7 Reasons Why VPNs Might Die Out by 2020
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You’ve signed up to a VPN, and you’re happy with the privacy it brings to your online activities. Maybe you use for safety on public Wi-Fi, or to beat region-blocking restrictions on your favorite streaming sites.

But what if we told you that the VPN (at least in its current form) is in danger of dying out? You might be doubtful, so here are seven problems with VPNs that need fixing, sooner rather than later.

1. The NSA Can Break VPN Encryption

Let’s start with the uncomfortable truth: the NSA has the technology to break your VPN’s encryption.

The overwhelming majority of 1024-bit encryption uses the Diffie-Hellman cryptographic key exchange. However, it turns out this method uses a limited number of prime numbers, and this flaw has been exploited to decrypt encryption.

reasons why vpns will die out by 2020

In 2015, researchers Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger wrote:

“Breaking a single, common 1024-bit prime would allow NSA to passively decrypt connections to two-thirds of VPNs and a quarter of all SSH servers globally. Breaking a second 1024-bit prime would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to nearly 20% of the top million HTTPS websites. In other words, a one-time investment in massive computation would make it possible to eavesdrop on trillions of encrypted connections.”

Snowden got there first, however, revealing the NSA’s ability to snoop encrypted connections prior to this research being published.

So, your VPN isn’t as secure as you thought. That alone is enough to seriously reconsider the subscription.

2. Your ISP Can Block VPN Connections

Trying to make a connection to a server holding media blocked in your jurisdiction via Kodi? Or simply want to keep your viewing private? VPNs can be used to bypass ISP restrictions 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN With Kodi 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN With Kodi If you use Kodi for streaming content around your home, you should be using a VPN. The reasons are more complex than you might think. Read More accessing these servers. But those same restrictions can be expanded to include VPN servers.

Are you affected by this?

reasons why vpns will die out by 2020

It’s difficult to say. Several users across the internet have posted about this problem, on Reddit, and on Kodi forums. But you can easily check if you have been affected by this. Simply try streaming a movie or TV show via your VPN. If it doesn’t work, and all other unencrypted internet connectivity is fine, then there’s a good chance the VPN is being blocked.

And don’t forget, if you’re in the U.S., ISPs now have the ability to snoop on your activities and sell data about you. If you thought a VPN could help here, it looks like time is running out.

3. Free VPNs Are Ruining Reputations

We’ve looked elsewhere at a number of free VPNs that are worth trying 5 Great Free VPN Services Compared: Which Is Fastest? 5 Great Free VPN Services Compared: Which Is Fastest? If you've never used a VPN before, you may want to reconsider. A VPN routes your internet connection through an encrypted third-party server, securing your data. But which VPN service is faster? Read More . However, these are the exception. Long term use of these services is not recommended 5 Reasons You Need to Stop Using Free VPNs Right Now 5 Reasons You Need to Stop Using Free VPNs Right Now Free VPNs are very tempting, but hold on. If you're thinking of signing up to one, you should read this article first. Here are the biggest risks with using a free VPN service. Read More . A subscription service will deliver far better results.

It’s great to get free stuff, but this disregard for privacy — where your activities online are being passed to advertising networks — goes against everything VPNs stand for. Worse still, free VPNs drag down the entire VPN industry.

reasons why vpns will die out by 2020

Don’t be too sad about this. Many free VPN services are run by the same companies operating “superior” subscription services. Given how they feel about free customers, and the impact this is having on the industry, these companies are essentially overseeing their own downfall.

In short, free VPNs need to fail, or else operate with complete transparency.

4. Geo-Blocking Targets Known VPN Server Addresses

Geo-blocking used to be easily circumvented by VPNs. These days, not so much.

Say you want to watch Netflix, but your account is U.S.-based. You’re on holiday in the U.K., and region blocking means you can’t access the same list of movies and TV shows as you would at home. Employing a VPN can circumvent this block, fooling the Netflix servers into thinking you’re in your home country. All you need to do is use a U.S.-based VPN, and the show is yours to watch. Some VPN services are sold on their ability to bypass region blocking Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is trying to stop people accessing its service through VPNs, but a handful of VPNs are managing to stay one step ahead of the streaming giant. Read on to find out which ones... Read More .

reasons why vpns will die out by 2020

Now, however, Netflix (and other streaming providers) are wise to this. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a connection. Take, for example, the BBC. If you’re trying to view content on the UK version of BBC iPlayer from an overseas location, you’ll be blocked with a polite message. But even using a U.K.-based VPN server will illicit the same response.

This is because streaming services are increasingly using a blacklist of VPN servers. Such lists are collated by checking VPN providers and logging the server IP addresses. With these IP addresses blocked, no one can access the Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc. unless they’re doing so without a VPN, and from the correct geographic location.

