Thinking About a Mobile VPN? Be Careful Which One You Pick

Between an industry-wide push to encrypt all web traffic and the newfound popularity of secure chat apps, it’s been a boom time for online privacy. Virtual private networks, which shield your web traffic from prying eyes, have rightly garnered more attention as well.

BETWEEN AN INDUSTRY-WIDE push to encrypt all web traffic and the newfound popularity of secure chat apps, it’s been a boom time for online privacy. Virtual private networks, which shield your web traffic from prying eyes, have rightly garnered more attention as well. But before you use a VPN to hide your online shopping from the IT department at your company—or help protect yourself from state surveillance—know that not all mobile VPNs are created equal. In fact, some are actively harmful.

“These days, many people know what a VPN is and what they can do with one,” says Kevin Du, a computer security researcher at Syracuse University and IEEE senior member. “Not many people know what a bad or flawed VPN can do to their devices, because they don’t know how VPN works.”
 
VPNs have been around for years, as have their attending trust issues. But while previously VPN enthusiasts were mostly a core base of desktop users, the mobile boom and app store accessibility has created an explosion in mobile VPN offerings. And while some are genuinely looking to offer security and privacy services, plenty do more harm than good.

In a recent in-depth analysis of 283 mobile VPNs on the Google Play Store from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, researchers found significant privacy and security limitations in a majority of the services. Eighteen percent of the mobile VPNs tested created private network “tunnels” for traffic to move through, but didn’t encrypt them at all, exposing user traffic to eavesdropping or man-in-the-middle attacks. Put another way, almost a fifth of the apps in the sample didn’t offer the level of security that’s basically the entire point of VPNs.

Read the rest at wired.com