NordVPN

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NordVPN

NordVPN is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service provider that was founded in 2012 by four childhood friends in Panama. The company is now headquartered in Cyprus, with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania. NordVPN is one of the most well-known VPNs in the market, and this is due to their extensive advertising on various platforms, including YouTube. NordVPN’s ads feature catchy taglines and famous personalities, making them one of the most recognizable VPN brands in the market.

But just because NordVPN is based in Panama, that doesn’t mean their servers are. After testing around 6,700 servers used by NordVPN, I concluded that NordVPN servers predominantly use Datacamp Limited, M247, Clouvider, and Hydra Communications. It is worth noting that NordVPN does own and operate about 10% of their servers which are operated under the business name Tefincom.

NordVPN Privacy Policy

The privacy policy and terms of service are one key way a VPN provider can put their money where their mouth is. Afterall, a service can make whatever claims they want, but the truth lies in their policies. NordVPN has one of the worst privacy policies and acceptable use policies I’ve ever seen. First, in their ToS they stipulate that you are not to use NordVPN for anything that that they as a company would find inappropriate or offensive.

• communicate, transmit, store, make available, share anything that is illegal, abusive, harassing, or otherwise objectionable (objectionable means anything which interferes with the rights of Nord, its users, or other third parties, or causes conditions that are dangerous, hazardous, and detrimental to others, or anything that most users and/or Nord would find to be offensive or inappropriate);

Further, it goes on to suggest that using their service to bypass georestrictions is also against their ToS:

• attempt to circumvent any technological measure and/or arrangement implemented by Nord and/or its licensors, or by the owner of the resource or the source of the material that the technological measure protects;

• violate general ethical or moral norms, good customs, and fair conduct norms;

Their privacy policy isn’t much better. It states that they will retain your billing information for ten years, and even worse, will retain your data if they receive a court order or subpoena:

(ii) Nord also may retain information associated with you (e.g., payments data) in order to fulfill its obligations as required by applicable laws, regulations, court orders, subpoenas, or other legal processes for archival purposes.

Lack of transparency

One of the most well-known players in the VPN industry, has faced its fair share of controversy over the past few years. While it maintains a significant user base and performs admirably in various audits, numerous concerns have emerged about the company’s privacy practices, integrity, and security.

One of the most glaring concerns revolves around a data breach that occurred in 2019. An attacker managed to gain access to a server by exploiting an insecure remote management system left by the data center provider. This incident, which went undisclosed by NordVPN until highlighted by a third party, is a clear violation of trust, raising valid concerns over the VPN provider’s transparency.

Moreover, NordVPN’s relationship with Tesonet, a data-mining, analytics, SEO, and targeted marketing company, has been under scrutiny. Despite vehement initial denials, NordVPN finally admitted to this association, only to downplay its relevance. This admission further exacerbates concerns over user privacy, considering Tesonet’s activities.

Adding fuel to the fire, NordVPN has been discovered to be based out of Lithuania, a country with mandatory data retention laws. This revelation contradicts the company’s claim of being registered in Panama, a known privacy-friendly jurisdiction, thus eroding trust.

NordVPN’s partnership with Hola VPN, which was involved in forming a data mining botnet, and its alleged theft of technology from Hola VPN further draws into question the company’s ethics. It’s important to note that Hola VPN has been widely criticized for its own practices, which makes its association with NordVPN disconcerting.

Several troubling practices have also surfaced relating to NordVPN’s marketing and sales techniques. The company has been accused of engaging in price discrimination, making it difficult for users to cancel auto-renewal, and reducing features for those who cancel auto-renewal. There are also reports of NordVPN sharing data with Facebook and leaking sensitive customer data.

Adding to these controversies, NordVPN has been accused of blackmailing competitor TorGuard and has faced criticism from a UK-based watchdog for misleading marketing. It also reportedly sent cease-and-desist copyright claims to Njalla, further tarnishing its reputation.

NordVPN’s wide-ranging sponsorship deals, which include football teams and numerous YouTubers, have also been called into question. Many believe these partnerships are incentivised by high affiliate commissions, which may be influencing the integrity of VPN reviews and recommendations.

Despite the series of security audits that NordVPN has undergone, these revelations and practices suggest that trust and transparency are far from guaranteed. It’s crucial for users to conduct their due diligence and weigh the potential risks before choosing a VPN provider. The issues surrounding NordVPN serve as a sobering reminder that not all VPNs deliver on their promises of privacy and security.

NordVPN, Surfshark, Denial

NordVPN’s credibility was further strained when it was discovered that the company had ties to Surfshark, another popular VPN service. This discovery was unexpected and raised concerns given Surfshark’s track record.

Surfshark has its share of controversies, which include system-level changes that persisted even after uninstallation, exposing user IPs and making them vulnerable. The company’s TrustDNS app has been implicated in data collection for advertising and marketing purposes. There’s also the issue of weak security, including the installation of risky root certificates on user devices.

The link between NordVPN and Surfshark was initially and extensively denied by both entities. However, they eventually acknowledged their relationship, adding another layer to NordVPN’s complicated narrative. The merger between these two was officially announced, which startled users who were relying on these services for anonymity and security.

These revelations not only shed light on NordVPN and Surfshark’s questionable practices but also underscore the need for users to question the transparency of VPN services. It’s essential to keep in mind that the practices of these companies can directly impact user privacy and security. Therefore, users must stay informed about the operations of their chosen VPN services.

In the end, the core of the VPN business relies on trust, and the denial and eventual admission of the connection between NordVPN and Surfshark is a blatant breach of that trust. It highlights the need for vigilance and constant scrutiny of companies that promise to protect our digital rights and freedom.

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