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This year alone, VPN usage has increased drastically, many services have vastly improved, and the online privacy industry has grown into a massive revenue generator.
To get the full scoop on the current state of the VPN industry, we did some digging. Here is a combination of the most important statistics, key trends, and data surrounding VPNs as it relates to everything from rising cybercrime to the providers themselves.
COVID-19 & VPNs
COVID-19 has been on the agenda for a couple of years, with many businesses suffering due to the impact of lockdown restrictions and other economic factors during the early stages of the pandemic. Of course, VPNs were largely free of these issues, especially as growing numbers of users flocked to their services as they spent increasing amounts of time at home.
We’ll begin with facts and stats surrounding VPN usage and COVID-19.
There are a considerable number of registered domains on the Internet that contain the terms: “coronavirus”, “corona-virus”, “covid19” and “covid-19”. While some are legitimate websites, cybercriminals are creating thousands of new sites every day to carry out spam campaigns, phishing or to spread malware. (Interpol, 2022)
VPN usage in the United States surged during the coronavirus crisis, increasing 124% during the two weeks between March 8 and March 22, 2020. This increase was also seen elsewhere, including Italy (175%), Spain (62.1%), and Germany (48.4%). (Statista, 2021)
It’s worth mentioning that Italy and the US were the two regions most affected by the virus during this period in 2020. Therefore, COVID-19 played a major role in the increased adoption rates of VPNs.
In June 2020, VPN traffic decreased further compared to previous months, although its traffic volume on workdays remains well above the levels observed for the base week of February. This is likely due to the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in Central Europe and the beginning of the summer holiday season, resulting in fewer people working from home in June compared to March. (The Lockdown Effect: Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Internet Traffic, 2020)
In 2021, 20 percent of respondents increased their virtual private network (VPN) capacity by 76%. (Statista, 2021)
81% of global organizations experienced increased cyber threats during COVID-19 (McAfee, 2021))
COVID-19 has increased VPN usage for criminal elements and normal users alike. An increase of over 100% in the US is also notable, especially as it’s one of the bigger markets worldwide. VPN adoption rates have slowed ever so slightly, but traffic is still up significantly compared to pre-lockdown rates.
For added context:
The U.S. currently accounts for a 34.8% share in the global VPN market. (GIA, 2021) Even as we begin to leave lockdown procedures behind, the long-term effects of the pandemic will still be felt in the workplace.
16% of companies in the world are 100% remote. (Owl Labs, 2021)
Cybercrime & VPNs
Cybercrime is always a worrying prospect and has only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis.
Europol has been working with a number of international law enforcement authorities to combat VPNs being used in support of serious criminal acts such as ransomware deployment and other cybercrime activities,” like VPN Lab.
The head of Europol’s EC3, Edvardas Šileris, said:
“Law enforcement is most effective when working together and today’s announcement sends a strong message to the criminals using such services: the golden age of criminal VPNs is over. Together with our international partners, we are committed to getting this message across loud and clear.”
With that in mind, here are stats relating specifically to VPNs and cybercrime in 2022.
In January 2022, VPN Lab was the latest provider to be shut down by Europol. The VPN provider’s service, which aimed to offer shielded communications and internet access, were being used in support of serious criminal acts such as ransomware deployment and other cybercrime activities. (Europol, 2022)
80% of reported fraud in the UK is cyber-enabled. (ActionFraud, 2020-21)
Fraud is increasing at a rate unseen, fuelled by faster internet speeds and a changing global climate.
The Identity Theft Resource Centre’s 2021 Data Breach Report found that there were 1,862 data breaches in the United States last year, surpassing both 2020’s total of 1,108 and the previous record of 1,506 set in 2017.
In North America, the main reasons the VPN market continues to grow are the increased risk of cybercrime and thus the need to protect enterprise data. (GIA, 2021)
Ransomware-related data breaches have doubled in each of the past two years. At the current rate, ransomware attacks will surpass phishing as the number one root cause of data compromises in 2022. (ITRC, 2021)
The number of data breach notices that do not reveal the root cause of a compromise (607) has grown by more than 190 percent since 2020. (ITRC, 2021)
Cybersecurity Ventures expects global cybercrime costs to increase by 15% annually over the next five years, possibly reaching $10.5 trillion USD each year by 2025, which is up from $3 trillion USD in 2015. (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2020)
Cybercrime, VPNs, and Business
Cybercriminals target businesses as well as individuals, which makes sense considering the large sums of money at stake. Here are further cybercrime stats that relate to VPNs and businesses around the world.
Data breach costs rose from USD 3.86 million in 2020 to USD 4.24 million in 2021, the highest average total cost in the 17-year history of their reporting. (IBM, 2021)
With the major influx of remote workers, phishing and ransomware attacks increased by 11% and 6% respectively in 2021, and instances of misrepresentation increased by 15 times compared to last year. (DBIR, 2021)
The NSA and CISA released a Cybersecurity Information Sheet in September 2021, in which they advised against using non-standard VPN solutions, including security products, such as Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) VPNs. (CIS, 2021)
VPN use is also increasing for businesses according to recent stats. For example:
In today’s threatening cyber scene, many industry verticals are utilizing VPN services to ensure the complete protection of their business data while in transmission. (GIA, 2021)
Roughly 59% of Canadian organizations used VPNs to protect themselves from cyberattacks in 2020. AtlasVPN also found that Canadian enterprises most preferred VPN services as their main defense against rising cyber threats. (AtlasVPN, 2021)
We generally focus on commercial VPNs, but the majority are used for business, especially as many office workers have semi-permanently switched to a home environment.
