Archive for NordVPN

Guest Post: NordVPN Presents Research Showing That Canada Is The 13th Most Vulnerable Country To Cybercrime

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 19, 2020 by itnerd

Canadians are at high risk of becoming victims of cybercrime, according to the new Cyber Risk Index by NordVPN. Canada has a high-income economy, advanced technological infrastructure, urbanization, and digitalization. However, these same factors increase the prevalence of cybercrime.

NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index covers 50 countries comprising 70% of the world population. Canada ranks as the 13th most vulnerable to cybercrime out of the analyzed countries.

What increases the cyber risk in Canada

Canada has landed in the high cyber risk bracket because of significant exposure to cyber threats. “Cybercriminals don’t look for victims, they look for opportunities — much like pickpockets in crowded places,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Spend enough time riding in a packed bus, and a pickpocket will ‘accidentally’ bump into you. Same story online. Your cyber risk increases with every extra hour online.”

NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index shows that 9 out of 10 Canadians use the internet and 8 out of 10 shop online. All this presents more opportunities for cybercriminals to strike. “Canadians are very active on social media, and a whopping 16% of the population play online games — that’s the 8th highest score globally,” says Daniel Markuson. 

“Finally, Canada has the densest public Wi-Fi network in the world. Hyperactive online life and infamously unsecured public hotspots is a dangerous combination. You shouldn’t ever use public Wi-Fi without an extra layer of security,” says Daniel Markuson. 

The average monthly wage in Canada is almost $1500 higher than the average. “As your income increases, it’s only natural to enjoy the comfort of online shopping and other paid services. But that makes you a much more enticing target for cybercriminals,” says Daniel Markuson.

What decreases the cyber risk in Canada

Canada has a great score (8th globally) on the Global CyberSecurity Index, which is calculated based on legal, technical, organizational, and capacity building factors on a country level. 

However, cybersecurity infrastructure has a limited impact on cybercrime. “Cyber risk management on a national level is obviously important, but it hardly makes a dent on its own. Online security has to be tackled individually. Understanding what increases the cyber risk — that time spent online and income are very important factors — is a profound step towards a safer digital life,” says Daniel Markuson.

That’s another reason why Canada isn’t higher on the most vulnerable list. Most Canadians may be active internet users, but the time they spend online is limited. According to the Cyber Risk Index, Canadians spend 30 minutes less time online than the average of 50 analyzed countries. 

The method behind the Cyber Risk Index

NordVPN created the Index in partnership with Statista, the world’s leading business data provider. The Index was created in three stages. First, Statista collected socio-economic, digital, cyber, and crime data from 50 selected countries. Second, NordVPN analyzed the data’s positive and negative impact on cyber risk and calculated the correlation between the first three data sets (socio-economic, digital, cyber) and the fourth (crime). 

Finally, NordVPN trimmed the data down to the 14 most significant factors, used them to create the Index, and ranked the 50 countries according to the cyber risk they’re facing. 

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why Developed Countries Are More Vulnerable To Cybercrime

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 3, 2020 by itnerd

Residents of developed countries are more likely to become victims of cybercrime, according to the new Cyber Risk Index by NordVPN. The defining qualities of developed countries — high-income economy, advanced technological infrastructure, urbanization, and digitalization — are the same factors that increase the prevalence of cybercrime.

NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index covers 50 countries comprising 70% of the world population.

The most dangerous place to be online

Northern Europe is the most dangerous region when it comes to cyber risk, while North America is a close second. In both regions, more than 9 out of 10 people use the internet, 8 out of 10 shop online, and 7 out of 10 use Facebook. This leads to increased exposure to cyber threats. 

“Cybercriminals don’t look for victims, they look for opportunities — much like pickpockets in crowded places,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Spend enough time in a packed bus, and a pickpocket will ‘accidentally’ bump into you. Same story online. Your cyber risk increases with every extra hour online.”

The average monthly wages in Northern Europe and North America are among the highest in the world. “As your income increases, it’s only natural to enjoy the comfort of online shopping and other paid services. But that makes you a much more enticing target for cybercriminals.”

India is the safest. Or is it?

In India, only a third of the population use the internet, and less than a quarter have smartphones. A tiny share of all Indians use Instagram (5.8%), watch video on demand (7.1%), or play online games (6.6%). The monthly wage in India is 13 times lower than the average of the 50 countries analyzed. That makes India the safest country covered by NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index.  But there are some important caveats.

