According to data from Atlas VPN, virtual private network (VPN) downloads reached 277 million in 2020

New research from Atlas VPN shows that VPN usage is soared in 2020, due to a myriad of factors, from working from home during the pandemic to evading government internet censorship. In total, VPN’s were downloaded 277 million times in 2020, across a survey of 85 selected countries.

A VPN works by routing your device’s internet connection through your chosen VPN’s private server rather than your internet service provider, therefore hiding your IP address and – at least theoretically – your identity. As a result, VPN’s can be used to provide extra security for your internet activity, as well as to avoid internet restrictions put in place by the operator or the government, and to circumvent geo-locked internet content.  

The graphic from Atlas VPN below shows the top 10 countries by VPN adoption rate. The full list is available here.

As you can see from the graphic, the largest VPN adoption rate is found in countries from the Arabian peninsular, all of which place very strict restrictions on internet traffic, primarily banning content that runs counter to Islamic values or criticises the government. In both the UAE and Qatar more than half the populations downloaded a VPN in 2020.

Atlas VPN noted in their report that it was possible to correlate a country’s VPN adoption rate with the extent to which it censors and restricts internet content.

However, avoiding content censorship and government surveillance were not the only drivers for downloading a VPN in 2020. The changes to the working environment engendered by the coronavirus outbreak also inspired a rise in VPN downloads, both for business and pleasure.

With millions of people being forced to work from home around the world but still handle sensitive data, many employers required their employees to use a VPN to help protect that data.

“The year 2020 will be remembered as a year when VPNs became mainstream since millions of people shifted to remote work amidst the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN. “Among other things, to access a company’s network, most people have to use a VPN to protect their own, as well as their employers’, data.”

But a greater amount of time spent at home also meant a greater time spent consuming video content online. Here a VPN can prove invaluable to savvy consumers, who can use it to overcome geographic content restrictions imposed by the likes of Netflix, allowing them to watch content theoretically not available in their home country.

Now, in 2021 and with many countries in lockdown once again, VPN usage is likely to become increasingly commonplace. 


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