The Rising Concern around Inadequate Virtual Private Network Security 

by Don Boxley

VPN representation

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, IT teams faced a common challenge: how to ensure employees and other approved users could easily and securely access organizational resources, whether they were hosted locally or in the cloud. This was a challenge that was painfully exacerbated when millions of workers around the world were sent to work from home (WFH), virtually overnight. 

Prior to the start of the pandemic, DH2i commissioned a research study to learn more about challenges being faced by IT professionals responsible for their network security, specifically those using virtual private networks, “The Pre-Pandemic State of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).” The study was also intended to solicit their feedback on what improvements, features, functionality and capabilities they viewed as ideal in a next-gen VPN or competitive solution. To qualify, the respondent had to be using a VPN for network access and/or a security measure. While some of the responses were somewhat expected, others were real eye-openers. 

It was indeed surprising to have 39% of those responsible for keeping ransomware and other malware from penetrating their network believe that, in fact, it already had. And, while this survey was completely anonymous, we believe this number is actually even higher, as some respondents would likely prefer not to admit it — even to themselves. We expect this number to grow during the next research phase given the rise in bad actors during the past year that were looking to exploit data security vulnerabilities as a result of the pandemic.

It is interesting to note that at the end of the day, recognizing the limitations of current VPNs, 86% of respondents were inclined to consider an alternative if the other solution could prove superiority across several factors, including security, configuration and management, cost, performance and availability. 

It is important to note that while we were analyzing the results of the initial research, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing millions of people into a WFH scenario. Simply gaining access was the priority for most employees. However, for IT, ensuring not only that their people had uninterrupted access but that it was secure on both ends and everywhere in between pushed other alternative remote access IT initiatives much lower down the priority list. And, while it provided deep and immediately actionable insight, we recognized this research would need to be considered a first phase, given the cataclysmic shift that was taking place. We look forward to sharing the results of the second phase of our research soon. 

The full report deeply analyzes each of the topics presented here, details the survey methodology and presents an analysis on the future of VPNs.   

VPN Use Cases
Remote Users 83%
Site to Site 57%
Site to Cloud & Multicloud 48%
Microservices & Containers 7%


VPN Brands in Use
Cisco 63%
Palo Alto Networks 22%
Check Point 12%
Other 50%


VPN Pain Points 
Security 62%
Availability/DR 48%
Cost 46%
Performance 45%
Configuration Management 44%


Is someone on your network who shouldn’t be?
Yes 39%
Unlikely 61%


Inclination to Explore VPN Alternatives 
Extremely/very inclined 45%
Somewhat inclined 41%
Not too inclined 15%


Preference for Remote Connections without “Attackable” Network Presence 
Highly preferable 68%
Somewhat preferable 21%
No preference 12%


Don Boxley Jr. is a DH2i co-founder and CEO. Prior to DH2i, Boxley held senior marketing roles at Hewlett-Packard, where he was instrumental in sales and marketing strategies that resulted in significant revenue growth in the scale-out NAS business. Boxley spent more than 20 years in management positions for leading technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, CoCreate Software, Iomega, TapeWorks Data Storage Systems and Colorado Memory Systems. Boxley earned his MBA from the Johnson School of Management, Cornell University. 

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