“Cyber Risk Index reflects the big picture, the country-wide statistics,” says Daniel Markuson, NordVPN’s digital privacy expert. “Indians who do use the internet, spend a lot of time online — more than an hour longer than the average. They probably live in cities and get higher wages. That puts them at a much higher cyber risk than the average Indian.” 

In countries with huge income inequality, low levels of urbanization, or low internet penetration, a small segment of the population may face a much larger cyber risk than the general population. 

The method behind the Cyber Risk Index

NordVPN created the Index in partnership with Statista, the world’s leading business data provider. The Index was created in three stages. First, Statista collected socio-economic, digital, cyber, and crime data from 50 selected countries. Second, NordVPN analyzed the data’s positive and negative impact on cyber risk and calculated the correlation between the first three data sets (socio-economic, digital, cyber) and the fourth (crime). 

Finally, NordVPN trimmed the data down to the 14 most significant factors, used them to create the Index, and ranked the 50 countries according to the cyber risk they’re facing.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses If Password Stress Could Be The Reason For Rising Cybercrime

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 19, 2020 by itnerd

Cybercrime is rising faster than ever, and security experts at NordPass think that one of the reasons could be people deeming password management as a burden. A recent study revealed that 30% of people believe that password management is as stressful as retirement. 

In addition, if people lose a vital password with no reset option, they are even more stressed. 68% of the respondents agree that this situation is as stressful as dismissal from work or changing jobs. 

Why is password management so stressful? The research highlights three main reasons:

1. People have too many accounts to manage. (66% out of the surveyed people agreed, that this is what makes passwords stressful)

2. People can’t remember which password is for which account (41%)

3. People can’t remember their passwords because they use unique ones for every account (38%) 

“With the continuous increase in time spent online, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the risk of cybercrime carries on increasing. Nowadays, people create more online accounts than ever to pay for services remotely, and that doesn’t help. People are overwhelmed by the number of accounts they need to manage,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass.

In addition to these findings, the research also confirmed that people tend to worry most about accounts related to money, such as banking, email, and large online store accounts. 

“It’s understandable why people tend to worry about financial accounts more. But it’s important to remember that if you use weak or repurposed passwords, it doesn’t matter which account gets hacked. In essence, all accounts become jeopardized,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass

However, even these most critical accounts are left insufficiently secured. For example, only half (56%) use a unique password to protect banking or other financial accounts. Similarly, only 47% protect their email account with a unique password.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why Even The FBI Recommends Using A VPN

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 15, 2020 by itnerd

Free public Wi-Fi is now one of the most prevalent cybersecurity threats. The risks are becoming so common that even the FBI recommends avoiding free internet hotspots. Along with that, it advises using a virtual private network (VPN) as a precautionary measure. 

In its recent official video, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informs about the risks of public internet networks. The main reason is that no user “can’t control the security standards of a public Wi-Fi network.” But even the Bureau has to admit that sometimes it’s more than essential to access the web, especially when traveling or working remotely. 

One can make a safe Wi-Fi connection by using a trustworthy VPN service. As the Bureau’s representative adds, “VPN creates a secure tunnel for your data to transit the Internet, using a network of private servers.” This way, your data is encrypted or hidden. Thus, it is harder for an attacker to misuse your data. 

“One of the biggest online threats is free public Wi-Fi. Hackers often position themselves as free Wi-Fi hotspots. And by doing so, they can steal personal information, credit card details, or other data”, says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. He also emphasizes the risks of public Wi-Fi, noting that it is better to use your mobile data instead.

Yet sometimes there is no other choice but to use public Wi-Fi. For this reason, Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, provides useful safety tips:

  • Double-check the network name with the staff when connecting to a Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or a hotel. 
  • Avoid visiting sensitive websites and logging into your social accounts. More importantly, never perform banking transactions on public Wi-Fi. 
  • If you must log into your private accounts, make sure you have set up two-factor authentication. Use a digital signature to perform any important transactions.
  • Enable your firewall. Combined with other security tools, it keeps outsiders from going through your computer’s data. 
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network). A reliable VPN, like NordVPN, will make sure your online connections are private, and no sensitive data can get into the hands of criminals. 
  • Remember to turn off the Wi-Fi function on your device when not using it. It will spare you from the unwanted connections with Wi-Fi networks surrounding you.

