VPN downloads soar in Cuba following internet disruptions

Man with a tablet into the hands with the Cuba flag on screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

VPN and privacy software users have surged in Cuba as authorities disrupt internet access to crack down on protesters.

There have been over 34,000 more downloads of the free VPN-like service Psiphon compared to the two weeks before the incident, independent media organization Inventario reported. About 89,000 Cubans installed the software on their device to be able to bypass restrictions. 

On the early morning of July 15, a wave of internet disruptions spread across the country as a way to silence protesters. Starting off in Pinar Del Río and then spreading up to the capital Havana, Cubans took to the streets to speak out against months of food, medicine, fuel and electricity shortages crippling the island.

Internet shutdowns are an increasing issue worldwide, with authoritarian governments using them to restrict communications - especially during protests or elections. This is why people have learnt to turn on one of the best VPN services to mitigate the impacts and access censored sites like social media platforms.  

Developed by researchers at Citizen Lab in 2007 for supporting users living under restricted internet freedom, Psiphon is a circumvention software that allows users to bypass internet censorship. 

It is completely free and open-source, combining secure communication and obfuscation technologies. It uses VPN, SSH and web proxy software to beat tough firewalls that other services fail to circumvent. 

Psiphon works by diverting web traffic to prevent filtering machines from filtrating your online activities. At the same time, it masks your traffic so that it appears like a connection not subjected to the restrictions in place. 

The software is available for Android, Windows and iOS. The free version comes with unlimited bandwidth and no registration required, but it has a speed limit of 2Mbps. You can also upgrade to Psiphon Pro for $9.99 monthly, or a chunky $8.33 a month on the annual plan.

Psiphon software on mobile apps interface

(Image credit: Psiphon)

However, if you are looking to invest some money, there are better cheap VPN services we would recommend. Our #1 on that list is Surfshark, for example, that comes down to a monthly fee of $2,30 when you sign up for a two-year plan. 

There are also a ton of free VPN apps around. Be sure to read our guide before taking your pick, though. Many of these services may either expose your data or fail to unblock censored sites. At the time of writing, Proton VPN Free is our favorite. 

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to chiara.castro@futurenet.com