While there is a lot of legitimate reasons to use a VPN, they also have illegal uses – like piracy and hacking.
VPNs help to hide your identity online. They hide your IP address so that people on the other end don’t know where you’re really connection from and also encrypt your data, so that anyone listening or snooping on your connection won’t know what your doing.
The one person or company that does know your true IP address though, is your VPN provider.
The question is: if someone is doing illegal things like downloading movie torrents using a VPN, then how come the VPN providers, who are facilitating this, don’t get into trouble?
The primary reason is that VPN providers fall under the DMCA “safe harbor” rules, so provided that they have a DMCA process process properly setup and functioning, they should be fine. We won’t go into the DMCA in this article, but a quick Google search should explain everything to you.
It’s also important that VPN providers work with data centers that understand the DMCA process and won’t kill their connections whenever a notice is received. See most VPN providers rent servers and internet capacity in data centers across the world. Data centers are usually massive specially made buildings that look like warehouses. However instead of stock inside they have rows and rows of computer servers, all hooked up to a VERY fast internet connection.
Data centers are where generally all of the world’s websites are hosted, along with other internet connected services like the Facebook App on your phone, or WhatsApp.
So if the user of a VPN is doing something illegal and that person’s VPN provider has a proper DMCA process in place, provided they follow the steps it should be OK. Data centers and other parties involved in the provisioning of the VPN service (like the providers domain registrar) might also get notices saying that “X VPN Provider” is doing illegal things. This is why it’s important that those data centers and other related businesses under the DMCA and the protections it affords to the VPN provider.
As long as the VPN provider acts in accordance with the DMCA, then it should be fine.
It’s also important that VPN providers apply some basic scans to try and prevent their VPN users from using some of the more well-known illegal hacking and scanning methods that they might try to employ. This is because while DMCA protects them from a user downloading copyrighted content, it wouldn’t protect them from a user who is using their services to hack a website. So those are the kind of acts that they need to proactively monitor and stop.
While basic hacking methods can be fairly easy for a VPN provider to detect, there are of course some that aren’t. And they are also dealing with what is a fairly sophisticated computer expert, which can make their detection and blocking job harder. That’s one of the obligations of being a VPN provider though – they must be prepared to police their users somehow.