Another win for the streaming services, and yet another strike against VPNs.

5. Logless VPNs Are a Myth

VPNs jostle for attention by promising whatever they can — or whatever they can get away with. One of those promises (“no logging”) always catches the eye. After all, why pay for anonymity if the logs can give you away?

The truth is, however, that logless VPNs are never 100 percent free of logs. VPN companies use third-party servers. Those servers are leased, and they have logs recording all sorts of data. While the VPN you subscribe to may not be maintaining logs, you can be certain that whoever owns the server certainly is.

What this means is that somewhere there is a log of your activity. It may be innocuous, and you may have done little of interest. But given everything else you’ve learned so far, this is yet another reason to seriously reconsider your continued use of virtual private networks. As we’ve explained previously, server logs are vital 5 Ways Your VPN Is Not as Private as You Think It Is 5 Ways Your VPN Is Not as Private as You Think It Is Your VPN is not as secure or private as you think it is. We explain why you and your browsing history might not be anonymous after all. Read More for server management:

“Without logs, a VPN provider would be unable to handle DNS requests, prevent abuse, troubleshoot connections, or limit VPN accounts based on the subscription type you’ve chosen, such as putting a cap on the amount of data you can use.”

And then there’s this:

It’s worth looking at the VPN service’s website to find out what information they admit to collecting. Just remember your online activity isn’t as private or anonymous as you’ve been lead to believe.

6. Data Mining Your Personal Information

Reputable sites probably won’t do this, and you’d probably never know, but in the age of low-cost VPNs, these services have to make money elsewhere to maximize their revenue. One way is to sell your personal data 5 Ways Your Information Is Being Exploited Every Day 5 Ways Your Information Is Being Exploited Every Day You may not be too worried about having your rights infringed, or you might be very concerned that you're being tracked. Whatever the case, here's how your information is being exploited right now. Read More onto advertisers and direct marketing companies… spammers, basically.

reasons why vpns will die out by 2020
Image Credit: kmoney56 via Flickr

We’ve already seen that this is a problem with free VPNs, so it’s not behavior that you would expect from a paid solution. However, it is certainly not unheard of. Not only is it a breach of trust, this practice also takes a massive liberty with your data.

By sharing information about you, that subscription VPN makes extra money. You get extra spam, and adverts targeted to you at some of the sites you visit. That isn’t what you signed up for: you subscribe to your VPN for enhanced privacy, not the opportunity to “enjoy” personalized adverts and part with more cash, right?

7. Are VPNs Completely Anonymous?

Short answer: No.

As explained earlier, we’ve known for several years that the U.S. government’s NSA has the ability to break the most common forms of encryption. In short, your VPN isn’t as anonymous as you think it is.

But this goes beyond what the NSA can do.

vpn privacy dns leak test results

One of the biggest problems for VPN privacy are IP leaks and DNS leaks How DNS Leaks Can Destroy Anonymity When Using a VPN, And How to Stop Them How DNS Leaks Can Destroy Anonymity When Using a VPN, And How to Stop Them When you're trying to stay anonymous online, a VPN is the simplest solution, by masking your IP address, service provider, and location. But a DNS leak can totally undermine the purpose of a VPN... Read More . Then there’s the trust issue, which we’ve touched on already: is your VPN really keeping your data private? But there’s possibly a worse problem, one which is regularly overlooked. Your VPN connection is only secure and private between your computer, and the VPN server. Beyond that, you’re identifiable, not just by the account you login with. Data transmitted between the destination site, and your VPN server, if not already encrypted, can be read.

And we’ve already seen how security agencies deal with encryption.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that VPN providers can see your destination. It might not be obvious who is going where, but the sites your read and only services you access are recorded, logless or not.

What Can VPN Companies Do About This?

The future for VPN services is grim. We’re really only touching on the faults above, but the real problem isn’t just dealing with these (potentially insurmountable) problems. As challenges go, this is big: VPN companies need to embrace new technologies.

Several are already available, such as protocol obfuscation, which is theoretically more secure than the SSL/TLS/HTTPS system What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More already in use. There’s also the possibility of building a VPN into your computer’s operating system, and developing authentication for connections. The universal push towards HTTPS should also help.

Perhaps the biggest privacy step for VPN providers, however, is to develop a new approach to TOR. (What is TOR? What Is Onion Routing, Exactly? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Onion Routing, Exactly? [MakeUseOf Explains] Internet privacy. Anonymity was one of the greatest features of the Internet in its youth (or one of its worst features, depending on who you ask). Leaving aside the sorts of problems that spring forth... Read More )

Currently, the most secure and private way to connect to the internet is to use a VPN and TOR together. Although slow, it’s expected that fast internet speeds will overcome this limit in the foreseeable future. TOR is becoming increasingly popular, so it makes sense to wrap both privacy methods into one.

