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UK surveillance bill might open a door to hackers

NordVPN, which provides encryption services to clients worldwide, has seen an increase in enquiries from British Internet users as the UK Investigatory Powers Bill (otherwise known as Snoopers’ Charter) is scheduled to move to House of Commons on 14 March. British users are afraid that their online activity and data will not be safe anymore if the Bill passes, and are looking for alternative ways to protect themselves – such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

Similarly, NordVPN has already seen its users in Australia grow fivefold after Australian government started enforcing data retention law on October 13, 2015. The company predicts a similar frenzy to get encrypted in Britain as well.

British online users are growing concerned, as their everyday tech devices that come with built-in protections will have their security weakened if the IP Bill passes and backdoors to encrypted devices become mandatory. Apple and other tech firms warned not to pass the Bill, as it would endanger the Internet users’ security. Online privacy advocates and even the UN privacy chief argued that the UK was setting bad example on surveillance.

Opening a door for governments to access web browsing data and metadata would make everyone’s online activity vulnerable as the open gap can be easily accessible to hackers, fraudsters, system dysfunctions and so on.

Through collection of metadata, a full profile of someone’s online habits, preference patterns and personal details can be created. If any of the companies (ISPs & Telcos) or government agencies mishandles Internet user information, the cybersecurity breach can become a huge and costly fiasco. With so many stakeholders involved, the likelihood of mishandled data is quite high, as are the repercussions.

In addition, if the Bill is passed, communications companies will be legally bound to help access peoples’ mobile devices and computers. Agencies will be allowed to interfere with electronic devices to help collect information from a device. Investigatory Powers Commissioner will be appointed to keep police and police services in check, making IP Bill managers the superior authority.

Since Internet-enabled devices might soon be significantly less secure, more users than ever are searching to find ways to strengthen their online privacy and protection. Many become first-time subscribers to VPNs that offer a superior level of data encryption, going beyond the device’s built-in protections, which might soon be weakened even further.

A VPN encrypts user ’s data through a secure tunnel before accessing the Internet. This protects any sensitive information about one’s location by hiding an IP address. Virtual Private Networks connect a user to Internet through an alternative path. The only information visible is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing more. All other information is encrypted by the VPN’s protocol. This is handy when a user doesn’t want their real IP traced back to them.

NordVPN, like many other VPN service providers, believes in free Internet and online privacy, and feels that instead of weakening online encryption, it should spread massively and be available to all online users not only through their tech devices, but also through VPNs.

For Brits who prefer to keep their online activities private and secure from breaches and hackings due to the “Snoopers’ Charter,” NordVPN recommends getting a VPN, as the government surveillance might start sooner than most think. After the Bill goes to House of Commons next week, the government hopes it will win the backing of MPs by the summer and by the House of Lords this autumn.

Jodi Myers, Marketing & Communications at NordVPN

Image Credit: Michael Rosskothen / Shutterstock