It’s a common question asked by people in tech and cybersecurity circles who have tried to navigate the Internet without a traditional Internet service provider.
And if you’re someone like me, who just recently turned to VPNs as part of an overall security posture, it can feel like an increasingly daunting challenge.
But a new study from cybersecurity firm Symantec shows that the problem isn’t so much about the lack of an open Internet, as it is the sheer number of VPNs out there.
In a report titled What if You Can’t Go to Work Without a VPN?, the security firm said that a large number of businesses rely on a handful of VPN providers, including Apple, Microsoft, and Google.
Symantech’s research suggests that, for a typical worker, an online connection could be up to four times faster than connecting to a local WiFi network.
The report points to two recent examples of this phenomenon, both from Cisco and Cisco-certified VPN provider CloudFlare.
In both cases, CloudFlarys researchers say that the average user is connected to over 200 VPNs, including more than 600 in-house VPNs.
In some cases, the number of customers connected to a single VPN exceeds the number connecting to multiple VPNs in a single account.
CloudFlare’s data also shows that about 30 percent of Internet traffic is routed through at least one VPN.
That’s an increase from 2014, when about 30.5 percent of traffic was routed through multiple VPN services.
The study’s authors say that this increase in VPN traffic isn’t necessarily an indication of an increase in the amount of malware, phishing attacks, or other malware on the Internet.
Rather, they say, it’s an indication that VPNs are being used more as a way to skirt restrictions on data, while still maintaining a level of privacy.
And in a statement provided to Ars Technica, Cisco told Ars that it has “worked closely with Symantek to develop best practices for securing VPN traffic and that Cisco has implemented a set of best practices that provide an effective and reliable approach to protecting customers and employees from malware, spyware, phishers, and other malicious threats.”