Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become one of the fastest-growing ways to protect and enhance your online activities.
A VPN encrypts your internet connection, preventing nosy third parties from monitoring and recording your online activities. It also temporarily assigns a new IP address to your connected device, making it harder for your online antics to be traced back to you. If you have privacy concerns, this guide is for you.
That ability a VPN has to assign your device a new IP address also has the happy side effect of opening access to geo-restricted local online content that you might not normally have access to.
By assigning a new IP address to your device, a VPN tricks the rest of the internet into thinking you and your device are located in another region of the globe. This means that while you are physically located in Chicago, you can access online content that is normally restricted to, say, France.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how you and your fellow online denizens are using VPNs, why you use one, and how the VPN industry is changing. Let’s dive in, shall we?
VPN Stats, Facts and Figures for 2021
1. The Virtual Private Network (VPN) Global Market Value is Expected to Grow to $50 Billion by 2024
For many users, cybersecurity is the driving reason behind subscribing to a VPN, and that is expected to drive the VPN market at an annual growth rate of nearly 6.4% over the next five years.
The VPN market had a worth of around $34.6 billion in 2018, and is expected to hit the $50 billion value level by 2024.
2. Interest in VPNs Has Steadily Grown Over the Last 10 Years
There has been a steadily growing interest in VPNs around the globe over the last 10 years or so. A quick check on Google Trends shows a slow but steadily growing interest in the search term “VPN.” Well, apart from a sudden spike in searches during March 2020. (Hello COVID-19 coronavirus and working, shopping, and playing online from home!)
3. COVID-19 Surge in Working From Home Fuels a Surge in VPN Usage
As you might guess, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to many of us working from home, and that has led to a large increase in VPN usage. Numerous VPN providers report increased usage of their services. NordVPN says it has noticed users stay connected to their VPN network for many more hours per day than before the pandemic.
4. VPN Use Is Most Popular Among Males 34 and Younger
While online users of all ages make use of VPNs (25% of internet users have used a VPN in the past month), its use is most popular among males 16 to 34 years of age. Gender usage shows that males make up 62% of VPN users, while females account for 38% of all VPN use.
The majority of VPN users are aged 16-34. The age of VPN users breaks down as follows: Ages 16-24: 35%, 25-34: 33%, 35-44: 19%, 45-54: 9%, 55-64: 4%.
5. VPN Users Prefer Their Desktop and Laptop Computers But Mobile Device Use Isn’t Far Behind
While Windows and Mac VPN usage continues to rule the roost, the day when iOS and Android VPN usage takes over doesn’t look to be too far away.
A Global Web Index (GWI) study reveals that 72% of VPN users access their favorite service on their PC or Mac, while 69% of VPN users report using their iOS or Android mobile device. Tablet usage trails both with 33% of those users protecting their online travels with a VPN.
When we take a look at the frequency of use, things flip on us, with 32% of mobile phone users reporting they use a VPN on their device every day or nearly every day. Only 29% of desktop users report the same frequency of use.
6. The Majority of VPN Users and Non-VPN Users Are Worried About How Companies Use Their Private Information
The GWI study found that those who use a VPN and those who don’t use a VPN are nearly equally concerned about how companies use their private data. While a total of 64% of VPN users worry about the use of their personal data, non-users of VPNs are within striking distance at 60%.
The number of VPN users and non-users of VPNs who believe the internet threatens their privacy measures in at 62% and 60%, respectively.
7. Over One-Third of VPN Customers Use It to Access Blocked News and Social Websites
That same GWI study shows that over one-third of folks that use a VPN do so to gain internet access to blocked websites, such as news sites and social networks. This includes users in overly restrictive countries, like China and Russia.
34% of users worldwide use a VPN to maintain their online anonymity. Meanwhile, 30% of users surveyed use a VPN to access websites and services that are blocked at work or school, and 30% also use it to hide their file-sharing activities.
8. VPNs Are Illegal or Restricted in 10 Countries
Unfortunately, there are still countries where the use of a VPN is outright illegal or is severely restricted. These countries are: Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates. (Always check the VPN regulations for any country before using one there.)
9. 51% of VPN Users Are in Search of Expanded Entertainment Opportunities
GWI found that 51% of VPN users are in search of a way to expand their entertainment options.
A VPN can make it appear as if a user’s device is connecting from another part of the globe. This opens up access to Netflix content that isn’t usually available inside the user’s country, and can also open access to other streaming services, gaming servers, and websites and online services not usually available.
10. Most VPNs Provide Connections Fast Enough for HD Video Streaming
Many VPN users and potential VPN users worry that a VPN might slow their download speeds enough to hurt their streaming video experience. However, most users will find that depending on their usual download speeds, a VPN will provide more than enough bandwidth to offer an excellent viewing experience.
