How VPNs work and why India passed a law forcing VPNs to collect user data – Technology News, Firstpost
Mehul Das04 May 2022 14:56:36 IST
The Indian government has passed a law that now requires all VPN service providers to track their users for five years. This new rule, while necessary from a security perspective, violates the basic principles of a VPN and has rendered them pointless for some users.
VPNs are used by individuals and businesses to encrypt their online presence and online activities. The new national guideline applies not only to VPN companies, but also to cloud service providers, data centers and crypto exchanges, and to collect specific, comprehensive customer data and retain it for a minimum of five years. Companies will also be required to report “unauthorized access to social media accounts” as part of the directive.
The way a VPN works is that it masks a user’s IP address and assigns them a temporary or a shadow IP address. Most commonly, this is used to cross geopolitical boundaries and access content on the web that is restricted in certain areas. For a long time, VPNs have been essential for users who wanted to maintain their online privacy.
VPNs are also used by corporate offices to allow their employees to log into their work systems remotely, without any kind of compromise that could put them at risk.
The main feature of a VPN is that the websites you visit are disconnected from your IP address. India has never had legislation banning VPNs outright. However, if VPN service providers do not follow the directive, they are made illegal as a by-product.
While using a VPN has several benefits, especially for businesses and various business entities, there are a few bad elements that give VPNs a bad reputation. We look at some of the reasons why the Indian government has introduced this mandate.
Strengthening National Security
Whether it’s digital security or the security of our borders, a few bad elements have actively used VPNs to avoid being detected. Hackers around the world use VPNs to carry out and launch cyber attacks on government institutions. From infiltration of borders by smuggling cartels or the sharing of national secrets that would endanger a border, there are several recorded incidents in our history where people have used VPNs to collaborate with outside forces. This in itself is the main reason why the Government of India has made it necessary for service providers to keep track of their users’ activities.
Several anti-social elements have used VPNs to disguise themselves and their locations so that they could post incendiary statements and comments that would fuel communal fires in a society. For example, there have been a number of incidents where certain people have pretended to be residents of another country or community and made quite disturbing statements on social media.
Tackling money laundering
With the advent of digital banking and cryptocurrency, money laundering has become very advanced and extremely difficult to combat. VPNs make the problem even more complicated. A person sitting in India can easily get millions of dollars from illegal sources in the form of crypto without any identifiable trace.
Tackling online piracy
There are legitimate ways to share and consume goods that are protected by intellectual property rights, and then there is piracy. In recent years, governments have been very strict about combating piracy. However, with VPNs, malicious parties can still get away with online piracy.
Implement content censorship
Censorship in India is a very tricky subject. On the one hand, there is the whole concept of freedom of expression and thought. On the other hand, we have different communities and sentiments that we need to protect. Certain pieces of content are often banned from the public domain because of their potential to spark communal tension. However, VPNs allowed users to not only consume but also share such content.
What will be interesting to see is whether certain VPN companies are launching India-specific VPNs that adhere to the new Indian government guidelines, or whether they plan to completely discontinue services to the Indian market. Indian business companies are a major source of income for a number of VPN and cloud service providers, thanks to the prolific IT companies we have. For some of these service providers who are based out of Asia, letting go of their Indian customer base is definitely not a viable option.