Daniel Markuson recommends being extra cautious about connecting to any Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place. To save your private information and to protect yourself from possible identity theft, stay away from unsafe networks, or use a VPN, like NordVPN.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses How Covid-19 Surveillance Might Become The New Normal

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 5, 2020 by itnerd

The COVID-19 pandemic has led governments to the implementation of mass surveillance measures. Experts fear that this invasion into people’s digital privacy might not be that easy to roll back.

“We at NordVPN agree that all appropriate measures should be taken to stop the pandemic and save people’s lives. But we are also digital privacy advocates. The new surveillance on people affected by COVID-19 undoubtedly restricts some freedoms and rights. What is more, some countries are using surveillance without an appropriate legal basis. That means no one knows how this data is processed or what will happen with it in the future,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

“The coronavirus pandemic shows that surveillance technology is already here — it’s not something out of sci-fi movies. It’s up to governments to ensure the proper use of these new technologies, as the potential abuse of power could violate human rights,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Another worrying thing about these surveillance policies is that they don’t have any clear end date. Therefore, this might be deemed as the new normal even after the pandemic ends. Governments must provide a clear exit strategy and define a date when they will cease the monitoring.”

At least 25 countries have implemented digital surveillance over its citizens to combat COVID-19. The methods and scope of monitoring differ in each country. For example, China has forced hundreds of millions to install a “health code” app, which determines whether the user is fit for travel or must stay at home. 

In Moscow, citizens will be required to use QR codes for traveling. The Russian government will also employ surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology to ensure people are staying at home.

Europe has followed the Asian example and is copying the tracking apps, as well as employing drones and collecting telecom data. 

India is geolocating people’s selfies as well as releasing addresses of the COVID-19 patients. 

Israel has implemented surveillance on a national scale. People with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus cases are tracked by mobile phone.

In South Korea, the government sent out detailed messages with travel information of coronavirus-infected people. Although the purpose was to inform on possible contact points, the texts revealed personal details, which, in some cases, were embarrassing. For example, some people had involved in affairs or paid for sex.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why People Find Password Management As Stressful As Retirement

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 1, 2020 by itnerd

 Password management can be as stressful as planning for retirement, reveals new research by NordPass. More than 30% of people think that resetting and coping with passwords is hugely stressful, and can be compared to the stress of ceasing to work. 

However, losing a vital password without a password reset option is far more stressful. 68% of the respondents agreed that it’s as stressful as dismissal from work or changing jobs.

Data breach and identity theft were deemed even more stressful. 77% of respondents compared data breach to personal injury, illness, and financial problems. 81% compared identity theft to having personal documents stolen or losing a wallet.

Too many passwords

Why is password management so difficult? 67% of the survey respondents say that it’s because they simply have too many accounts to manage. 44% can’t remember which password is for which account, and 41% can’t remember because they use unique ones for every account.   

“It is not surprising that people struggle with effective password hygiene. Our study revealed that 7 out of 10 respondents have more than 10 password-protected accounts for personal use. 2 out of 10 have more than 50 such accounts. On top of that, add all work and school-related accounts, and it ends up being a huge amount of information,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass.

Not all accounts are the same

NordPass research also confirmed that people view some accounts as more important than others. For example, 85% of people think it would be very harmful if their bank accounts get hacked. 76% agree that having their personal email hacked would be extremely damaging, and 72% feel that way about large online store (such as eBay or Amazon) accounts. In comparison, only 44% of people perceive it harmful if online forums (such as Reddit or Medium) or fitness apps get hacked.

“People tend to worry about financial accounts more. But it’s important to remember that if you use weak or repurposed passwords, it doesn’t matter which account gets hacked. In essence, all accounts become jeopardized,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass.

Sadly, even the most critical accounts are left insufficiently secured. For example, only 56% use a unique password to protect banking or other financial accounts. Similarly, only 47% protect their personal email account with a unique password.

Even cybercrime victims don’t take appropriate actions

Out of all the people surveyed, 22% have been victims of cybercrime. Out of all victims, 52% consider themselves tech-savvy, 50% are between the ages of 25 and 44, 14% are business owners, and 11% are managing directors.

“We started seeing a pattern when comparing the data of cybercrime victims and those who have never fallen prey. People who have been hacked tend to have more password-protected accounts. They’re also more ready to admit it’s extremely challenging to manage them,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass.

