Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are used all over the world to provide people with encrypted connections to the internet. The encryption hides user activity from prying eyes so that you can browse the web with improved privacy. What’s more, a VPN can replace your real IP address with one from another region, enabling you to access content that would otherwise be blocked.
While these are some of the main reasons for using VPNs, we wanted to delve into the data to discover more about who is using VPNs, how popular these services are, and exactly why people are using them. We were also keen to learn about how VPN trends are changing and the different VPN landscapes in various regions.
In this post, you’ll find plenty of the most recent facts and statistics to provide an overview of VPN use across the globe.
See also: Cyber security statistics and facts
1. The global VPN market will reach over $75 billion by 2026
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics predicts that the VPN market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.3 percent over the next four years. After seeing above-average growth in 2021, it is on track to reach a market value of $77.1 billion by 2026.
2. 36% of Malwarebytes users had a VPN in 2021
Following a sharp increase in VPN usage in 2020 – when unprecedented global growth rates of over 27 percent were observed – 2021 continued in a similar manner.
A MalwareBytes survey from January of 2021 found that of 2,300+ participants, 36 percent said that they used a VPN, with 58 percent saying that they knew what a VPN was, even if they didn’t use one. We can expect this to be a little higher than normal, though, as those who read the MalwareBytes blog are likely to be more security-conscious than the average web user.
3. 785 million VPN downloads in 2021
A study by AtlasVPN found that VPN downloads exploded to 785 million in 2021. Compare this to 277 million downloads in 2020, and you have an increase of over 184 percent in uptake.
Much of this was due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some key statistics surrounding the shift to remote working include:
- 88 percent of IT companies migrated to work-from-home (WFH) schemes.
- 92 percent of Asia-Pacific teams implemented WFH programs.
- 72 percent of companies plan to make the WFH shift permanent.
- More than 70 percent plan to permanently shift 35 percent of the workforce to WFH positions.
The effect of the pandemic aside, it is worth noting that seven out of 10 countries with the most VPN downloads were Arab. Qatar saw a massive surge in VPN uptake with over two million unique downloads in 2021, an adoption rate of 69.69 percent.
These are staggering numbers that reveal that VPNs are being purchased en masse in countries where governments implement high levels of restrictions.
4. VPN demand in Russia rose nearly 2,000% in a single week
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a huge surge in the demand for VPNs, not only in Ukraine, but Russia as well. According to data from Atlas VPN, it saw a 1,906 percent change in the number of Atlas VPN application installs originating in Russia.
Since the war in Ukraine began, Russia has taken to blocking a wide range of social media platforms as well as news sites. Russia’s ban of Instagram saw a spike of interest in VPNs on the weekend of March 12-13 as users scrambled to bypass restrictions. In fact, Russian search volume for “vpn” has stayed elevated ever since.
5. The rise of remote working sparked a surge in VPN usage
Several major VPN providers reported huge influxes of users in 2020, and this growth continued in 2021 – with new records set according to research by AtlasVPN.
This can almost certainly be attributed to the increasing popularity of remote working. According to NordVPN’s network analysis, in March 2020 users were connected to their VPN for several more hours each day than before.
In the UK and the US, a whopping 41 percent of people said they used a VPN at least once a week. 36 percent of those users claim to use a VPN every day.
6. Global interest in VPNs continues to increase
There has long been interest in VPNs across the globe and, according to Google Trends, there was a substantial increase in 2020. As a matter of fact, search volume has only grown over the past five years. You’ll notice a sharp spike in the global search traffic around September 25, 2022 — that was when Russia announced it was to start mobilizing civilians for the war in Ukraine.
7. Only 17 out of 70 countries assessed by Freedom House are considered “free”
Freedom House assesses 70 countries around the world and assigns them an Internet Freedom Score. Criteria cover obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. Only 17 of the countries assessed are considered free. High scorers include Iceland (95), Estonia (93), and Canada (87). 32 countries are labeled partly free, and 21 are considered not free. China has the lowest overall score of 10, with Iran and Myanmar not too far ahead with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
8. The Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions have the highest rate of VPN use
According to a 2020 report by GlobalWebIndex (GWI), the rate of people who used a VPN at least once in a one-month period in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa was 35 percent. It makes sense that these regions have the highest prevalence of VPN use given the level of internet freedom in many countries is low.
