Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

VPN use surges as coronavirus outbreak prompts huge rise in remote working

The rise in working from home in the last few weeks has seen VPN usage rise rapidly in many countries.

The coronavirus could make remote work the norm, what businesses need to know
8:59

The growth in employees forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has led to a huge spike in people using business virtual private networks (VPN) to secure their remote working.

Figures released by VPN provider NordVPN revealed that global use of its virtual private network technology had increased by 165% since 11 March. A business VPN allows users to securely connect to corporate networks to send and receive files, data and applications from anywhere – which in many cases right now is going to be people's homes.

Growth in VPN usage has been pushed by a number of governments around the world either encouraging people to work from home if they can, or making it effectively mandatory to do so in countries that are in coronavirus lockdown.

The Netherlands has seen the biggest growth in employee business VPN usage, with the number of users surging by 240%. That's followed by Austria and Canada, which have seen VPN usage grow by 208% and 206% respectively.

SEE: Coronavirus: Effective strategies and tools for remote work during a pandemic

France, Belgium and Denmark have also seen significant spikes in business VPN usage, with all three countries experiencing growth of between 180% and 190%, while in Spain, use of NordVPN Teams business services has grown by 95%.

Both the US and the UK have also seen a rise in VPN usage, but not by as much – the growth in the two countries currently stands at 66% and 48% respectively.

However, as time moves forward and governments potentially take more stringent strategies to prevent the spread of coronavirus, NordVPN Teams said it believes the growth in use of business VPN in the US and the UK will rise to levels seen in other countries.

While VPN services are proving to be helpful in allowing employees to continue their jobs remotely in an effort to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, making sure that the VPN is secure and up-to-date is vital.

SEE: COVID-19: With everyone working from home, VPN security has now become paramount

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has issued security advice on using VPN services and remote working in order to help both organisations and employees stay safe from cyberattacks – especially as, for many, this is the first time they'd had to work remotely.

That advice includes recommendations for staff to use strong passwords and to use multi-factor authentication, if available, in order to reduce the chances of cyber criminals being able to compromise accounts.

European cybersecurity agency ENISA has also set out similar recommendations for securely working from home.

MORE ON CYBERSECURITY