The study also reveals a different attitude towards passwords by those who have been affected by cybercrime. “Victims become more concerned about their email, forums or entertainment, communication, health apps’ accounts. They also acknowledge the necessity of strong passwords for these accounts more often. However, they don’t seem to take any action. Victims of cybercrime don’t tend to secure their accounts with unique passwords more often than those who haven’t experienced cybercrime,” says Chad Hammond, security expert at NordPass.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why Employees Are The Weak Link In Cybersecurity & How To Protect Your Business

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 13, 2020 by itnerd

Estimates show that 90 percent of corporate data breaches in the cloud happen due to hacker attacks that target employees, shows a report from Kaspersky Lab. With many of them forced to work remotely during the quarantine, companies are now more vulnerable than ever.

Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams, agrees that employee negligence is a great threat to business security. However, he points out that this particular risk is easy to control. There are many digital tools that can help protect organizations from data breaches. These tools and security systems don’t require big investments as cybersecurity starts with the right mindset of employees. That can be achieved through mandatory training.

According to Daniel Markuson, both small businesses and large organizations must focus on cybersecurity. All companies dealing with customer data or confidential information are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The difference is that big names usually have more data that hackers may want to steal. Meanwhile, small ones tend to lack security resources, thus making easier targets.

To protect your business from hacker attacks, you need to consider these common mistakes your employees might be making every day:

Using weak passwords. Passwords play the most important role in protecting your business accounts and customers’ data. But people struggle to create unique passwords and keep forgetting them. That’s why they often use the same ones for different accounts, and your employees might be no exception. “Weak and reused passwords are easy to hack. The best solution is to help your staff build a habit of using password managers,” says Daniel Markuson. Passwords must be changed from time to time and shouldn’t be shared among coworkers.

Sharing unencrypted files. Companies are at serious risk of data loss when their employees handle important documents without security in mind. The safest way to store and share files is encrypting them. For example, NordLocker, is easy-to-use encryption software that adds an extra layer of security to data on a computer or in the cloud. In case of a breach, hackers will not be able to access your company’s information — they will only see undecipherable code.

Connecting to unsecured networks. A vast majority of organizations use Wi-Fi networks. Although Wi-Fi gives staff greater mobility within the office, it also makes your business data more vulnerable to hacks. The best way to keep online traffic private is by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure encrypted tunnel that protects your connection from anyone trying to breach the system. It is also a must for secure remote connections. It allows employees to safely access their work accounts while traveling, working from home, or using public Wi-Fi. 

Falling for phishing scams. Phishing is one of the main reasons why your members of staff need cybersecurity training. Hackers may try to get sensitive information by faking emails from someone like your company’s CEO or Microsoft representatives. And they use very sophisticated methods for that. “Just one reckless click on a phishing link or one download of an infected attachment can compromise your entire system,” explains Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams. Make sure your team is well educated on how to avoid clicking unsafe links or falling for phishing scams.

Ignoring software updates. An average computer user tends to ignore the little pop-up windows that inform about new software updates. Daniel Markuson claims that keeping all software up to date is crucial for your company’s cybersecurity. That’s because updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Having the latest software version means you are using the most secure version, too. 

Posting work-related content online. Daniel Markuson from NordVPN says that employees posting online carelessly can leak sensitive business information. Consider Instagram pictures with workspace in the background. Or Facebook status updates on upcoming business trips or closing important deals. Both reveal too much information that can be used to breach your organization’s security. It is also a very common mistake during the current situation when people share images online of how their work spaces at home look like. A picture of a desktop with visible icons or open documents can reveal too much than intended. “Businesses need to create social media and data privacy guidelines to prevent employees from sharing confidential information,” the expert suggests. 

Connecting unsafe media storage devices to the company’s computers. Your employee might insert a flash drive into their computer without knowing it is infected. According to Daniel Markuson, these media storage devices might contain viruses and other malicious content. These could transfer to your network and compromise the company’s entire system.

Guest Post: NordVPN Asks Is Our Freedom Of Speech At Stake? The Most Significant Laws That Will Shape The Future Of The Internet

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 6, 2020 by itnerd

2019 saw some curious laws regarding the internet. Several countries made somewhat questionable moves in an attempt to regulate users’ freedom online — some in more extreme ways than others. 

