Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

ExpressVPN’s CIO Hacked Into the Accounts of Activists and Journalists on Behalf of the UAE

David Gerwitz, reporting for ZDNet in mid-September:

The first item is that Kape Technologies has announced plans to acquire ExpressVPN for $986 million. I do have concerns about this because Kape was once considered a malware provider. I’ll talk more about this in a bit.

The second item is a report in Reuters indicating that ExpressVPN CIO Daniel Gericke is among three men fined $1.6 million by the US Department of Justice for hacking and spying on US citizens on behalf of the government of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

I’ll discuss each of these reports individually, and then share with you some thoughts about how these situations might impact your decision to use (or not use) ExpressVPN.

From that Reuters report by Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing:

The operatives — Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke — were part of a clandestine unit named Project Raven, first reported by Reuters, that helped the UAE spy on its enemies.

At the behest of the UAE’s monarchy, the Project Raven team hacked into the accounts of human rights activists, journalists and rival governments, Reuters reported.

This is a more comprehensive look at ExpressVPN’s sketchy history and its ownership that leave me with the impression that the world of VPNs is mostly bullshit. The honest take is that these products help users circumvent geographic restrictions, particularly for things like streaming services. I am convinced that, if streaming companies and media rightsholders were less concerned with nit-picking contracts and more focused on providing a great experience, there would be far less demand among everyday users for VPNs. By no means am I blaming streaming services for creating this sleazy market, but they certainly have not helped.