VPN installations skyrocket over seven times since Dec

Debangana Ghosh Mumbai | Updated on September 05, 2021

Qatar, the UAE and Singapore held the first three positions in terms of overall penetration   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

India ranks fourth in Global VPN Adoption Index with remote working on the rise

Virtual Private Network (VPN) adoption jumped manifold in India in the first half of 2021 as companies moved to secure communication networks as more employees worked from home.

The number of VPN installations soared to 348.7 million as at June-end 2021 against 45.24 million as at December-end 2020, according to Atlas VPN’s Global VPN Adoption Index.

India ranked fourth among 85 countries in the VPN penetration rate for H1 2021.

Of India’s 1.38 billion population, VPN installation penetration went up from only 3.28 per cent population in 2020 to 25.27 per cent in the first six months of 2021.

Though Qatar, the UAE and Singapore held the first three positions, respectively, in terms of overall penetration, India surpassed all the countries on the list by the volume of downloads. The VPN download data was extracted from Google Play Store and Apple App Store using Sensor Tower service and includes the 45 biggest VPN providers globally.

VPN’s software help companies, government agencies and individuals encrypt data transmitted over the internet. It prevents any snooping and information tapping by external sources while the data is in transit.

Amitabh Singhal, Director, Telxess Consulting Services and former President of Internet Service Providers Association of India, told BusinessLine: “One of the biggest reasons for the spurt in installations has been remote working due to Covid.

“The government itself had liberalised certain rules last year for other service providers and the IT industry to enable them work from home and included using VPNs.”

Consequently, thousands of employees are working from home and need secure communication networks. Singhal underscored that this number will only grow exponentially in the coming months given that India has the second highest population of internet users. He added that smaller businesses and start-ups have also started scaling up their work force faster through work from home. And most of these workers are provided with secure office laptops on company servers that use VPNs.

“Not only do VPNs provide a secure channel for storing and sharing information, organisations can also use their local VPNs to provide remote access to network resources for their employees,” digital rights advocacy non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) said.

These numbers come at a crucial time when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs is seeking a ban on VPNs. It has sought clarity on the response of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to the suggested ban. MeitY had responded to the recommendations by stating that Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 allows the government to block public access to information in certain cases such as in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.

The Parliamentary Committee, however, had called this an “incomplete reply” as “no information was provided on coordination with international agencies to block VPNs permanently”.

Need for discussion

Singhal calls the proposal for such a ban “dangerous” for security. He suggests conversation with between government officials and private company representatives.

The IFF called for further discussions too before declaring such a blanket ban.

Published on September 04, 2021

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