Latin America was in third place where 31 percent of people surveyed used a VPN, followed by North America and Europe with 25 percent and 24 percent respectively.
The country with the highest use rate was Indonesia (61 percent) followed by India (45 percent) and the UAE (42 percent). The country with the highest growth rate in VPN usage since the last study (conducted in 2017) was the Netherlands.
According to BusinessWire, the US accounts for around 34.83 percent of the global VPN market.
9. VPN users favor mobile devices but only slightly
The GWI report also revealed which devices VPN users are connecting with. In the US and UK, 62 percent of VPN users utilize a desktop client. Smartphones are slightly more popular with 64 percent of VPN users connecting on these devices each month. Just eight percent of users install a VPN on their router.
When it comes to frequency of use, 68 percent of US adults use VPNs, with 36 percent claiming to use one every day or nearly every day. Only 13 percent use a VPN less than once per month and 10 percent connect to one less often than that.
What’s more, as of 2021, a staggering 83 percent of Americans understand what VPNs are for and wat they can do. This is an indication of just how well-educated consumers are becoming towards privacy services, particularly VPNs.
10. Men are more likely to use VPNs than women
GWI reports that more than a third (36 percent) of males surveyed use VPNs, while only around one-quarter of women (26 percent) subscribe to these services.
If you’re wondering about the age of VPN users, GWI has that covered too. Prevalence is greatest in the 16–22 and 23–37 age ranges, with a 39 percent and 36 percent use rate, respectively. This drops down to 25 percent in people aged 35–44 and 16 percent for both the 38–55 and 56–64 age ranges.
11. More than half of VPN users are looking for improved privacy
According to a 2022 survey conducted by Forbes, over 80 percent of VPN users are looking for increased security. Meanwhile, 33 percent of respondents wanted to “mask their internet activity”, while six percent used a VPN to block ads. Additionally, more than 40 percent of remote workers claim to have used their work’s VPN for streaming.
12. More than one-fifth of users want to access blocked entertainment sites
According to GWI, more than 22 percent of US and UK VPN users are seeking access to entertainment content that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
For example, Netflix serves different content depending on the viewer’s location. By using a VPN to change your IP address, users can access a different library of shows and movies.
Other popular reasons for using a VPN include accessing blocked websites, files, and services when at work (22 percent) and avoiding bandwidth throttling (21 percent).
13. You need at least 3 Mbps for streaming HD video
Many VPN users worry that diminished speeds will make for a poor streaming experience. However, as per Netflix’s recommendation, you don’t have to have blazing fast speeds for streaming.
In fact, anything above 3Mbps should be okay for HD streaming. That said, if you’re looking to stream Ultra HD, you’ll need at least a 15 Mbps connection. And let’s face it, in general, faster is better in terms of overall internet experience, so users still need to look out for VPNs that offer great speeds.
14. Almost two-thirds of VPN users are concerned about how companies use their personal data
GWI found that 64 of VPN users worry about how their personal data is used. That said, this figure is not that different from non-users of VPNs, of which 60 percent are concerned. Similarly, concern about the internet threatening personal privacy is strong among both VPN users (62 percent) and non-users (60 percent).
15. 80 percent of global citizens are concerned about their online privacy
The CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey Internet Security & Trust surveyed a smaller set of people than GWI, but they found the rate of concern was higher. Eight in 10 respondents said they were concerned about online privacy, and the majority said that they were more worried than in the previous year. Egypt and Hong Kong have the highest rate of concern, with most citizens (96 percent in both regions) expressing online privacy concerns.
16. More than half of users are very worried about cybercriminals
According to CIGI-Ipsos, the most prominent concern among users is cybercriminals, with 55 percent very concerned and a further 26 percent somewhat concerned. Other privacy threats that people worry about include internet companies (74 percent), other internet users (71 percent), and their own government (66 percent).
17. VPNs are banned or restricted in 10 countries
The governments of several countries do not take kindly to VPN usage, often because they want to prevent their citizens from bypassing censorship. VPN use is currently outlawed or restricted in several countries: Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
18. Users want more advanced security
Forbes’ report found that around 18 percent of its 2,000 respondants wanted increased encryption from their VPN, with over 30 percent specifically looking for two-factor authentication.