People all over the world use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to encrypt their internet connections. This encryption hides their online activities from prying eyes, allowing them to enhance their privacy and express themselves them freely in places where this usually carries significant risks.
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 $135 billion by 2030
According to the Virtual Private Network (VPN): Global Strategic Business Report, the VPN market will be worth nearly $140 billion by 2030. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 15.1 percent.
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. 353 million VPN downloads in 2022
A study by AtlasVPN found that there were around 353 million VPN downloads in 2022. This sounds like a lot, but it actually represents a steep fall from the year prior, which had 785 million downloads.
Of course, 2020 and 2021 are outliers 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.
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.
In 2022, this trend continued. In fact, AtlasVPN found that Russians accounted for 33.5 million VPN downloads — almost 10 percent of the annual total! Now, just under 23 percent of the country use VPNs, up from 3.3 percent in 2020.
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. 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 Costa Rica (88). 32 countries are labeled partly free, and 21 are considered not free. China has the lowest overall score of 10, with Myanmar and Iran not too far ahead with 12 and 16 points, respectively.
8. The UAE has the highest VPN adoption
AtlasVPN recently found that The United Arab Emirates has VPN adoption of around 43 percent. This puts it firmly in first place, with Qatar (39.2 percent) and Singapore (37.11 percent) taking second and third place.
Conversely, of the 85 countries surveyed, Madagascar has the lowest adoption rate (just 0.79 percent of the population in 2021).
9. VPN users favor mobile devices but only slightly
A GWI report 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 2022, a staggering 88 percent of Americans understand what VPNs are for and what 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
With 39 percent of free VPN users experiencing speed issues, it’s only natural that they’d worry about being able to actually take advantage of their newfound security. 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. People are increasingly concerned about their online privacy
Digital Information World found that 52 percent of people didn’t believe that online privacy exists. Interestingly, 55 percent believed that private companies should be doing more to protect users, while only 43 percent wanted the government to step in.
16. Over 40 percent of people worry about cybercriminals
Naturally, people are most concerned about criminals being able to access their data, particularly if it could be used to steal their identity. That said, there’s a significant lack of trust in the government, tech companies, and advertisers, with just five percent of people not worried about any of these misusing their data.
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.