Use of VPN in Nepal in 2024: A vital security measure or cause for concern?

VPN in Nepal Representational image VPN. Photo: VPN
The widespread use of free and unauthorised VPN in Nepal raises concerns about data privacy and security. Representational image VPN. Photo: VPN

Virtual Private Network (VPN) use has increased exponentially since the TikTok ban in Nepal. With the use of VPNs in Nepal increasing, many questions have arisen about what VPN is, how it works, and its effects on online security and privacy. VPNs used as a safety and security tool all over the world have misconceptions and misunderstandings in Nepal. Here we will try to understand what a VPN is, how it works, the advantages and disadvantages of using a VPN, misconceptions and the use of VPNs in Nepal.

What is a VPN?

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are technologies that allow secure communication over the public internet by extending a user’s workplace network to their home network securely, all while keeping their browsing activities, identity and location hidden. It does this by establishing a private connection between the computer of the user and a remotely placed server owned by the provider of VPNs. This encrypts as well as hides data to ensure the privacy and security of an individual’s IP address. This is more important especially when using public Wi-Fi since it prevents eavesdropping and protects sensitive information. By creating a secure tunnel from your device to the VPN server, VPNs provide anonymity and protect against scrutiny by ISPs or other intermediaries.

Types of VPN

In general terms, there are three types of VPNs which cater to different needs.

  • Remote-Access VPN: Individual users can utilize remote-access VPNs to connect to a private network over the internet in a secure way. These are necessary for remote workers and IT support staff who need to access company resources even when they are not physically at the firm’s premises; some examples of this are PureDome and OpenVPN Access Server.
  • Site-to-site VPNs: These VPNs establish connections between different remote networks over the internet, typically used by enterprises to unify various branches into one intranet. This makes it easier for businesses with multiple sites or branches within their business structure to share information and communicate better. A good example of such providers includes NordLayer.
  • Client-to-Provider VPN: These VPNs allow users to gain a direct connection to the internet through their operative VPN firms without any involvement with their own ISPs. Here data is protected from a computer or a phone device until it reaches a user’s provider via virtual private network (VPN). Commercial services such as NordVPN, Surfshark and Atlas VPN are some popular examples of companies providing this service.

Stats on VPN

The surge in the use of VPNs in Nepal came after the Government put a complete ban on the most popular social media platform TikTok. Even though there was use of VPN in Nepal before that, the numbers were quite on the lower side since most people were not aware of what VPN was and why it was used. We cannot exactly determine how many people use VPN in Nepal to access the internet because of the excessive use of free and unauthorized VPNs.

VPN usage by region. Photo: Top10VPN
VPN usage by region. Photo: Top10VPN

In the global market according to Top10VPN, there are over 1.5 billion users worldwide as of 2024. This growth is driven by several reasons including growing privacy and security concerns online, the emergence of remote workers and the need to evade geo-restrictions for content access. Globally the VPN market is around USD 44.6 billion.

However, VPN adoption rates vary across regions with Qatar having the highest adoption rate (69.87 per cent) followed closely by UAE at 61.7 per cent. VPNs are widely used for personal and business purposes such that currently 93 per cent of organisations use them to secure their networks, especially during Covid pandemic when more people work remotely. The VPN market is expected to hit USD 87.1 billion by 2027 due to continued online privacy and security demand.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using a VPN

Like every tool, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a VPN. Even though VPNs are generally a safety tool, there are instances and cases where VPNs do have disadvantages.

Advantages of using VPN

  • Better online security: To protect personal information, data can be shielded from hackers and cyber threats by encrypting internet connections through VPNs.
  • Improved privacy- hides identity: The IP address is hidden while the activities taking place on your computer are scrambled hence ISPs advertisers or any third party cannot monitor what you do online.
  • It helps to overcome internet restrictions: Restrictions imposed by censorship or geo-blocks can be avoided by using a VPN allowing you to access restricted content and websites regardless of your location.
  • No more Throttling of bandwidth: With the use of a VPN, internet service providers (ISPs) are unable to intentionally slow down your internet connection based on your online habits hence consistent and uninterrupted browsing speeds at all times.
  • Safe file sharing with complete anonymity: Anonymity over one’s identity is guaranteed when engaging in P2P file sharing through a VPN which ensures privacy security and protection against potential legal consequences.

Disadvantages of using VPN

  • VPNs may affect your internet connection speed: As a result of the data encryption process and the fact that it goes through many other VPN servers, you might suffer from reduced browsing speeds, especially if you are using untrustworthy services.
  • Good VPNs come at a cost: Although reliable VPNs have strong security features and fast performance, they usually require some sort of payment which not everyone can afford.
  • Slow speed and free VPNs can collect your data: Many free VPN services often lack sufficient security or may even compromise your online safety by logging, storing, and then selling your personal information to third parties.
  • Some countries prohibit VPN usage: In certain countries where the use of VPNs is illegal or strictly regulated, individuals may face legal consequences for employing them to avoid internet censorship as well as gain entry into restricted areas.
  • Bypass local content accessibility restrictions: While one reason for using a VPN is to access content that is blocked in one’s country, numerous online platforms actively discourage any form of such service thus limiting the reachability of region-specific streaming content or certain websites.

