Report Uncovers VPN Bad Actors

Consumers should be aware that some virtual private network (VPN) providers are bad actors engaging in shady activities, cautions an investigation by the Digital Citizens Alliance White Bullet Solutions. The organization is a nonprofit that is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policymakers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet.

There are three main issues. One is whether reviews in the media are legitimate. Another is that some VPN sites cooperate with content theft sites. A third is retention of user data, despite claims that data is not retained.

VPN Bad Actors

While relying on online reviews is the most common way people choose VPN service, some review sites aren’t the independent and neutral arbiters they pretend to be. The press release cites Kape Technologies, the owner of ExpressVPN, as an example. It says that Kape acquired VPN review sites in 2021. This of course raises concerns about whether VPN reviews are objective.

Some VPN providers associate with illegal content theft websites. The investigation found that VPN providers spend an estimated $45 million annually advertising on piracy sites.

Finally, VPNs claim to not retain user data. Some do – and they sell that data. For instance, in 2020, seven VPNs left user data – which they claimed they were not collecting – for roughly 20 million people unprotected on a cloud server.

“By engaging in questionable activities, VPN providers undermine the trust critical to the future of the Internet and support illicit actors who are notorious for targeting Internet users to spread malware and engage in credit card fraud,” said Tom Galvin, Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance.

“What does this mean for Internet users? Choose carefully when deciding on a VPN provider.”

The survey covered 1,318 Internet users. It found 54% of weren’t sure that they ever had used a VPN. Only 20% said that they had a strong understanding of a VPN’s purpose.


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