Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) were outside of the radar of even the most privacy-conscious users just five years prior, even though the technology itself emerged 25 years ago. However, it was primarily used to protect data transfers within corporate environments.
Yet, due to the rapid onset of cybercrime coupled with unprecedented internet usage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, VPN services have become one of the most popular tools to safeguard your online journey in just the past few years.
Besides increased privacy and security, VPN services also enable users to access geo-blocked websites, streaming platforms, and applications, such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services like WhatsApp, blocked in countries with stringent internet restrictions.
To get a clear perspective on the current VPN adoption rate in the world, the Atlas VPN research team analysed Virtual Private Network application downloads in 85 selected countries. The VPN download data is extracted from Google Play Store and Apple App Store using the Sensor Tower service. Download data includes the 45 biggest VPN providers.
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VPN Downloads Surge by 184% YoY
According to data based on the VPN Adoption Index, VPN downloads reached 785 million in 2021, representing a 184% increase YoY. In 2020, the data encryption tool downloads stood at 277 million.
Delving deeper into the analysis, are some countries adopting VPNs significantly faster than others? The findings reveal that citizens in Arab countries turn to VPNs the quickest, even though the legality of VPNs in some countries is in a grey area.
The country with the most significant VPN adoption on the list is Qatar. Over 2 million unique downloads originated from Qatar in 2021, amounting to a VPN adoption index of 69.69%.
The United Arab Emirates is the second country on the list in terms of VPN adoption. In 2021, the VPN adoption reached 59.52% and 5.89 million downloads, which is slightly lower than that in 2020.
Interestingly, the UAE has one of the strictest laws against the use of VPNs for fraudulent purposes. The law states the following:
“A punishment of temporary imprisonment and a fine of not less than AED 500,000 (USD 136,000) and not more than AED 2,000,000 (USD 545,000), or either of these two penalties, shall be imposed on whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third-party address or by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery.”
In short, the usage of VPN itself is not illegal, but if you commit a crime while being connected to a VPN, prepare to pay a hefty fine or even pay a visit to the prison.