SynopsisThe government wants VPN providers to strictly follow new cybersecurity rules, resulting in them expressing doubts about continuing to operate in India. We explain what a VPN is, why it is important and what the controversy is all about.
The government wants VPN providers to strictly follow new cybersecurity rules, resulting in them expressing doubts about continuing to operate in India. We explain what a VPN is, why it is important and what the controversy is all about.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) disguises your online identity. It helps establish a safe and encrypted connection between your device and the internet. It is like an invisibility cloak that keeps your data and communication safe and stops third parties from tracking your activities and mining your data.
How does a VPN work and ensure privacy?
When you use the internet without a VPN, your data is directed to the internet service provider. A VPN, however, routes your traffic through a VPN server. This ensures that your data – when it hits the internet – comes from the VPN server and not your phone or laptop. So, the VPN masks your Internet Protocol (IP) address, and your data is safe from hackers, governments or anyone who might be trying to keep a track of your online activities.
Also Read | ExpressVPN logs out, rejects government demand
Who are the big users of VPNs?
Anyone can use a VPN, but they are not mainstream. A lot of big corporations use VPNs. Lawyers, activists, security researchers, cybersecurity experts, and journalists — who may not want their activities tracked – also use them. According to AtlasVPN, which maintains data on VPN adoption, there are around 270 million VPN users in India. Estimates from the Global VPN Usage Report 2020 suggest that 45% of internet usage in India happens through VPN.
What’s the ‘problem’ between VPN providers and the government?
The government wants VPN providers to keep a detailed record of users. The data will include IP addresses allotted, why they are using VPN and email addresses, among others. The VPN service providers believe this is an assault on user privacy. They believe that by storing user data, they will fundamentally go against the very idea of having a VPN.
What’s the way out for VPN service providers?
ExpressVPN has made a “very straightforward” decision to remove its India-based VPN servers. Instead, it will move its virtual servers — where all the data is stored — to another location. ExpressVPN will still be able to connect to VPN servers that will give them Indian IP addresses and allow them to access the internet as if they were in India. “These “virtual” India servers will instead be physically located in Singapore and the UK,” ExpressVPN said.
How different will the user experience be on “virtual” servers?
Not much really. For the end-user, the location of the server where data is stored doesn’t matter. ExpressVPN said that there will be “minimal difference” for users. Users who want to connect to an Indian server will have to simply select the VPN server location “India (via Singapore)” or “India (via UK).” Virtual server locations are extremely common. With virtual locations, the registered IP address matches the country you have chosen to connect to, while the server is physically located in another country. Virtual locations are used to provide faster, more reliable connections to users.
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