Failure to adopt most (or all) of these things will see VPNs all but extinct in just a few years. And who knows what will happen to privacy after that?

What do you think? Are VPNs doing enough to push privacy, or simply sitting on their laurels, raking in the cash every month? Do you use a VPN, or have you looked for an alternative to online privacy? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. jimmy schwartzy
    December 5, 2017 at 9:36 am

    see that's the issue right there. when you're signing up for a freebie vpn, you're already giving up some information if you continue to use it for anything other than unblocking. the point you raised there kind of makes me feel that if you have to pay for it anyways, look up for something that offers no free service so you can't give anything more than your email id against which you'll be registering your account. there are plenty of examples on the web though with ivacy, nord, express and pia being just a few to name. of course if the need is just unblocking then paying can be avoided altogether, but if the need is more than that, then well, you need to google things up before your commit.

  2. Phil Smith
    December 4, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Christian,

    Hello. Good article. I encourage you to look at the TLC Secure Network (TSN), also know as the "Invisible Internetâ„¢ " 3emu.info . We have safeguards against all 7 of your vulnerabilities.

    TSN is a new global VPN of of VPNs that communicate with each other at layer 2, peer-to-peer. We don't have the SSL/TLS weaknesses (in fact, one of our advisors is the "Father of SSL"). We don't have the port vulnerabilities because it's encrypted at layer 2. That makes it unsniffable. Because it's really a private network that behaves like a public network, IP addresses are NOT geolocated and untraceable. Logs are thereby meaningless.

    Lots of other subtle advantages protect against sniffing, DDoS, MITM or many others. It's been tested by an independent lab to show privacy and security far better than traditional IPsec, SSL VPNs, and evven the TOR port vulnerabilities. Hope you check it out.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 5, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks Phil -- we're looking at some potential replacements for a follow up article :)

  3. Eric
    December 3, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Amazon blocks VPN's. Every time I try to access with the VPN up, it times out. As soon as I turn it off I can get into it. Kind of defeats the purpose of the VPN for security.

  4. Michael Gargiulo
    December 3, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Hello Christian,

    My name is Michael Gargiulo. I am the CEO at VPN.com. Having built a VPN network over the last 5 years across several services, I can agree on almost all of your points but what you're alluding to with TOR is not the direction this market will head.

    VPNs are just now gaining traction by the "average consumer". Google now reports 13 million monthly searches for "VPN", up from 1.5 million just 24 months ago. Global issues from Snowden, to Netflix and China's VPN ban, to Congress allowing ISPs to resell your browsing data have pushed people to use VPNs in record numbers.

    VPN networks and speeds are extremely complicated to robustly provide across desktop, mobile, browsers, gaming devices, and servers. Most people underestimate this which is why you see even the largest VPN and internet security companies struggle at providing a quality experience across all of the features and devices VPN users demand.

    Complications for end users, businesses, ISPs, and governments with regard to VPN use is confusing and headed in 18 different directions at once. Illegal downloading, honey pot VPN services, free VPN services, affiliate marketing commissions, misinformation and so many other issues have wrecked havoc on the space over the last decade but that will not change the value VPN services provide to those not abusing these services.

    TOR is good at what it does, but will never be robust enough for mainstream adoption. It is too slow, to clunky, device restricted and requires too much time and knowledge to setup and consistently use. Even then, I believe TOR's network could be flooded with enough rogue nodes from an organization with the right resources which could eliminate a lot of the privacy users "think" they with such a service.

    Finally, VPNs have been around for more than 20 years - about as long as the internet. The technology is simple but the use cases have expanded greatly. I do think somehow internalizing a VPN on your device is a good thought but still would leave your IP address, DNS records, and entire internet connection exposed. The idea of an easier VPN solution is nice but between built-in VPNs and auto-reconnecting applications, the industry is already working out many of the rough spots in terms of user experience.

    As more organizations attempt to erode the average user's privacy and internet access, more users will turn to a VPN. Eventually "banning" VPN access to a site (like Netflix) will become a practice that causes more harm and inconvenience than good. In a decade, I just don't see users still having to pick between entertainment OR privacy/security. Netflix's approach is bad for all parties.

    Regardless of whether it's HTTPS, TOR or VPNs, I think we can all agree that encrypted internet connections are in the average user's best interest and in my opinion will be be how 80% of the internet connects in less than 10 years time. For now, we will have to accept the technologies imperfections and judging by the massive surge in global VPN awareness, I'd say most new users agree too.

