Of those parent companies, six are based in China, and information on these companies is often hidden to consumers, according to VPNpro. Together those six companies offer 29 of the world’s VPN services, but researchers were able to piece together ownership information via company listings, geolocation data, the CVs of employees and other documentation.
“OpenVPN is incorporated in the US, and they pride themselves on their transparency and that their open-source protocol is the de facto standard used by almost all other providers,” said Francis Dinha, CEO of OpenVPN.
“This new report that exposes nearly a third of top VPN providers being owned by parent companies in China is very alarming as this makes the service from these companies very insecure. If you use one of these VPNs, China can use your device to store dangerous content and initiate malicious encounters. You might be subjecting yourself to a criminal investigation.”
When all is said and done, not all VPNs are created equal. Users need to fully understand what constitutes a reputable VPN and do their due diligence when selecting a provider.
Using the example of the Chinese company Innovative Connecting, which owns three businesses that produce VPN apps, VPNpro explained that it is often the case that ownership of multiple VPNs is shared amongst various subsidiaries. With a total of ten VPN products that it produces, Innovative Connecting’s products also include the VPN apps Autumn Breeze 2018, Lemon Cove and All Connected.
“We’re not accusing any of these companies of doing anything underhand. However, we are concerned that so many VPN providers are not fully transparent about who owns them and where they are based. Many VPN users would be shocked to know that data held on them could be legally requested by governments in countries such as China and Pakistan,” said Laura Kornelija Inamedinova, research analyst at VPNpro.
“Our recommendation is that people do a lot of due diligence on the VPN that they want to use since they aren’t all created equal and simply using a VPN does not guarantee privacy or security.”
Additionally, VPNpro noted that the company of origin of Super VPN & Free Proxy, Giga Studios, Sarah Hawken and Fifa VPN, four companies which together own 10 VPN services, is completely hidden.