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Roger Li, VyprVPN: “privacy is a fundamental human right”

As our lives turn digital, privacy and free internet access become not only a vital human right but an urgent necessity, encouraging more diversity and inclusivity within the online space.

When surfing the net, we are seeking two things: security and accessibility. While the first can be achieved through various tools, the second might be a tricky matter. Surprisingly so, as the internet was created as a “democratic space,” celebrating freedom and equality. Even as we move further away from that original concept, VPN providers advocate for the open and secure internet, with VyprVPN offering privacy and accessibility to all users.

Roger Li, Marketing Manager at VyprVPN, spoke to us about the company’s vision of the “free internet,” as well as about existing vulnerabilities and harmful cybersecurity practices online users follow.

How did the idea of creating VyprVPN originate?

VyprVPN was founded in response to Room 641a, an infamous room in San Francisco where the NSA was conducting surveillance on AT&T's networks. Our founders filed papers with the FCC but received no response, so instead of waiting or expecting the government to protect internet users, they decided to start a company. VyprVPN was founded to empower users to take control of their own internet experience. Today, we continue to build tools that enable people around the world to achieve a private, secure, and free internet experience.

You openly advocate for an Open Internet. What is the vision behind it?

Our founders have a vision for the free and open internet. This guides our company and what we do, and our vision includes the following principles:

We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right and that encryption is the “second amendment for the internet.” We also believe everyone has a right to access the internet as it was intended to be – open and not restricted to any user. We advocate for this internet experience for the same reason we advocate for freedom of speech and unrestricted access to information in other venues around the world.

This vision isn’t only an ideal; it’s an urgent necessity. Our reliance on the internet means it affects every aspect of our lives. It was invented to allow free and open access regardless of distance or circumstance. However, an increasing number of technology providers and governments are banning access or availability of certain content. For example, as we stated in the vision paper, Google’s Transparency Report shows that 63 countries asked it to restrict access to certain content in the first six months of 2014. And in 2013, Google was asked to remove over 39,000 items from its search results and other sites. In the United States, legislators want more technology firms to do the same.”

We similarly believe the internet should be diverse and inclusive. The flow of information should not be controlled by certain individuals or organizations who possess power or capital. This is especially true in repressive nations. The annual Freedom on the Net report illustrates that we are in peril, as countries around the world continue to restrict the internet. We advocate for an Open Internet, so that people are aware of the danger we’re facing, and so that we may all enjoy the internet as it was intended to be.

It is evident that you have put a lot of work into your Chameleon Protocol. Can you tell us more about this technology?

Chameleon protocol is VyprVPN’s own, proprietary protocol which we built to combat strict censorship enacted by repressive nations. Countries like China and Russia have the technology to intercept and block normal VPN traffic via deep packet inspection (DPI), so our Chameleon protocol scrambles OpenVPN™ packet metadata to defeat DPI while keeping it fast and lightweight. Throughout the years, we’ve made several upgrades to the original version of Chameleon, so it’s more adapted to the ever-evolving censorship measures put into place by those governments. Earlier in 2021, we introduced Chameleon™ with Smart IP. This technology combats China’s Great Firewall from detecting and blocking VyprVPN, and offers our users a consistent and quality connection experience. It works by changing the VyprVPN server IP address periodically throughout a users’ session, all without dropping the connection. It’s even more effective in evading the increasingly aggressive censorship efforts we see in China and around the world.

Do you think the pandemic has altered the way the public perceives cybersecurity?

The pandemic has changed the way people live. More of our activity – from work to school – now takes place online, meaning we rely on the internet more than ever. We see this trend continuing into the foreseeable future and likely intensifying.