Legality of using VPN

Nepal does not have any specific rules over the use of VPN in Nepal. However, the Government has strictly asked the citizens to not use free VPNs and DNS systems to access banned or any other illegal sites. With the increasing risk of cyber threats and cybercrime, the use of VPN in Nepal has addressed the significant need for cyber laws and protection.

Most countries all over the world do not have any restrictions on the use of VPNs except 19 countries. Some countries such as Egypt, Uganda and China have put in place VPN restrictions to target those citizens who try to evade censorship by the government or access blocked information.

These restrictions may involve penalties, imprisonment or even complete bans on VPN technology like in Belarus and Russia. However, VPN enforcement varies with some providers finding ways to bypass these restrictions which shows the continuous struggle between governments fighting for control over the internet space and individuals seeking online freedom and privacy.

With the increasing use of VPNs, there is still a need for proper rules and regulations in the use of VPNs. Even though VPNs are a safety and security measure, they are also a way to do crime. The same goes for the use of VPN in Nepal. Most Nepali people are completely unaware of the legality of using free and unauthorized VPNs. These can lead to data breaches and identity theft even while using VPNs. Nepal Police and Cyber Bureau have requested people to not use these free services.

Misconceptions about VPN

VPN is mostly about making people have more secrecy and safety on the internet, not for doing illegal acts even though it can be used for such a purpose. However, some countries have laws that prohibit VPNs due to their stringent regulations on censorship. Although they use encryption and mask IPs, these networks do not provide absolute anonymity because the providers may still retain users’ information. On the other hand, free VPNs that lack features and have unreliable speeds are at times very tempting but have a negative turn in terms of security and privacy.

In addition, VPNs could cause slow internet access speeds or fail to bypass geo-restrictions as well as protect against all types of cyber threats. To ensure strong privacy and computer security on public Wi-Fi, it’s essential to use a user-friendly VPN amid various misconceptions.

  • VPNs can be illegal: Some countries ban VPNs due to censorship laws.
  • VPNs don’t make you completely anonymous: VPN providers can still access user information.
  • Free VPNs aren’t as good as paid ones: Free VPNs might compromise privacy, lack features, and have slower speeds.
  • VPNs do not always speed up your internet: Encryption and server distance can slow down your connection, although they might prevent ISP throttling.
  • VPNs can bypass some geo-restrictions: While most can get around geographical blocks, some sites may detect and block VPN connections.

Use of VPN in Nepal

TikTok is said to be the main reason behind the surge in VPN use in Nepal. Soon after the government banned TikTok on November 13, the effects of slow internet became evident. People with no prior knowledge began searching for and using free VPNs and DNS systems to access TikTok. This prompted the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA), Nepal Police, and Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to issue notices advising against the use of free VPNs in Nepal.

With the use of these free and unauthorised VPN in Nepal, the risk of data leaks and breaches, hacking, fraud, malware, privacy breaches and money laundering increased at a very high rate. Most free VPNs depend on selling consumer data as a source of income, thereby leading users to disclose private information to third parties. Furthermore, such services may lack adequate encryption and other critical security features that would expose users to cyber crimes. With already a huge data leak back in 2022 of about 25 million users, the risk was evident in the case of VPN in Nepal too.

Chhakka Panja 4 tiktok ban
Photo: Unsplash/ Solen Feyissa

Even though VPNs are a safety feature and use of them is suggested, free VPNs are not recommended by anyone. The government has taken the action of banning TikTok for several reasons. It is still highly suggested to use paid and legit VPN services to protect yourself in the internet world. Paid VPNs such as NordVPN and SurfShark VPN are recommended. However, using banned apps such as TikTok even though paid VPNs and services are still prohibited in Nepal.

People in Nepal need to be aware of using VPN in Nepal on what and where it can be used. VPN in Nepal had been a hot topic for a long time which caused many problems and misinformation to be spread. There has to be a proper explanation of where and how to use VPN in Nepal. With months passing by, there are still many people using free VPN in Nepal to access banned apps and services.

In summary, the surge in the use of VPN in Nepal, particularly following the TikTok ban, highlights the importance of online privacy and security. However, the widespread use of free and unauthorised VPN in Nepal raises concerns about data privacy and security. As individuals increasingly turn to using VPN in Nepal for online anonymity and access to restricted content, there is a pressing need for proper education and regulation to ensure the safe and responsible use of VPN in Nepal.

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Dahal is a gadget/auto writer at Onlinekhabar.

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