Yaroslav Savenkov, ZoogVPN: “it is mainly up to employees to set up necessary security measures”
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) market is overflowing with providers, every one of them claiming to be better than the other. The most prominent companies often sponsor YouTubers and influencers, and some providers even have ads on TV. In such circumstances, it becomes increasingly difficult for new VPN providers to emerge.
However, they don’t stop trying. Some take a more creative approach and up their marketing game, others focus on developing specific features and improving the one thing that might make them “pop.” Whether it’s about solving geo-blocking issues or offering the best torrenting support, VPN providers have to stand out to be noticed.
Cybernews invited Yaroslav Savenkov, the CEO of ZoogVPN, to chat about their mission, their vision, and how ZoogVPN stands out from the crowd of other VPN providers. We also touched upon the cybersecurity challenges that companies are facing today and how to tackle them.
How did the idea of creating ZoogVPN come to life? What has your journey been like since?
The idea of creating ZoogVPN came to life in the early 2010s. In those years, the Internet had just become an inevitable part of our lives. Furthermore, people realized that the Internet is packed with surveillance software, restrictions, and privacy and security concerns. While the time spent online saw a massive increase, people were becoming more serious about their privacy online, and the demand for VPN services grew. On top of reasonable privacy concerns, the restrictions were tightened, and people in different parts of the world couldn't access the Internet. We entered the market in 2013 to tackle these challenges and meet the increasing demand on the market.
Our journey has been both challenging and exciting since the very beginning. We've developed dedicated apps for major devices, created a sustainable solution to get around the blocks of heavily-censored countries like Russia and China, and did our best to meet users' expectations. The ZoogVPN team was always thinking about user experience first. Our engineers and product team were mainly focused on simplicity and affordability to make a seamless customer journey. We are still sure that user experience is the only KPI you should focus on when creating a digital product. ZoogVPN faced many challenges on the market, especially when big cybersecurity corporations started entering the VPN industry. Today we still have a lot of things to do. Being in the VPN industry is not about creating a product and proceeding onto the next one. You always have room for improvement and you always seek ways to strengthen your product or meet new use cases of your potential customers. A VPN has become not only a solution that protects your traffic from various leaks. Today it's a powerful tool to bypass regional blocks, protect your devices, have digital freedom, and have the choice between state-funded propaganda and alternative sources of information.
On your website, you mention breaking down Internet barriers as one of your goals. Can you tell us more about your vision?
Breaking Internet barriers is all about our company vision. With a VPN, you can "travel" across the world safely and access any content regardless of your location. I will try to explain it with an example. We use Facebook. Our company uses Google Meet, and we can enjoy the best digital products created in the world. In most countries, people consume YouTube content without a hitch. You wake up and check your notifications first thing in the morning, don't you? All these apps and websites are so essential today and have become an integral part of our lives. Yet, to think that some people can't access them due to political issues in their countries or blatant censorship is crazy. For some of us, these social media apps are the only way to communicate with our loved ones. That's why a decent VPN is a must-have. So, leveraging such solutions as ours is very important because everyone deserves the best.
What features make ZoogVPN different from other VPNs on the market?
The market is overwhelmed with very similar VPN services. The fundamental principles that differentiate us from other VPNs are simplicity, affordability, and ease of use. As I previously mentioned, customer experience is the cornerstone of our VPN service, and all our apps are easy to use. You won't find plenty of buttons and complicated settings. Simply install it, click "Connect," and you are good to go.
The other important factor is the price. We always took pride in providing a completely free VPN service because it perfectly matches our mission – we can allocate certain resources and capabilities just to provide everyone with a VPN solution absolutely free of charge. Furthermore, ZoogVPN is known for a fair and affordable price tag – we are one of the cheapest VPN providers with a worldwide VPN network and advanced features that help to unblock the services, bypass blocks of heavily-censored countries, and even more. VPN shouldn't be expensive. When I see a VPN subscription at the cost of $100 a year, I understand that some people simply can't afford it. Generally, countries with strong censorship laws tend to be prone to poverty, and their citizens need these VPN services the most.
Do you think the pandemic has altered the way the general public perceives cybersecurity?
I think the pandemic indirectly impacted the way everyone perceives cybersecurity. First of all, many businesses moved online, which apparently increased the number of active Internet users. Many people started using Zoom for their business and personal calls but didn't realize their personal information was at risk. I suppose, after all the headlines revealed this fact, people became more careful. So yes, I think the pandemic has changed the way people treat their online privacy. It's just a logical chain of events that always leads to understanding how privacy and security are essential. The more people use the Internet and the more time they spend online – the more they realize that their private life online should be protected.
