Do VPN Providers Take Action Not to Serve the Bad Guys?

The rate and severity of cyberattacks show no signs of slowing, and our online privacy keeps getting stripped away. Concerned users are turning to VPNs to address both, but are they the only ones? Couldn’t a VPN be used to conduct illegal activities with less chance of detection, and what are VPN providers doing about it?

This article provides the answers, including several ways in which VPNs ensure the safe and ethical use of their services.


The Difficulties of Malicious User Detection

An emphasis on security and anonymity is the main reason people use VPNs in the first place. Not being tracked as you browse is liberating, especially if you’re tired of targeted advertising that keeps following you everywhere. Being able to access content with geographical restrictions, like with a VPN for MLB.TV, or more safely expressing your opinions if you’re living under an oppressive government, can be genuinely life-changing.

VPNs honor their claims by establishing safeguards that enforce user anonymity. For example, end-to-end encryption is both an excellent cybersecurity feature and an advanced privacy tool. VPN providers who implement it aren’t aware of the sites you visit, files you exchange, etc.

The best VPN providers also enforce a no-logs policy. That means they don’t keep records of your activities and have nothing to turn in if law enforcement asks for it. They also usually take care of additional features like threat protection (antivirus type of feature) or dark web monitoring to protect you additionally.

As you’d expect, having such safeguards can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they give law-abiding people – who make up the vast majority of VPN users – peace of mind when using the internet. On the other, they make pinpointing misuse harder.

That doesn’t mean VPN providers don’t have a means of stopping harmful activities. These are the steps they take.

Terms of Service

Terms of Service or ToS is a legally binding document users need to read through and agree to before they can create a VPN account. It’s the first line of defense against malicious users since it clearly states that the VPN doesn’t condone illegal conduct and will take action if the terms within are violated.

The ToS emphasizes users’ responsibility to use the VPN within the confines of the law. That means actions like hacking, phishing, piracy, copyright infringement, and other malicious activity are strictly off-limits. VPNs are designed to be security and privacy enhancements, not tools that help with criminal actions. That’s why providers are keenly interested in enforcing the ToS and punishing violators accordingly.

Users caught violating the Terms of Service face consequences with varying severity. Minor breaches may result in account suspension or revoked access to the VPN’s servers. More serious offenses can be cause for account termination. Someone may even face legal action and law enforcement involvement if they misuse the VPN severely.

Real-Time Monitoring

We need to reemphasize at this point that VPNs do not track the specific activities of individual users. However, they do employ techniques that let them monitor and analyze general network traffic. For example, such monitoring can detect an increase in traffic volume indicative of a DDoS attack.

Recent breakthroughs in machine learning let providers create predictive models based on large amounts of traffic data. They may uncover patterns in user behavior that can point to malicious actions without having access to someone’s specific online activity.

Abuse Reporting

Regular users have a vested interest in maintaining their VPN’s usefulness. Malicious actors put everyone’s browsing comfort and anonymity at risk, so VPNs encourage users to report any suspicious activities they encounter.

As they’re potentially damning accusations, VPN providers take such reports seriously. They’ll review the information and evidence a report contains and conduct their own investigation. If the means at their disposal confirm the allegations, the culprits suffer appropriate consequences.


Cooperation with the Law

Sometimes, law enforcement will reach out to VPN providers with requests for information on suspects. While there’s not much they can give out, they still need to cooperate within the ToS. What info gets disclosed varies by VPN. Usually, it’s nothing more than an account’s creation date and the email address associated with it.


VPNs aren’t immune from abuse, and criminals may try to employ them for shady purposes. Even so, it’s comforting to know that VPN providers take the matter seriously and take concrete steps to minimize risks.

By adnan

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