These 7 Companies Secretly Own Dozens of VPNs
I dug deep into the corporate world of VPNs to find out which companies dominate the VPN market. The results of my research were surprising.
I discovered that a handful of businesses secretly own an astonishing number of VPNs. I was able to trace 40 VPN brands back to just seven companies.
Even more concerning is that so many of these companies aren’t transparent with consumers about which products they own.
As tech companies around the world race to take advantage of the growing VPN market, it’s more important than ever to be aware of who owns the VPN you use.
Shockingly, many VPNs can be traced to parent companies in China and Pakistan, raising concerns about international data retention laws.
I’m going to tell you what I learned about these companies and the VPNs they own. I’m also going to explain how you can find a VPN provider that is truly trustworthy and transparent.
I recommend VyprVPN for its speed, top-notch security features, and ease of use.
Why Is This Important?
Market consolidation isn’t always a bad thing. Mergers are common in the fast-moving tech world. There’s also nothing wrong with a big tech company producing multiple VPN products to target different user markets.
But the lack of transparency I discovered from these companies is very concerning. I found multiple VPNs claiming to be headquartered in privacy-friendly countries that secretly have strong connections with parent companies in China and Pakistan.
This raises a big question: if one of these parent companies demands user logs from a VPN it owns that's based another country, does the VPN have to hand over its records? When VPN companies don't make this information clear, it's challenging for consumers to make educated decisions to protect their privacy.
Most of these companies are also doing a terrible job informing consumers about which products they own.
While there’s no issue with companies producing more than one VPN brand, it’s a problem when companies make it look like their VPN products are competitors when in reality they’re not.
Competition between VPNs drives progress and keeps prices down. When one company owns multiple VPN brands, there’s less incentive for the company to improve its VPN because there are fewer VPNs to compete with.
I was also concerned to discover that many VPNs use the same software infrastructure.
That means if the security of one of these VPNs is compromised, all of them could be compromised. This could have devastating consequences for a huge number of users.
When companies don’t value transparency and fail to disclose the connections between all the products they own, it’s hard for consumers to have complete trust in the companies and hold them accountable.
How I Discovered These Connections
I was shocked by how deep I had to dig to discover the relationships between most of these parent companies and their subsidiaries.
In some cases, I could find information about the connections between VPN products on the parent company or subsidiary’s website, but that was pretty rare.
I uncovered many of these relationships by reading through the terms of service and privacy policies for hundreds of VPN developers.
I found other information about company mergers and acquisitions by sorting through old press releases, trademark records, and employee LinkedIn pages.
VPN Market Consolidation
The seven companies on this list own a total of 40 VPNs. Below, I’ll explain these connections company by company.
American tech company Aura released its first VPN service, Hotspot Shield (see our full review), in 2008, when it was called AnchorFree. AnchorFree would go on to change its name to Pango, which then got acquired by Aura in January 2021. Even though Aura is the parent company, its VPNs are still marketed under the Pango brand, so information can be found on Pango’s website. If you go there, then it’s easy to think Hotspot Shield is still the only VPN the company owns.
But the reality is a lot more complicated.
Since 2015, Aura has started to quietly absorb more and more VPN products. It first acquired TouchVPN, which owns a total of three VPN products: Touch VPN, VeePee VPN Proxy, and VPN 360.
In late 2016, Aura also acquired Betternet Technologies, adding three more VPNs to its list: Betternet, VPN in Touch, and Hexatech. It also acquired UltraVPN in August 2020.
These VPNs don’t make it clear that they’re now owned by Pango, but when you compare the design of the products, the connection is pretty clear. In addition to the similarities between its products, there are hardly any mentions of Aura or Pango on their websites or any promotional material for the VPNs they own.
Overall, Aura owns these 7 VPNs:
- Hotspot Shield
- Touch VPN
- Veepee VPN Proxy
- VPN 360
2. j2 Global
j2 Global is another American company that has gotten involved in the VPN world in a major way.
The tech giant offers a variety of cloud and digital media services. It also owns quite a few big brands, including IGN, PCMag, Speedtest, Offers.com, and Mashable.
The company officially claims to own three VPNs: IPVanish, StrongVPN, and Encrypt.me, previously known as Cloak.
j2 Global got its first VPN brands when it acquired StackPath in 2019. This created some concerns about a conflict of interest with the company’s online computer magazine, PCMag, because the site frequently publishes VPN recommendations and reviews.
I noticed that many of PCMag’s VPN articles now have this disclaimer:
After some digging, I discovered that j2 Global is connected to many more VPNs than its website claims. On top of IPVanish (see our full review), StrongVPN, and Encrypt.me, it also owns SaferVPN and OverPlay VPN through its subsidiary NetProtect.
