David Spencer | September 08, 2017

British and American VPN use on the rise

VPN use is increasingly becoming the norm with almost two-thirds of American working adults making use of one as well as almost half of those from the UK.

That’s according to Wombat Security’s 2017 User Risk Report which surveyed a thousand professionals in the US and the UK to find out how interest in VPNs had changed in light of recent online privacy development in the two countries, such as the Investigatory Powers Bill and FCC repeal of online privacy laws.

International differences

The findings highlighted an interesting discrepancy between the two countries. In the USA, 65% of respondents said they made use of a corporate or personal VPN. In the UK, the figure was significantly lower at 44%. However, 23% of British respondents knew what a VPN was, but chose not to use one, compared with just 16% in the USA.

Wombat comments on these findings in their report by saying, “Given that VPNs have gained a lot of traction in both the corporate and consumer sectors, we were surprised to see the significant differences between US and UK adoption rates… But we were even more surprised by the number of employees who either do not know about this technology or are actively choosing not to use it.”

Meanwhile, a worrying 33% of respondents in the UK were unaware of what a VPN was all together. In the US, this figure was just 16%.

Wombat stated their surprise at this disparity but also suggested a possible cause. Other data from the survey showed that in the USA, a whopping 71% of those asked said they used a personal device to do work at home. In the UK, this figure was a much smaller 39%.

This led Wombat to speculate that US users were, therefore, more likely to be blurring the lines between their work and home use. If a work device is being used for personal internet activity such as online shopping, personal email and messaging, or streaming content, this is more likely to be protected by corporate VPNs. Such practise is much more common in the US, which might explain the big difference.

Device disparities

Another interesting finding from the report was the disparity between VPN use on computers and mobile devices. They found around 40% of U.S. users have a VPN installed on their corporate or personal laptop. But for mobile devices, this figure drops to 29% for corporate devices and 31% for personal devices.

In the UK, all of the figures are much lower, but on the other side of the pond, VPN use is actually higher on personal devices than corporate ones. 23% of respondents said they have a VPN installed on their personal laptop and around 19% on a personal mobile device. But for corporate devices, this drops to just 17% for laptops and 9% for mobile devices.

In this day and age, most people use their mobile device for all the same data sensitive tasks as they do online, which means a VPN is no less important on a mobile device as it is on a laptop. When you throw another Wombat finding into the mix, which shows that more than 50% of US respondents and 25% of British respondents still trust public Wi-Fi networks and the outcome is many users putting themselves at unnecessary risk on their mobiles.

VPN usage

Perhaps most disconcerting for the VPN community is the number of those surveyed who said they rarely or never used their VPN. In the US, this figure was 21%, while in the UK it jumped to 38%. In contrast, just 43% of British people said they used their VPN regularly, but in the USA this was a little higher at 66%.

What this data shows, is that whilst the number of VPN users and VPN awareness, in general, is on the rise, there is still a great deal more to do. The VPN industry and online privacy advocates have to try and further increase awareness of VPNs and the reasons why it is so important for people to use them.

Wombat’s survey tells us that too many people still don’t know what a VPN is, too few have them installed on their devices, and of those that do, too many don’t use them.

VPNs need to shake off the perception that they are technical, complicated, and only necessary for some internet users. Instead, they should be viewed as an essential tool for internet users and as important as antivirus software and a browser.

Recent events have led to improvement with, for example, NordVPN reporting a 300% increase in subscriptions across the US and the UK this year, but there is clearly still a long way to go.