“I’m done with paying for a virtual private network,” writes the New York Times’ lead consumer technology writer. [Alternate URLs here and here.]
The reality is that web security has improved so much in the last few years that VPN services, which charge monthly subscription fees that cost as much as Netflix, offer superfluous protection for most people concerned about privacy, some security researchers said.
Many of the most popular VPN services are now also less trustworthy than in the past because they have been bought by larger companies with shady track records. That’s a deal-breaker when it comes to using a VPN service, which intercepts our internet traffic. If you can’t trust a product that claims to protect your privacy, what good is it? “Trusting these people is really critical,” Matthew Green, a computer scientist who studies encryption, said about VPN providers. “There’s no good way to know what they’re doing with your data, which they have huge amounts of control over…”
As a mainstream privacy tool, it’s no longer an ideal solution. This sent me down a rabbit hole of seeking alternatives to paying for a VPN. I ended up using some web tools to create my own private network [on the cloud] for free, which wasn’t easy… Not only is it free to use, but I no longer have to worry about trust because the operator of the technology is me.
“But I also learned that many casual users may not even need a VPN anymore,” the article concludes. (Unless you’re living in an authoritarian country and trying to reach information beyond its firewall.) One cybersecurity firm tells the Times that journalists with sensitive contacts or business executives carrying trade secrets might also still benefit from a VPN. But (according to the firm) the rest of us can just try two-factor authentication and keeping all of our software up-to-date. (And if you’d rather not use a public wifi network — use your phone as a mobile hot spot.)
The article also notes that 95% of the top 1,000 websites are now already encrypted with HTTPS, according to W3Techs.
It also points out that one VPN company accused of developing malware nonetheless spent close to a billion dollars to buy at least four other VPN services — and then also bought several VPN review sites, which then give top ratings to VPN services it owns…