more harm than good. It is true that these networks have drawbacks of their own, but it is abundantly obvious that they have more pros than cons. Additionally, the abuse of VPNs does not make the VPNs themselves inherently bad. In such a scenario, it is far more prudent that the law enforcement agencies be provided frequent brush-ups on cyber skills (a key recommendation of the home ministry committee) and that they and the private players work together when required.
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