This trend also inevitably makes people more vulnerable to cybercrimes and security breaches when shopping, working, or connecting with friends. A good example is the news that some Zoom calls were “mistakenly” being routed through China, potentially allowing the Chinese government to gain user data and even listen to these calls. The public seems to be aware of threats and the increase of threats, and cybersecurity and precautions for privacy are becoming more mainstream than ever before. This is evidenced by the surge of VPN usage we’ve seen since the beginning of 2020. Using a VPN is one of the most effective and affordable ways to protect you from everyday online security risks. Although VPN is still not a household term, it’s becoming more widely recognized and adopted.

What would you consider the worst internet habits detrimental to one’s privacy and security?

One of the worst internet habits is being careless on public wi-fi. We do this all the time since we are often on the go and rely on wi-fi, but the action has very real consequences. Connecting to unknown or unsecured networks is known to pose massive risks, yet we still choose to engage in this behavior. Another dangerous habit is choosing obvious passwords – things like 1234. It's astounding that people do this so often, yet studies continually show it’s happening. There are so many more bad internet habits, including divulging personal information and neglecting to install important software updates. There are so many, in fact, that we recently wrote a blog post on it!

With remote work becoming the new normal, what security measures should companies invest in to secure their workload?

People are always the weakest link in the chain, generally due to a lack of understanding or foresight about risky internet behaviors. This means awareness goes a long way, and raising awareness of the threats out there – and how to mitigate or avoid them – makes a huge difference when building strong habits. Using a work VPN and trustworthy cloud storage are easy measures that can help prevent security breaches - especially for remote workers or those on the go.

In your opinion, what are the biggest threats average internet users might face nowadays?

  1. Being overly confident with technology. Some online services or websites have poor security infrastructure that is easy to hack. People are often trusting of sites or services and don’t think before they connect or click.
  2. Personally identifiable information leaking to third parties. With so much data out there and so many services available online, personal information is at more risk than ever. Whether it’s leaked by a company or becomes vulnerable for some other reason, the amount of data in the world today nearly guarantees you will be under threat at some point.
  3. Online fraud. Giving away key information such as your credit card, password, or social security numbers, whether over an unsecured connection or to a malicious actor unintentionally, is a massive risk.
  4. Lack of awareness. As mentioned above, a gap in awareness about the risks and how to combat them is a big threat. For example, something as cost-effective and effortless as using a VPN is not widespread. Despite the risks, there is still a lack of awareness or general understanding of the dangers that exist online. While things like VPNs are becoming more mainstream, they haven't yet reached all consumers.

As the borders start opening up again, can you share some tips on how to stay protected online while traveling?

When traveling, we suggest carrying a personal wireless hotspot. This way, you don’t need to use any public wi-fi networks, which reduces potential security risks associated with these unsecured networks. A wireless hotspot is not on most peoples’ packing list, however an untrusted public Wi-Fi is truly one of the most dangerous internet environments due to hackers. If you must use public Wi-Fi or choose to out of convenience, we strongly recommend you use a VPN. A VPN ensures your connection is encrypted and privacy protected by establishing a secure tunnel for all your online traffic. In addition, it helps you bypass any censorship and blocks, and stop hackers or even governments in countries you visit from spying on you.

Another tip is: when using a shared computer in a café or hotel, make sure you open an Incognito browser window. This ensures that no cookies or passwords are stored once the session is closed. This is even more critical if you use a shared computer to book tickets or access your online bank accounts or other sensitive information. You should also be sure that you log out from any public devices you use; however, it’s best to avoid using shared public devices whenever possible.

Lastly, make sure all your devices are physically secured. That means never leaving your laptop unlocked even if you have to walk away for just one minute.

What does the future hold for VyprVPN?

Privacy and security remain our focus as we move into the future. We are committed to building the best, most secure products for our users. Currently, we are making heavy investments to update our global infrastructure. With these enhancements we will be able to offer top-tier servers, resulting in even stronger speeds and performance. But really, when it comes down to it, our future is focused on our users. Everything we do is with our users in mind, and we will continue to develop our product to offer the best possible user experience in the VPN market. We'll do this through features and functionality that are easy-to-use and by making security and privacy an effortless part of everyday life.

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