You should probably stop using ExpressVPN

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Photography: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP (Getty Images))

Years, ExpressVPN it was one of the most popular and widely used privacy products of its kind on the market. It’s common best ranked on the first 10 VPN sheets; recent Tom’s Guide review called it the “best” VPN available. Previously, if you wanted to remain anonymous on the web, Express would probably be the right path.

However, all this was called into question afterwards revelation formerly ExpressVPN Chief Information Officer Daniel Gericke he worked as a rental hacker at DarkMatter, a cybersecurity firm based in the United Arab Emirates. Between 2016 and 2019, Gericke helped hack systems and devices around the world as part of “The Raven Project“A covert operation designed to help the UAE monarchy monitor and oversee critics of its regime, including activists, journalists and some U.S.-based individuals.

Gericke and two other former U.S. intelligence operatives recently faced federal charges for their participation in “Raven”, but they managed to reach an agreement on deferred prosecution with the government, allowing them to pay fines to avoid imprisonment, while agreeing to certain conditions.

If you’re bothered by the idea that a former spy is helping the Middle East government hack American computers, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In addition, news of Gericke’s employment with the company rightly stunned ExpressVPN users, leading to a torrent internet criticism. Express initially quelled concerns about their CEO’s ties to the Ravens with a strange attempt acknowledging that they knew the “key facts” about his previous employment when they hired him and were pretty okay with that. This strategy failed. They subsequently published more detailed statement, noting that they did not “approve” the Gavran project because “the oversight is completely contrary to our mission.” They also promised to increase third-party audits as a way to continue to demonstrate compliance with their privacy policy.

However, in their remarks, the company eventually stuck to Gericke. The company explained it like this:

Some may ask: How could we willingly invite someone from Daniel’s past into our midst? For us, the answer is clear: We protect our customers.

To do this job effectively – as we would believe, better than anyone else in our industry – it is necessary to use all the firepower of our opponents. The best goalkeepers are those trained by the best strikers. Someone overwhelmed and experienced in attack, such as Daniel, can offer insights into defense that are difficult, if not impossible, to get elsewhere. That is why there is a well-established precedent for cybersecurity companies that employ talent from the military or intelligence services.

Whether you buy this argument or not, it could be said that when that experienced veteran ends up in federal court, things would still have to be assessed a little. Reuters reports that he is still employed by the company.

In the end, these soothing words don’t seem to have calmed everyone down. Not only are the company’s customers enraged, but they are also employees of it. At a recent virtual meeting, ExpressVPN employees apparently made their grievances about recent developments, not pausing to chop up words.

“This episode has undermined consumer confidence in our brand, regardless of the facts. How do we intend to renew our reputation? Said one.

“It was absolutely distasteful to find out such news about people with whom we work closely every day through an online article. Why didn’t we get our heads up? Aren’t transparency and respect for our core values? ” the other person reportedly asked.

Other recent events have led some to question ExpressVPN guidelines. The company was recently purchased from Kape Technologies, an Israeli technology company with controversial past. Formerly known as CrossRider, the company was renamed in 2018 after getting a little too much publicity for, as CNET recently said, since he is “a notorious creator of a disastrous ad program that accumulates data.” Since then, an obvious rebranding effort followed by a privacy product has been underway purchase. In recent years, the company has acquired CyberGhost, Zenmate and private Internet access VPNs, and earlier this month bought ExpressVPN for $ 936 million.

Some of the key figures associated with Cape have also raised eyebrows. The majority of the company is owned by Teddy Sagi, an Israeli billionaire who pleaded guilty in the 1990s to fees in connection with bribery and market manipulation, and then spent a short period behind bars. Companies associated with Sagi are also excavated Panamanian papers, a multi-terabyte leak that showed a tangled network of protection companies and tax havens used by world leaders and businesses. Previous director of the company and co-founder, Koby Menachemi, is also a former Israeli intelligence officer who served in Unit 8200, the notorious cyber (read: hacker) wing of the Israeli Defense Forces. Menachemi left the company in 2016.

At the very least, ExpressVPN owes its users a more comprehensive report on the transparency of why it hired Gericke. However, given all that has come out, it is probably not out of place for some customers to give up the company’s services altogether.

Considering the importance of ExpressVPN, this episode also raises questions about how secure the VPN industry is at all: how common is it for those from the farthest, longest edges of the surveillance industry to turn around and work for privacy-dedicated companies ?? You would hope that the answer is not very common, but the mostly unregulated, fenced nature of the privacy industry makes it impossible to say. We have contacted ExpressVPN for comment and will update this story if they contact us.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Koby Menachemi was the current CEO of Kape Technologies. Menachemi left the company in 2016. We are sorry for the mistake.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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