Mobile VPN just the beginning as Wangle’s scalable network stack eyes the enterprise

Perth startup offers secure alternative to VPN apps that actively introduce security compromises

Designing secure and consumer-friendly virtual private networks (VPNs) will convince consumers to adopt the technology as a basic part of their privacy habits, a Perth-based startup has predicted as it takes the wraps off a security and compression network stack whose first instantiation will soon be complemented by a host of complementary consumer and enterprise products.

Publicly-listed Wangle Technologies – which joined the ASX last year on the back of a reverse listing deal with Vortex Pipes parent company VTX Holdings that saw Wangle’s shares jump 25 percent on their first day – has been using its $4.3m kitty to refine its technology platform for years, initially positioning it as a network stack whose components would work together to optimise data flow to and from mobile devices.

As the platform developed, CEO Sean Smith told CSO Australia, it became clear that it could address a number of different market requirements – including but going well beyond the most popular perception of VPNs as a way to access overseas content sites.

VPNs have a much broader role in protecting security and privacy – and many existing apps have actively introduced security issues, with a recent Data61 evaluation of 283 Android apps finding that many “expose users to serious privacy and security vulnerabilities” including the use of insecure VPN tunnelling protocols, IPv6 and DNS traffic leakage.

All of the tested apps relied on the Android VPN Service class, but many were found to be actively performing TLS interception and injecting JavaScript programs for tracking, advertising, and redirecting e-commerce traffic to external partners. Paired with an “opaque” security model that often includes routing traffic through other peers rather than central nodes, the analysis warned that “average mobile users may not fully understand… the consequences of allowing a third-party app to read, block and/or modify their traffic.”

Wangle’s initial play for the VPN market – which includes a $4.99 monthly plan that aggressively undercuts competitors like NordVPN, StrongVPN and ExpressVPN – reflects the concerns raised by Data61. Smith believes that consumers will respond to a robust, more secure alternative that leverages Rackspace and Amazon Web Services network architecture to scale for performance across a worldwide network of access nodes that, upon launch, includes sites in California, Virginia, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney.

“We saw other business models focused solely on trying to speed things up and not providing a level of protection or security,” he said. “Ultimately we created a VPN stack that delivers benefits in terms of authentication and encryption, whilst not impacting the data flow. It’s only a matter of time until having a VPN is going to be a big component of everyone’s privacy efforts.”

The company is aiming to have 500,000 paying subscribers for its mobile VPN app by the end of next year. Yet while the new mobile VPN offering is spearheading Wangle’s push into the market, the company’s technology will be bundled into a number of other products throughout this year and beyond, with a family protection suite and enterprise mobility solution already on the cards.

Enterprise opportunities are an even more significant part of Wangle’s long game, with its microservices architecture designed for modularity and upgradeability as well as the scalability it gets through its reliance on AWS. This will also pave the way for potential opportunities in building the platform into hardware devices that speed the movement of data between sites.

“By the time we get ready to launch enterprise product, we’ll have done a lot of work making sure the network is ready for that,” he said. “The underlying platform will allow us to – very essentially and differently from the rest of the market – look at network behaviours. Later on, this will help companies manage the growing risks of intellectual property protection, and the risks of BYOD programs to corporate networks.”

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Tags virtual private networks (VPNs)Sean Smithmobile

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