93% of businesses rely on VPN services (Cybersecurity Insiders, 2021)
60% of employees polled use VPN to access applications remotely (Thales, 2021)
In 2021, 27 percent of respondents from a global survey state that their organization is using two virtual private network (VPN) gateways. In general, a total of 41 percent of companies have three or more VPN gateways. (Statista, 2021)
Who keeps an eye on the providers? The VPN industry is growing by almost every imaginable metric, so what are the key stats for this 2022? Let’s take a look.
The VPN industry is expected to be worth $35.73 billion US Dollars in 2022 (Statista, 2021) In and of itself, that’s a significant amount. It’s worth mentioning that it’s a growing industry, with new providers popping up all the time. Research suggests that the VPN market was only worth $16.15 billion in 2016, giving an indication of the rapid growth seen in recent years.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the VPN global market was originally estimated to hit $32.2 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach a revised size of $77.1 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 15.3% over the analysis period” (GIA, 2021). If it’s a big business now, it’s projected to be gargantuan in the future.
Two out of three free VPN users complain about technical issues on their network (Security.org, 2021)
Browse, stream, and game online safely and anonymously with a VPN.
Almost 90% of all VPN services are offered by companies founded after 2005. (ACM Internet Measurement Conference 2018) Not to mention, there are so many VPN services nowadays, with many owned by the same umbrella companies.
VPN downloads sky-rocketed to 616 million in the first half of 2021. In 2020, people from 85 selected countries downloaded VPN applications just 277 million times. (Global VPN Adoption Index, 2021)
A consumer VPN may protect someone from being seen by the ISP, but that comes at a cost. The ISP might not see the activity, but now the VPN provider does. (Forbes, 2021)
In 2020, 49 percent of adults used a VPN. In 2021, just 41 percent said they use a VPN for personal or business reasons. (Security.org, 2021)
VPN Users & Usage
What about us, the VPN users who make up a significant segment of the online space? Here’s what we discovered:
A December 2020 survey by Malware bytes found that around 36% of their 2,330 respondents now use a VPN, compared to only 1.5% ten years before.
In 2021, 85% of adult internet users are aware of VPNs and what they do, up from 72% in 2020. (Security.org, 2021)
The countries with the lowest VPN adoption rate in 2021 are Madagascar and Japan. (Atlas VPN, VPN Adoption Index 2021)
57% of those that don’t use a VPN say it’s because they don’t need it for personal reasons. (Security.org, 2021) Even if you have nothing to hide, it’s worth taking an interest in what happens to your personal data.
Interest in VPNs has remained high in 2022 according to Google Trends. Countries like Myanmar (100/100) and Turkmenistan (86/100) have especially high search rates. This can be seen in the screenshot below. (Google Trends, 2022)
Roughly 64% of people who claim to use VPNs everyday are logging in via their smartphone. (DataProt, 2021)
“VPN usage skews toward the more educated, and they’re more popular with tech-savvy younger generations. But they are making more headway with older age groups. VPN usage has grown by 37% among baby boomers since Q2 2017.” (Global Web Index, 2020)
Furthermore, “they made tradeoffs to achieve a particular goal, such as using a free commercial VPN that may collect their online activities to access an online service in a geographic area. Many users expected that their VPNs were collecting data about them, although they did not understand how VPNs work” (Cornell, 2021). As always, people are willing to make sacrifices in the name of free content.
This is despite credentials for more than 21 million mobile VPN app users being exposed and put up for sale in March 2021. (Malwarebytes, 2021)
Approximately 57% of mobile users used VPN apps to unblock more TV content, movies, and games compared to 54% of PC or laptop users (Security.org, 2021). This essentially means that it doesn’t matter which platform/device is used; the majority of respondents simply want to access better content.
Research shows that virtual private networks (VPNs) were significantly featured in terms of global app downloads in Q3, accounting for 6 of the top 10 non-game apps with the most significant increase in worldwide downloads between July and September 2021. (DataReportal, 2021)
Key VPN Insights
Considering the stats and data above, we’ve listed a number of insights relating to the various findings.
Everything from privacy concerns to COVID-19 has helped to accelerate the adoption rate of VPNs over the last 18 months. This is true for both business and personal usage.
Rising cybercrime is also a factor in the increased use of VPNs in 2022.
VPNs continue to be deployed globally, with slight discrepancies between age and gender for users.
There is still some pushback from a section of internet users, while many in regions like the US and the UK prefer to use a free VPN service.
In the West, it’s unlikely you’ll get in trouble for criticizing the government to the extent you would under an authoritarian regime. This could potentially be an explanation as to why users from the US and the UK are more willing to give up personal data by using a free VPN service.
Accessing entertainment is still extremely important for the average VPN user. To that end, U.S. Netflix is the preferred option.
More commercial and business usage has caused projected industry figures to increase, leading to record downloads and interest during the latter stages of 2021. This trend is likely to continue throughout 2022. .
VPNs are typically used by young people, even if they’re not as willing to pay for a service compared to older consumers.
Best VPNs in 2022
The best VPN providers do share some commonalities, but it will depend on what you’re planning to use the service for. Here’s a quick roundup of our Editor’s Top Picks for 2022.
NordVPN – Great for Privacy
Privacy might not be the most important aspect for the average user, but NordVPN also has a massive list of high-speed US servers and airtight encryption. It’s also reliable and offers connection speeds that are often unmatched.
IPVanish is a solid VPN service that, for the most part, has garnered significant trust from users. It’s our top pick for security overall, deploying industry-leading AES-256 encryption and offering a host of advanced security features.
Surfshark servers support P2P traffic, can unblock numerous streaming services, and is very affordable as far as premium VPNs are concerned. Surfshark also allows unlimited device connections per subscription. Their no-logs policy is verified by Cure 53, and it’s a great choice for gaming enthusiasts looking to up their connection performance.
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