At NordVPN, we support freedom of speech online and believe that the internet should maintain one of its fundamental objectives  to empower every individual connected to it. Of course, some regulations are necessary, but some countries tend to create overly intrusive laws that restrict freedom of expression or free access to information. Many experts worldwide agree that it often happens not only because governments want more control over their citizens, but also because lawmakers lack technical knowledge. 

Here are some of the laws from different countries that were discussed by cybersecurity experts and human rights activists last year:

Vietnam 

On January 1, 2019, Vietnam passed a law that raised some concerns among cybersecurity experts. Some compare Vietnam’s new regulation to China’s internet governance regime, which is marked by censorship, pervasive internet control, and surveillance. For example, the law allows Vietnamese authorities to delete or block access to data, inspect computer systems, and criminalize propaganda against the official government. Even though the official aim of this law is to help to better protect the country from foreign cybersecurity threats, it gives more power to the Vietnamese government to monitor or even block access to information.

Russia

On November 1, 2019, Russia’s “sovereign internet” law went into effect. This law enables Russia to disconnect their internet from the rest of the world. In December 2019, Russia successfully tested it. RuNet would essentially work like a gigantic intranet, similar to what large corporations have. This concerns many cybersecurity experts, as people will be kept in a bubble, unable to have a dialogue or access information from outside the country. The idea that Russian citizens will not be able to access outside information is rather worrying – essentially, RuNet could become a tool for country-wide propaganda.

China

China is notoriously known for censoring the internet. In 2019, their government implemented more than 60 restrictions. On January 4, 2019, China kicked off a project to take down many sites featuring content with pornography, gambling, parody, promoting “bad lifestyle”, and “bad popular culture” among many others. Later in January, China implemented even more restrictions, such as prohibiting content with “the pessimistic outlook on millennials,” “one-night stand,” “non-mainstream view of love and marriage.” In July 2019, China announced a regulation stating that users who seriously violate related laws and regulations would be subject to the Social Credit System blacklist. And even if some of those sound reasonable, experts fear that these laws are only stepping stones for further censorship.

Nepal

In December 2019, Nepal introduced the Information Technology bill, which would empower the government to censor online content, including social media. According to this bill, anyone who posts an “offensive” comment could face up to 5 years of jail time and a fine of 1.5m rupees (about $13,000). The law concerns cybersecurity and human rights experts as it restricts freedom of expression. For example, it criminalizes any content on social media, which is against “national unity, self-respect, national interest, the relationship between federal units.” The law itself contains three sections, and one of them restricts publishing such content via any electronic platform — news websites, blogs, and even sending by email. According to Freedom Forum, 38 journalists were arrested, detained, or questioned by the police in 2019, and the new IT bill might even worsen the situation. 

Thailand

In February 2019, Thailand’s military-appointed parliament passed a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to state cyber agencies. The government could search and seize data and equipment in cases that are deemed issues of national emergency. This could enable internet traffic monitoring and access to private data, including communications, without a court order. Given the political climate, it is concerning that the law could be weaponized by the government to silence critics.

Guest Post: NordVPN Has Tips On Secure Remote Working During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 19, 2020 by itnerd

The coronavirus has triggered the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. Millions of people have been asked to self-isolate to stop the virus from spreading. Entire regions in China and Italy were put under full or partial lockdown. With the virus spreading, major companies in the US and Europe, including Facebook and Amazon, are also asking employees to stay at home.

The current situation has reignited the discussion on the effectiveness and security of remote work. While many modern workplaces allow and even encourage working from home, opponents argue that remote work is less effective or even risky for business, as companies face many challenges. They need to ensure that employees have all the right access to the required documents and information. Besides, staff connecting from out of office may make mistakes that could cost companies millions. While working remotely, often on public Wi-Fi and on personal laptops, employees pose a severe threat to companies’ cybersecurity.

“According to Google Trends, the search term “VPN” has drastically grown since the beginning of March all over the world. The interest in NordVPN Teams services has increased by 165% as well. We can see that companies are exploring various cybersecurity options to ensure both safe and productive work from home. Security is crucial, as hacks and data leaks don’t only bring financial loss — they may also mean lost customer trust and, in some cases, even bankruptcy. It’s important to note that employees’ errors are usually not deliberate. When working from home, people tend to be more relaxed and browse personal sites, which might not be secure,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams.

