The parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs has recommended the government to block VPN services in India, stating that such a move will help take on cyber criminals and other related nefarious activities. In a latest report to the government, the committee notes that the easy availability of VPN services around the world have helped cyber criminals bypass security protocol, and remain anonymous and invisible while doing so. As a result, it recommends a permanent ban on VPNs in India.
As reported by MediaNama, the report states, “The Committee notes with anxiety the technological challenge posed by VPN services and Dark Web, that can bypass cyber security walls and allow criminals to remain anonymous online. As of date, VPN can easily be downloaded, as many websites are providing such facilities and advertising them. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry of Home Affairs should coordinate with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to identify and permanently block such VPNs with the help of internet service providers.”
The report further states, “The Committee also recommends that a coordination mechanism should also be developed with international agencies to ensure that these VPNs are blocked permanently. The Ministry must take initiatives to strengthen the tracking and surveillance mechanisms by further improving and developing the state-of-the-art technology, to put a check on the use of VPN and the dark web.”
Furthermore, the committee has urged the Home ministry to urge the IT ministry to establish a coordination mechanism with VPNs, in order to block VPN services in India. The section of the report states, “The Committee notes the incomplete reply of the MeitY as no information has been provided on coordination mechanisms with international agencies to block VPNs permanently and initiatives taken/proposed to strengthen the tracking and surveillance mechanisms to put a check on the use of VPN and the dark web. The MHA may put its efforts in getting such information from MeitY and furnish the same to the Committee.”
The move comes after the government, in previous months, had liberalised the use of VPNs in order to enable India’s massive outsourced IT services and call centres industry to work remotely. The action was taken in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which necessitated work from home protocol across the country. Going forward, it remains to be seen if actions are taken basis this recommendation, which may also significantly hamper the use of VPNs in India for educational, recreational and communication purposes.