That’s not all. The company also owns WLVPN.com, a white label service that offers VPN infrastructure and strategy services.
Here’s how it works. VPN providers can buy software development kits (SDKs) from WLVPN to help them develop their VPN applications and features.
NetProtect claims that more than 100 businesses use WLVPN’s infrastructure and tools to power their VPNs, including StrongVPN, OverPlay VPN, Encrypt.me, and VPNhub, Pornhub’s VPN service.
I tried to find some of the other VPN providers that use WLVPN’s technology. Most companies aren’t transparent about this, but I was able to dig up some additional examples by looking through VPN companies’ server lists.
I found evidence that Namecheap VPN, Tweaknews VPN, Easynews VPN, and Newshosting VPN all use WLVPN’s technology to power their VPNs.
Overall, j2 Global owns these five VPNs:
- OverPlay VPN
The company also owns the white label service that powers these five VPNs (and likely many more):
- Namecheap VPN
- Tweaknews VPN
- Easynews VPN
- Newshosting VPN
3. Actmobile Networks
American company Actmobile Networks only mentions one VPN service on its official website: Dash VPN.
However, I also found that Actmobile Networks is the creator of Dash Net Accelerated VPN, which is a spinoff of Dash VPN.
Through the company president’s LinkedIn page, I learned that Actmobile Networks also owns the company FreeVPN.org. This company produces Free VPN, VPN Unicorn, and VPN US.
Overall, Actmobile Networks owns these 5 VPNs:
- Dash VPN
- Dash Net Accelerated VPN
- Free VPN
- VPN Unicorn
- VPN US
4. Kape Technologies
Kape Technologies is based in the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea. To date, it owns 4 VPNs: CyberGhost VPN, ZenMate VPN, Private Internet Access (PIA), and ExpressVPN.
The company is often associated with Crossrider, and there’s a lot of press linking it with adware/malware. After digging a little deeper, we found that Crossrider was a development platform for browser extensions (with monetization options).
While there were developers using Crossrider as a tool to build legitimate apps, unfortunately there were also people using it for malicious purposes like malware/adware distribution. The malware wasn’t actually owned or created by Crossrider.
In 2016, Crossrider was shut down due to continued abuse of the platform. Following that, the business moved into privacy and security solutions and rebranded as Kape Technologies with new leadership.
The VPNs under the Kape brand are reported to run independently and I haven’t found evidence that indicates otherwise. Many are leaders in the industry with a reputation for great security and privacy (some even offer built-in ad-blockers). As always, I’d recommend doing your due diligence to be 100% comfortable with who you entrust your data to.
Overall, Kape Technologies owns these 4 VPNs:
- CyberGhost VPN
- Zenmate VPN
- Private Internet Access (PIA)
Gaditek’s attractive website describes the organization as “a human-centric New Age company” that loves venturing into new markets. Although that all sounds nice, it doesn’t actually tell us very much.
In reality, Gaditek is a Pakistan-based company founded in 2008 that specializes in business IT services and mobile app development.
Gaditek owns two VPN services: PureVPN and Ivacy. This isn’t a huge amount compared to some companies on this list.
However, I found it very interesting that a Pakistani company secretly controls two popular VPNs. Freedom House’s annual internet freedom report has repeatedly given Pakistan a rating of “not free.”
Pakistan practices heavy online censorship. The government blocks residents from accessing websites and social media platforms that express dissenting political opinions. Authorities also frequently disable mobile internet access during large protests or other politically sensitive events.
There are several cases of people being sentenced to death for their social media activity. Some reports suggest that Pakistan has begun targeting human rights defenders with invasive cyberattacks.
The government claims these practices are necessary for national security reasons, but that hasn’t stopped the policies from receiving a lot of criticism, both within Pakistan and internationally.
Pakistan also enforces strict data retention laws. It requires ISPs to keep communication logs for a minimum of one year, or longer if requested by the government.
Pakistani law also makes it extremely easy for authorities to obtain a warrant to access citizens’ private data for almost any reason.
The important question here is this: How much control does Pakistan-based Gaditek have over the VPNs it owns? PureVPN (see our full review) is based in Hong Kong, while Ivacy is located in Singapore.
If the Pakistani government demands VPN traffic logs from Gaditek, would the company be forced to provide that information?
The answer isn’t clear, but either way it’s a worrying thought.
Overall, Gaditek owns these two VPNs:
Czech cybersecurity company Avast produces a popular line of antivirus software, but it now also offers its own VPN service: Avast Secureline VPN.