Technological advancements have also made working from home more accessible across all sectors. “Nowadays, compared to 10 years ago, it is a lot easier to access emails, cloud-based filing, dial-in to calls and video conferencing remotely. All that makes work from out of office more accessible,” says Daniel Markuson from NordVPN Teams.

Need to work from home because of the Covid-19 outbreak? Here’s a brief rundown of the tech tools you might find useful to replicate your office.

  • Video conferencing software. Regardless of the benefits that remote working brings, it also might seem quite lonely. That’s where video conference comes in handy. Face-to-face meetings are much more productive than emails or chats, and video conferencing is an effective alternative.
  • A webcam and a microphone. Essential tools for effective communication, most likely already installed on your laptop.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs, such as NordVPN Teams, encrypt the traffic and allow employees to access company servers.
  • Messaging platform. Professional messaging platforms, such as Slack, make it quick and easy to communicate with coworkers. They also make file-sharing more instant and straightforward.
  • Other necessary office software. It is essential to ensure that employees have all the essential tools such as Microsoft office. By providing that, it will prevent people from downloading illegitimate software.
  • PC/laptop. It’s best to use company-provided PCs and laptops. However, it might not be possible in all industries. Therefore, employers need to make sure that the employees have the required antivirus, firewall, and other security software.
  • Time management tools. It’s very easy to lose track of time in an informal environment. Many useful tools help the user organize the time and use it effectively.

 

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Internet Censorship Around The World And The Real Reasons Behind Online Restrictions [Infographic]

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 28, 2020 by itnerd

The internet outage around the world has become the norm with the latest news about the Iranian government shutting off the internet for nearly all of its population of more than 80 million. The authorities say this was done to silence protests over rising gasoline prices. But sometimes official motives for switching off the internet may be different from the actual ones.

“Governments block internet content for three main reasons: to maintain political stability, protect national security, and impose traditional social values,” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. According to the expert, the reasons vary from country to country. In fact, states with the most severe online censorship rely on all three motives at once.

The infographic below takes a look at the countries with the heaviest internet censorship. It also lists their motives for cutting down access to global websites.

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For example, North Korea has the highest level of online restrictions in the world, with only 4% of the nation having access to the internet. The limited access that exists is controlled and censored by the government. The main motive behind this is to avoid the outside influence and information leak.

China is another example of severe internet censorship. The country uses advanced technologies to block IP addresses, obstruct access to various websites, and block search engines, such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and others. This blockade is usually called the “Great Firewall of China.”

Saudi Arabia stands out among the most censored countries. It puts a strong emphasis on imposing its social and religious values. Saudi Arabia has blocked more than a million websites that contain any contradiction to Islamic beliefs. Any threat to Islamic social and political principles is also filtered and blocked.

According to research provided by the #KeepItOn campaign, there were 196 internet shutdowns across the world in 2018. 134 of them were in India, and the rest occurred in a wide range of Asian, African, and Middle-Eastern countries.

The report states that official and actual causes of the internet shutdowns were different. In most cases (91), the blackouts were justified as a way to maintain public safety. Other reasons include national security protection (40), sabotage (2), stopping fake news and hate speech (33), and school exams (11). Six internet shutdowns happened for no reason, while the motives remained unknown in 13 cases.

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However, the actual causes differed from their official explanations. Government justifications rarely matched the causes reported by the media, civil society organizations, and free speech activists. The majority of shutdowns occurred in response to militant or terrorist activity (especially in the Kashmir area of India) (53), protests (45), communal violence (40), elections (12), maintaining information control (11), preventing cheating during school exams period (11), and other events, including religious holidays (16). The reasons for eight internet shutdowns were unknown.

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“Governments usually claim to be responding to public safety issues when they shut down the internet. The real reason, however, is often to suppress protests. By limiting access to the internet, they limit people’s ability to organize demonstrations,” claims Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Similarly, shutdowns that are reported as fake news prevention may actually be the authorities‘ responses to elections, community violence, or militant activities.

Daniel Markuson says that “no matter what grounds are used to justify internet shutdowns, they violate human rights and our freedom of speech and expression.” Luckily, there are tools that help people in need of secure connections.

A VPN (virtual private network) securely bypasses online restrictions and helps keep communications away from prying eyes. For example, NordVPN advocates for digital freedom by providing open access to the internet and securing people’s private data. The service sends internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, which makes it almost impossible to hijack. It hides IP addresses and real locations. By connecting to another country’s server, users can set their location to virtually anywhere in the world.