    Have a great Sunday everyone. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

  5. Satoblu
    December 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Written by someone who doesn't actually understand VPNs and instead is going off their general use and a few comments from an internet forum.

  6. Kbot
    December 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    This really should have been titled reasons to pick a VPN wisely.

    There's no such thing as perfect security and people need to be aware a VPN isn't a magic bullet. And obviously if the NSA wants your shit, they'll be able to get it. And if you're doing something that you need to hide from the NSA, I'd hope you're at least smart enough to know a lot more security is needed.

    But most of the points apply to less reputable and free VPN and you definitely get what you pay for.

    • Terri white
      December 2, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Or better yet.. why privacy vpn providers might die etc etc.
      VPN will continue as it is a technology that can be implemented and improved in many ways.
      But then again.. this articles help the conspiranoids get their fix :)

  7. CAA
    December 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    What about making it possible to use the VPN traffic like a tor node so that it still goes to the VPN sever but comes back out from random nodes before reaching the VPN service.
    With TV services the battle will go on for a few more years till they stop trying to be asses about different prices for users based on location. If not they will fail when users just abandon them.
    There are simply too many apps to subscribe to for media services and users are getting fed up with content disappearing.

    I thought there was a pgp-dns project being worked on to distribute the DNS request services with dnssec?

  8. VPN User
    December 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    While many of the points are somewhat true, I disagree with the premise, VPNs are only going to get stronger as they increasingly become a necessity. There's plenty of articles and scripts on how to run your own VPN at home or on many of the cloud providers, and most of the points in the article don't apply to these which is getting more popular all the time.

  9. Will
    December 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Point #1 about 1024-bit is a moot point. 1024-bit encryption has long been considered insecure, and 2048-bit has been the new standard bit level for a long time. If a VPN or HTTPS connection is still using 1024bit, then that's 1) extremely surprising, and 2) their own fault and not a weakness of VPNs in general. I know for a fact that PIA uses a minimum of 2048-bit.

    VPNs are fine. As with everything, you get what you pay for. And nothing in life is truly free, so either pay for security with money or with your privacy.

  10. Jason
    December 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I find it funny that they didn't mention IPV6 at all.

    • Will
      December 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      IPv6 isn't in any way more secure than IPv4, and has nothing to do with VPNs or encryption.

  11. stephen
    December 2, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Their most popular use is allowing people on to their works network. So they are going nowhere, maybe Torr etc they will stop being important.

  12. rOamingGnome
    December 2, 2017 at 4:13 am

    I agree using a VPN with Tor is the right way to go. I would like to see VPN's building systems that resemble TOR, multiple nodes. Clearly a tall wish list. Trusting VPN's is really the problem as far exploitation is concerned. I have no doubt that ISP's do or will soon be able to decide which proxies they allow. where I live, the ISP you use is determined by regulation. In other words, you don't have a choice. You can't switch if you don't like them. Not sure about DNS servers. It's these areas that could be more prone to corporate control over how you access the internet. But if you are looking to involve yourself in shady dealings I suggest you consider not relying on a $10 VPN and get creative.

  13. Anthony
    December 2, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Don't agree that VPNs will die out, but I do agree in using a VPN in conjunction with Tor. ExpressVPN was the first to come out with their own .Onion addresses and I predict that in a few years every major VPN will do the same.

  14. Hayden
    December 1, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    VPNs are fine, and will adapt. If you're doing something of interest to the NSA, hoepfully you're smart enough to take more precautions than paying 9.99 a month to a stranger to keep you out of Guantanamo.

  15. Shawn
    December 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    All the points listed in this article are true for a traditional hosted VPN solution for the use of obfuscating traffic; whether for privacy, torrenting, or accessing region blocked content. However, I use my own VPN server running on a server in my home that I use to connect to when I'm away from home and I want to securely access the files and services on my local network. Want to browse files on my server? Access my IP webcams? Easy, just connect to the VPN server running in my VM. My company also uses a Cisco VPN for remote access to services that are behind firewalls, this is great for protecting company assets.

    I'm sure the VPN arena will look different in a few years, but there are still many traditional uses that will never go away. At least not in the enterprise space.

    • Robert
      December 1, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      Yeah, this is the real takeaway from this article. VPNs may no longer be appropriate for national security level work but they're still just fine for accessing services at home or for road warriors to get into the office network. The real agent of change in the VPN world will be when compute power to break diffie-hellman is available to the average cracker.

      • Mark Davies
        December 2, 2017 at 6:04 am

        What's diffie-hellman?

      • Chris
        December 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        Too many companies use VPN for ISPs to block it. Most of the other criticisms are only applicable if you are doing something for the govt to take notice. If a three letter acronym is monitoring you, you better not rely on a consumer grade solution.