Avast is transparent about the fact that it also owns HMA (formerly HideMyAss!), but I discovered that Avast also owns two smaller providers: AVG Secure VPN and ZenVPN.
When I ran a search with the email associated with Avast’s website domain, I also found websites for former VPN products Dream VPN and GoldenVPN, which seem to no longer exist. This makes me wonder if Avast might be interested in creating or purchasing more VPN services in the future.
Overall, Avast owns these four VPNs:
- Avast Secureline VPN
- AVG Secure VPN
7. Innovative Connecting
Innovative Connecting (also known as ALL Connected Co.) is a young Singapore-based tech company that specializes in mobile app development.
Its official website contains very little information about the company, but the company’s LinkedIn page says that its product development team is actually based in China!
Innovative Connecting owns a total of seven VPNs. It produces three directly: TurboVPN, VPN Proxy Master, and Solo VPN.
I was also able to connect it to two subsidiary companies: Lemon Clove and Autumn Breeze. Lemon Clove owns SnapVPN and VPN Robot, while Autumn Breeze owns Unlimited Free VPN Monster and Hot VPN (see our full review).
This adds up to a total of seven VPNs, all of which are mobile-only. I was very concerned to discover so many VPNs secretly connected to a development team in China.
Overall, Innovative Connecting owns these 8 VPNs:
- Unlimited Free VPN Monster
- Hot VPN
- Signal Secure VPN
- VPN Proxy Master
- Free VPN Proxy
- Free VPN & Security
How to Find a Trustworthy VPN
Transparency is the single most important thing to look for in a VPN provider. You have to be able to trust the company that creates and controls your VPN.
After all, if you can’t trust your VPN provider to tell you the truth about its policies and practices, how can you trust it to do the right thing with your private data?
Disclosing its brand ownership and corporate structure is one way that a VPN provider can demonstrate transparency. Your VPN should also make it easy for you to access information about its privacy and data retention policies, the companies it partners with, and which countries’ laws it must comply with.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy VPN with a proven record of transparency, then I'd recommend the one below.
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- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Strict no-logs policy
- 700+ servers across 700+ countries that can get around geo-blocks
- Based in Switzerland, a privacy-friendly country
- The world’s first VPN to be publicly audited
- Works With: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more
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VyprVPN became the first VPN in the world to have an independent security audit in 2018, which was carried out by Leviathan Security. This move was a demonstration of transparency and a lot of VPNs have followed suit since then. It confirmed that it doesn’t collect any Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and the full report can be found on the VyprVPN website.
It's also based in Switzerland, which is outside the 14 Eyes Alliance and famous for its strong privacy laws. The country doesn’t require companies to store user data and won’t unexpectedly interrogate them for it, so you know your data is safe. Its parent company, Golden Frog, doesn't own any other VPNs and are fully transparent about it, which is a great sign.
Additionally, VyprVPN adheres to the Safe Harbour Privacy Principles, which ensures maximum transparency about its use of user data.
VyprVPN also has a number of world-class security features, including military-grade encryption, a kill switch, and DNS/IP leak protection. They prevent your personal data from falling into the wrong hands, which is especially handy when you’re using a public WiFi network. When I tested its US and UK servers on ipleak.net, no IP leaks were detected.
You can also stream your favorite shows with any lag, thanks to VyprVPN fast speeds. During my speed tests, I recorded an average download speed of 45.6 Mbps across its US and UK servers, which was way more than the 5 Mbps needed for HD streaming. There’s also unlimited bandwidth too, which means you can torrent or stream without any limitations.
There are also 700+ servers across 70+ countries to choose from, which make it easy to bypass geoblocks. I managed to unblock Netflix US, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer when I connected to 3 of its US servers and 2 of its UK ones. Technical knowledge wasn’t required either, as all I had to do was find a server and click on it to connect.
If you’re interested in VyprVPN, then you can test it completely free as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested this policy by asking their 24/7 live chat team to cancel my subscription. After I gave my reasoning, they went ahead with my request and I was refunded after 4 business days.
The corporate world behind VPNs is hard to untangle and constantly changing.
Inclusion of a VPN in this list doesn't automatically guarantee its trustworthiness. Nevertheless, it remains vital to hold companies accountable for transparently disclosing information about their products and their ultimate ownership.
If you want a VPN provider you know you can trust, I recommend privacy-friendly VyprVPN.
Want to know more about data retention laws in different countries? Check out our guide on the countries in the Fourteen Eyes Alliance.
Still not sure which VPN is right for you? Take a look at our deals and discounts page (updated weekly) to find great coupons and big savings!
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