By Executive Order, the Trump Administration recently reversed an Obama Administration order aimed at protecting consumer’s personal information from use by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPrior to the Trump’s EO, ISPs were required to get customer’s consent before using or selling their browsing habits, online shopping habits, financial information, etc. The reversal of Obama’s protection order has caused a resurgence of interest in VPN services. In theory, using a VPN service creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the service provider, thus keeping your browsing habits and personal information private from your ISP. However, a paper published in early 2015 by researchers at Sapienza University of Rome and Queen Mary University of London, found that 11 of the 14 providers they tested leaked customer information.
As the interest and awareness of online privacy has increased in recent years, have VPN service providers improved their track record regarding data leakage? The answer is not so clear. Recently a team of researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 operation, the University of New South Wales, the International Computer Science Institute and the University of California Berkeley tested 283 free Android based VPN apps. They found that not only were these apps not protecting users privacy and security but as many as 38 percent included malware in the app itself. The study focused only on free apps, not pay for services. In a January 2017 article on the study by Stephen Withers, the author references a quote worth pondering when it comes to anything free, “if you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”
Most businesses utilize commercial VPN services in conjunction with mobile device management solutions to protect the company’s privacy and security. If you are considering signing up for a consumer VPN service to protect your personal privacy and security while surfing the internet, do your research, find credible reviews, and expect to get what you pay for.