Why in news:
- India’s cybersecurity agency passed a rule mandating VPN providers to record and keep their customers’ logs for 180 days. It also asked these firms to collect and store customer data for up to five years. It further mandated that any cybercrime recorded must be reported to the CERT within 6 hours of the crime.
- CERT-In is a wing of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
What is a VPN and how does it work?
- VPN (virtual private network) is a technology that encrypts your internet traffic on unsecured networks to protect your online identity, hide your IP address, and shield your online data from third parties.
- VPNs use real-time encryption and send your internet data through a secure virtual tunnel to minimize the possibility of anyone tracking what you do online.
- When you connect to a VPN service, it authenticates your client with a VPN server and applies an encryption protocol to all your internet data. The VPN service then creates an encrypted “tunnel” over the internet. That secures the data traveling between you and your destination.
- Every time you switch on your VPN connection, a secure channel is created, which acts as an intermediary between your device and the destination webpage.
- Your data is then sent to an external VPN server, which then connects you to your destination.
- However, when the VPN server does this, your IP address, which is the online equivalent of a user-specific postal code, is changed — and thus websites are unable to accurately track your location.
- This private network promotes online safety and enhances your overall privacy on the Web.
What is a virtual server, and what are its uses?
- A virtual server is a simulated server environment built on an actual physical server. It recreates the functionality of a dedicated physical server.
- The virtual twin functions like a physical server that runs software. It uses resources of the physical server. Multiple virtual servers can run on a single physical server.
- Virtualising servers helps reallocate resources for changing workloads. Converting one physical server into multiple virtual servers allows organisations to use processing power and resources more efficiently by running multiple operating systems and applications on one partitioned server.
- Running multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical machine reduces the cost as it consumes less space, hardware.
- Virtualisation also reduces cost as maintaining a virtual server infrastructure is low compared to physical server infrastructure.
- Virtual servers are also said to offer higher security than a physical server infrastructure as the operating system and applications are enclosed in a virtual machine. This helps contain security attacks and malicious behaviors inside the virtual machine.
- Virtual servers are also useful in testing and debugging applications in different operating systems and versions without having to manually install and run them in several physical machines.
- Software developers can create, run, and test new software applications on a virtual server without taking processing power away from other users.
Advantages of VPN
- Privacy: Without a VPN connection, websites can see your IP address, and use it to accurately identify your identity and location.
- Safety: A VPN would prevent everyone from the government to cyber criminals to track you easily. Using a VPN can delink your online activity from your IP address. A VPN will also protect your Internet traffic, keeping it encrypted the whole time.
- Location spoofing: Another reason why people use VPNs is to get around georestrictions.
- Getting around online censorship: Many countries block access to various websites, which you cannot visit if you’re from those countries. A VPN allows you to bypass such restrictions.
- Free access to the Web is an important element of the freedom of speech and expression. Journalists and activists often use VPNs to access platforms that would otherwise be inaccessible, and communicate without government restrictions.
Disadvantages of VPN
- The Internet could slow down. Since VPNs require your traffic to be routed via a VPN server, it could take longer to reach your destination website.
- VPN service knows which websites you are visiting. Free VPN apps and services will often restrict you to lower speeds and may misuse or sell your data.
Impact of the ban
- Privacy of millions of people in India will most likely be affected and strongly damage the IT sector’s growth in the country.
- A move like that would violate the privacy protection offered by VPN services.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs) are used by almost all businesses when staff members must have access to confidential data or even software that must remain on the company’s network.
- Although there is cause for worry over VPN abuse, both the government and industry make substantial use of the technology for secure communications. Additionally, the National Cyber Security Coordinator estimates that India experiences 375 cyberattacks every day.
- The Supreme Court ruled in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020) that access to the internet is protected under Article 19(1)g of the Indian Constitution where it is necessary to maintain a trade or profession.
- VPNs are also incredibly helpful for journalists and whistleblowers. Journalists rely on encryption and VPNs to facilitate private communication in order to protect their own privacy and security as well as that of their sources.
- Internet users have access to content that is blocked by the government due to VPNs. Users have options with VPNs. This freedom would be compromised by a prohibition.
- A prohibition would pave the way for further increases in censorship, including restrictions to widely used applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter that a VPN might get through.
- Employment issues will affect certain people
- According to MeiTY, as long as an entity provides services to Indian users, the laws apply to it regardless of whether it has a physical presence in India or not.
Why was the move made
- It claimed that VPNs and the Dark Web might get over cybersecurity barriers and let criminals stay anonymous online.
- Additionally, it was stated that VPNs are simple to download and that numerous websites that provide these services advertise them.
- Furthermore, it is common knowledge that cybercrime has increased and will continue to do so, and that VPNs are a crucial tool for blackhat hackers and other cybercriminals.