India to force VPN companies to hand over user data

VPN graphic
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Using your favorite VPN (opens in new tab) in India may soon be impossible thanks to new regulations that will require VPN providers to collect and store a wide range of data on their customers for a period of five years.

As reported by ENTRACKR (opens in new tab), the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in (opens in new tab)) which is under the control of the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued a new set of directions (opens in new tab) in an effort to “coordinate response activities as well as emergency measures with respect to cyber security incidents.

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VPN providers aren’t the only companies that will be required to store customer data though as the directions also apply to data centers, cryptocurrency exchanges and Virtual Private Server (VPS (opens in new tab)) providers as well.

Beginning in June of this year, companies in these industries will be required to register customer names, customer ownership patterns, customer contact information and the reason they have purchased their services in the first place.

Improving cyber incident response at a cost

CERT-in’s new order appears to be aimed at ensuring the government agency can respond to all manner of cyber incidents within six hours of their discovery. While the order itself may be well-intentioned, the range of data CERT-in is asking organizations to store and provide upon request is quite unusual.

CERT-in requires organizations to report data breaches, fake mobile apps, attacks on server infrastructure and even unauthorized access to a user’s social media (opens in new tab) accounts. Additionally, businesses that fail to provide the necessary information are governed by Section 70B(7) of the IT Act (opens in new tab) which could lead to up to one year in prison.

Another snag in the Indian government’s plan is that most VPNs have a ‘no-logs policy (opens in new tab)’ or at the very least, only keep user data temporarily. As a result of CERT-in’s new directions, many VPN providers and other IT companies could potentially stop doing business in India as they can no longer legally operate in the country.

The new directions will go into effect at the end of June unless the window for compliance is extended which very well could be the case. Until then though, consumers and businesses in the country should pick up one of the best India VPNs (opens in new tab) while they still can.

Via ENTRACKR (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.