What would you consider the main cybersecurity threats concerning organizations nowadays?
Well, when it comes to organizations' cybersecurity, there are a lot of possible concerns. I assume that the main cybersecurity threat is a potential data breach. Even though it's common knowledge that all data should be encrypted, the private key should be stored safely, the database has to be protected from a possible injection, the data breaches still happen very often. There are hundreds of cases when even tech giants like LinkedIn and Facebook were almost hacked. There are thousands of cases when small organizations experience various data breaches. So, the main cybersecurity challenge is a data breach. When it comes to commercial companies, people should always double think before leaving their private information.
As the Internet develops, there are always a lot of cybersecurity concerns for governmental organizations. Sadly enough, organizations that aren't created to make money often have poor security standards and are very vulnerable. One of the possible leaks may come from digital Covid-19 certificates that many countries store on unsecured servers with all data about their citizens.
Furthermore, one of the cybersecurity concerns is brute force attacks that happen with governmental websites. It's baffling that brute force attacks are still a powerful weapon in 2022.
With remote work becoming the new normal, what security measures do you think companies should invest in to secure their workload?
That is a good question. It's way easier to establish excellent security standards in the office than when it comes to remote work. From my point of view, companies should educate their employees and always highlight the utmost importance of security in their workflow. It is mainly up to employees to set up necessary security measures. However, there are a lot of security measures that management can establish to help their employees prevent data leaks and hacks. There are some basic things like limiting access by IP addresses and using 2FA where possible, but it's also important to think about what company stores and where. Of course, it's unacceptable to use unreliable messengers for communicating or storing any confidential information.
Companies should design a unique security policy and explain its necessity to employees. It should be written in corporate documents and delivered to every employee, in particular, so he understands the importance of these measures. There are tons of security measures, and they consist of small things. For example, nobody should use public screenshot apps because it's well-known that once a screenshot is uploaded to the cloud, everyone can access it and see the image, etc.
As the borders start opening up again, can you share some tips on how to stay protected online while traveling?
Well, we always recommend everyone to use ZoogVPN on public Wi-Fi networks, in airports, cafes, and restaurants. You don't even need to pay for our service, we provide 10GB of free data, which is more than enough when you need to drop some messages to your loved ones.
When traveling abroad, it's better to have a VPN client installed on your phone before the trip, especially when we are talking about countries with a questionable reputation in terms of digital protection.
I'd also recommend using a VPN whenever you need to download something online. It's easier than checking dozens of pages about the country's copyright law and being caught off guard if things go south.
Of course, don't leave your personal information on the foreign websites you don't trust, and see if the website has an SSL certificate.
In your opinion, what kind of threats are we going to see more often in the next few years?
The pandemic caused the boost in Internet technologies, so many people went online, and now they don't want to switch back to office work for their convenience. Not surprisingly, many inexperienced people became easy targets for data thieves, hackers, and snoopers. There are a lot of web developers out there, but there is still a small number of experienced engineers who can deal with cyberattacks or prevent brute force and DDoS attacks. Unfortunately, many engineers lack a profound architectural mind, and not everyone can build secure infrastructure.
Besides, what we see in the VPN industry itself is a massive step toward marketing over privacy and security. One of the cybersecurity companies with a questionable past has already acquired a few recognizable VPN brands. Right now, they reach millions of VPN users under one company. We are getting acquisition requests very often. At ZoogVPN, we think that such actions can lead to the monopoly created on the market where users' privacy and security will be questioned because of the high probability of choosing the ways to monetize such a big pool of VPN users. When somebody has instant access to millions of users worldwide, you undoubtedly start thinking about how you can benefit from this. It might be a serious wake up call to the whole VPN community if the leadership of a possible "monopoly" decides to sacrifice users' privacy to gain a considerable income.
What does the future hold for ZoogVPN?
The best thing that the whole ZoogVPN team loves about our market is that it is growing really fast. Every day there are hundreds of novelties and opportunities. We are already building a Chrome browser extension to let our users and everyone use a VPN directly in Chrome or other Chromium-based browsers. We are working hard to design sustainable solutions that will unblock most streaming services without any hassle.
On top of that, our content team is working on translating our website to the most popular languages. It's a big deal for us because we want to break the language barriers and allow everyone to find the answer to their questions, use a reliable VPN service even for free and understand the basics of how a VPN works. It's easy to find the answers in English because there's a constant influx of content. It becomes more challenging to find trusted sources and great content that will break down the issue when it comes to other languages. We've noticed that VPN providers that have their website translated to other languages do it just for marketing purposes. We want to move forward and do it for our users first. That said, our mission is to break down Internet barriers, and language shouldn't be a problem here.