Security Risks of VPN Wars

For many people VPNs represent a method of accessing content that they can’t normally see. For British ex-pats retiring in the sun, they mean the BBC News, Match of the Day and their favorite soaps. Americans abroad use them to watch Hulu, listen to Pandora or stay up to date with local news while travelling for business or pleasure. However although millions use VPNs in this way, this was never their primary purpose, which was simply security.

For many business travelers who use corporate hardware, connecting via a VPN is an essential requirement. It provides a layer of security and encryption which simply doesn’t exist on the internet, add to that a layer of encryption which protects data whilst it streams and you can see why it’s essential for anyone with business to transact online. The amazing success on the internet has been built not on a secure infrastructure but an available one, the reality is that doing anything vaguely confidential across the internet is a very risky thing to do indeed.

We need more VPNs, not less, they add a huge layer of security that every single one of us should use. How many of us have checked our email, online banking or paypal account whilst using a hotel wifi or the one at a coffee shop or airport. Are these access points secure, have they been carefully configured and secured to the highest standards – it’s highly unlikely that most have. The fact is that anyone of these points could be easily compromised and your credentials stolen.

Cybercrime like this is appealing, it’s low risk high reward crime – you can hack into (or even impersonate) a wireless access point and steal hundreds of valuable accounts. Emptying someone’s bank account digitally is way safer than mugging them in the street – you can even do it from another country. Which is why the ‘wars’ on VPNs are so dangerous, they may get upset when you unblock US Netflix by using a VPN, but the media giant are putting millions at risk by deterring the use of this technology.

There is a solution for this, and it’s not blocking anyone from watching whilst making their internet connection secure. What is needed is a fundamental change in how the large media companies license their content. It’s plainly ridiculous in an inter-connected world to sell rights to stream to one country and not the other then upload it to a globally connected network. The copyright and licensing industry seems stuck with a business model that belongs in the last century and it needs to change. Their latest restrictions mean that you even need a residential IP address to access the service which clearly millions of business and leisure travelers won’t have whilst away from their home address.