Netflix recommends the following download speeds for watching TV shows and movies on their service:
- 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD (480) quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD (1080) quality
- 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD (4K) quality
11. VPN Users Love Streaming, and Most Keep It Legal
While many folks may have an image in their minds of VPN users downloading or streaming movies and TV shows from illegal sources, most keep it legal. 77% of VPN users buy digital content each month. VPN users are also 40% more likely to be watching subscription services weekly.
12. VPN Usage Remains Lower in North America and Europe
VPN usage varies around the globe. When you consider all internet users in a region, it is heartening to see that VPN usage is in double figures for all regions of the world.
30% of all online users in the Asian Pacific region of the world use a VPN on a regular basis. Latin America slides into second with 23%, 19% of users in the Middle East and Africa use a VPN, while North America and Europe tie for last place with a 17% user rate.
When it comes to the all-important 16- to 34-year-old user group, 30% of Asian Pacific users take advantage of a VPN, 25% of Latin American users and 21% or European and North American users use a VPN. In this demographic, the Middle East and Africa bring up the rear, with 19%.
13. Internet Censorship Continues to Rise
Internet freedom around the globe should not be taken for granted. While we can expect to see online censorship continue and increase in countries like China, Russia and North Korea, it is also slowly expanding in areas of the world that have been considered “free.”
In a U.S. presidential election year like 2020, claims of “fake news” have increased. While misleading news reports are certainly a thing we’d all like to avoid, who watches the watchers? Who decides what is fake news, and what is simply an inconvenient truth?
Countries like Russia, Iran, China and others already block porn sites, quite a few social media sites and any online content that criticizes the government. Some of these countries are working to block VPN usage, as well as to outlaw torrenting and other online activities.
14. VPN Usage: Login Time and Duration
A recent study showed 35% of all desktop VPN users connect to their VPN of choice every day or nearly every day. 42% of mobile users also connect daily.
15. Data Encryption Security
OpenVPN continues to be the VPN encryption standard that offers the best combination of security and speed. Even the 128-bit version of the encryption used in OpenVPN would likely take numerous years for a brute-force attack to crack.
VPN Predictions For 2021
1. VPN Providers Will Continue to Benefit From the Remote Worker Market
At the time of this article, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is still raging, with no end in sight. As this will most assuredly lead to workers continuing to work remotely from their homes, the need for VPN protection will continue to grow.
2. More Users Will Explore the Use of Personal VPN Servers
While setting up your own VPN server requires some tech knowledge, the existence of small, cheap and easy-to-use devices like Raspberry Pi devices make it easier than ever.
The continuing cyber scandals and data security breaches will lead to better awareness of the dangers of working and playing online, and will cause users to consider setting up their own personal VPN server.
Setting up a personal VPN server offers advantages over using apps that VPN providers offer, and is more secure and offers better performance as you are not sharing the server with other users.
3. Countries Will Continue to Place Restrictions on VPN Use
The proliferation of privacy-unfriendly COVID-19 contact tracing apps that the various nations of the world have attempted to inflict on their citizens indicates a growing willingness of governments to violate the internet privacy of their citizens.
This also indicates that they will look for other ways to monitor their citizens, and a VPN can prevent most online monitoring. This could lead countries to increase their restrictions on VPN usage.
It’s a weird, dangerous world online. A VPN helps keep you safe online while preventing your ISP, the government, and hackers from monitoring your online activities and stealing your important personal data.
The stats and figures we’ve taken a look at in this article show VPN use is on the rise, but still has a long way to go.
VPN Statistics FAQ
Can a VPN Help Protect Against Identity Theft?
A VPN can help protect against identity theft. A VPN encrypts your internet connection, which hides your online activities from bad actors out to steal your identity. Hackers are unable to monitor your online shopping, banking, bill paying, etc. Therefore, they are unable to glean the information they require to steal your identity.
Can You Be Tracked With a VPN?
While a VPN does an excellent job of hiding your real IP address and encrypting your internet connection, there are other ways of tracking users on the internet.
An IP address isn’t the only thing that identifies you on the internet. The app or website you are using could use your computer or mobile device’s GPS capabilities to detect your location. Malware can be installed on your computer or mobile device, which could disclose your location. Tracking cookies can also disclose your online travels
Can a VPN Be Hacked?
A VPN is arguably the most secure way to protect your online privacy. That said, anything can be hacked. A hacker could attack a VPN’s encryption using known vulnerabilities, or by brute force attacks.
However, attacks of these types are involved and time-consuming. This means that hackers will generally target their attacks at high-value targets, such as corporations and governments. This means the average VPN user can feel reasonably comfortable that their online activities are well-hidden from hackers.