The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has urged the central government to block VPNs in India citing the increasing cyber-crimes and cyber-threats. In the proposal made to the government, the committee said that VPNs allow criminals to remain anonymous online and hence India must develop a coordination mechanism to block VPNs permanently.
VPN is an internet service short for Virtual Private Network and it allows the user to secure their identity on the internet and helps them remain safe from other cyber attacks. The VPN services also gained a lot of popularity in India last year when people started to work from home. VPNs are also used by most companies in India and around the world to secure their digital assets.
VPN services work in a way that they encrypt data and hide the IP address of the user. Users can also connect to servers from outside their geographical boundaries to access blocked sites using the VPN and can hide their online identity even on public Wi-Fi networks.
The committee has recommended that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology should coordinate to identify and permanently block VPNs with the help of internet service providers.
Many experts on cybercrime have suggested that this move by the government is very strange and ill-judged and will have a negative impact on the data security of MNCs and financial firms operating remotely.
“It’s a very strange and hare-brained idea to block VPNs. It is going to be counter-productive especially for businesses. During Covid, most organisations, domestic or global, worked from home. All have been using VPNs to secure their network for conducting businesses remotely. To ban VPN will set a bad precedent and destroy the internet as a medium to conduct business safely” said Amitabh Singhal, Director, Telxess Consulting Services and former President of Internet Service Providers Association of India.
Experts even suggest banning just the third party ‘No-Log’ VPN apps and software from app stores and other websites as they make it impossible to track the identity and IP addresses of the hacker if a cybercrime happens as no backend database is being saved.
As many companies have their own in-house VPNs which they use to store the data safe with them and thus cyber-crimes are not possible.
If India does ban VPN, then it would join the likes of China, North Korea, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Oman, UAE, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uganda who have already banned VPN.