Guest Post: VPN Special Discusses If TunnelBear VPN Be Less Secure After Being Bought by McAfee?

McAfee, a security giant that offers anti-virus protection and other security services, has acquired TunnelBear, a Canadian VPN service provider. TunnelBear will be integrated into McAfee’s own Safe Connect VPN service, while it will still continue developing its own products.

McAfee is not the first big security company to purchase a VPN in order to increase the range of their security products and to ride the wave of growing popularity of VPNs. AVG has acquired Privax (parent company of HideMyAss VPN), and Symantec (which also owns Norton Anti-Virus) has bought SurfEasy VPN from Opera Software.

However, many TunnelBear users expressed their concerns about an independent VPN being purchased by security giant and said they would switch to another VPN provider. Many are questioning what will happen to their private data held by TunnelBear. One of the issues raised in forums was the fact that TunnelBear had collected money from National Research Council of Canada, meaning it might have been already inclined to sell user information. As for McAfee, it was previously owned by Intel, which is very interested in private data and still keeps a part of its shares in the company.


VPN Providers Comment on the Acquisition

“We are glad that independent VPNs – that probably started as small tech startups – are now getting the recognition and are wanted by the world’s largest security companies,”said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. “It’s very likely that many other VPNs will be purchased by large companies in the future. While this is a positive development, on the other hand, trustworthy independent VPNs seem to be more flexible when it comes to security and privacy protection. Moreover, when choosing a VPN provider, users are putting their trust towards that one specific company. And trust is not something you can simply transfer from company to company without users’ consent.”

Another VPN service provider, SaferVPN, confirmed they had had a few offers to sell their company, but refused as selling out to a bigger corporation would go against their values. SaferVPN also believes that independent VPNs are more reliable. “We definitely believe that full dedication to customers’ privacy can only be maintained at an independent VPN company. With a larger company there are more attack vectors that can be exploited to steal user data, and more risks to customers’ privacy,” said Yura Sherman, Product Manager at SaferVPN.

VPN Unlimited confirmed that larger companies might influence any process in the company they acquire. “The recent example with Onavo Protect, which was acquired by Facebook in 2013, shows that sometimes privacy is not the primary aim for the VPN launch,” said Vasiliy Ivanov, CEO at KeepSolid, the company of VPN Unlimited
Many stand-alone VPNs have their headquarters in countries where governments do not have the right to access users’ logs. As an example, NordVPN is based in Panama, which allows the company to collect no logs and keep user data completely private. McAfee is located in California, the U.S., which means its VPN user information might be subject to investigation based on U.S. court orders. Some VPN providers prefer EU as a more secure location than the U.S.

“We think that independent providers will be able to provide better privacy. A larger company is usually subject to more than one jurisdiction and the privacy related laws are different. In our opinion, the European VPN providers (that will fully implement GDPR) should be the first option (at least) for European Union clients. This will ensure them that the data collected is minimal when an account is created or an order is placed,” said Dan Gurghian, Managing Partner at ibVPN.

“The idea of a VPN – which is supposed to encrypt all users’ communications into a secure tunnel, not seen by any third parties – loses its meaning when a VPN might be legally bound to start collecting and sharing its users’information. Even if governments do not intrude into privacy, there are third parties interested in private data – it could be Intel, research organizations or advertisers,” said Marty P. Kamden of NordVPN. “Therefore, Internet users need to have more choice. Some might want to go with a large security company, like McAfee, since it’s a familiar name on the market. Thanks to McAfee, many people will be trying VPN for the first time. Other users, however, need more privacy guarantees and would rather choose an established VPN provider that promises a certain level of privacy and continues to offer independent service.”

Overall, surveyed VPNs agreed that staying independent guarantees more privacy and security for their users. Though Simon Specka, Co-Founder of ZenMate said there shouldn’t be a black and white distinction between independent organizations and large companies. “It’s not possible to say that a smaller organization is “better” or “worse” – a company’s quality is dependent on the shareholding that has the controlling majority,” he said.

In the end, it will be up to users to decide whether they want to stick with independent VPNs or to go with a larger security company, but the level of concern shows many still prefer independent companies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: