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Mapping the Commercial VPN Ecosystem from Cost-Quality Perspective
  • Ali Anjum ,
  • Vasileios Giotsas
Ali Anjum
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Vasileios Giotsas
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Abstract

Reliance on commercial virtual private networks has increased manifold in the recent past. This paradigm shift of global internet users is primarily driven by their need of online privacy, censorship circumvention, and accessing geo-filtered content among other motivations. Variety of VPN services underscored by their opaque nature captures huge user base which is technically unsophisticated, and has very limited means to verify claims of a given VPN service. Capitalizing on extensive literature and online review, we have selected a sample of 60 x VPNs (from categories of free as well as paid services) which adequately represents the commercial VPN market from cost-quality perspective. An elaborate eco-system analysis reveals significant variations against the claims of service providers. Our crystallized infrastructure testing methodology executed over selected VPNs reveals: (1) Anonymity index of free versus paid VPNs differs widely at all levels i.e., IP, subnet, country and ISP; (2) 54% of selected VPN’s server locations in attractive geographic locations are virtual instead of physical; (3) 4/10 VPN tested services have been found to share their vantage points at subnet level; and (4) Selective co-location of 22% vantage points have also been observed.