Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has warned against using ExpressVPN, a popular VPN client, due to its CIO’s intelligence past. VPN software masks a users’ IP address and encrypts user web histories, protecting their privacy. They are effective at protecting user data and, in some cases, bypassing government firewalls when a country’s web is censored. Launched in 2009 by Peter Burchhardt and Dan Pomerantz, ExpessVPN is one of the world’s largest VPN networks with millions of users worldwide. ExpressVPN has hundreds of servers across 94 countries and won the editor’s choice award from CNET and Techradar for its intuitive design and results in internet protection.
Edward Snowden is a former cyber security contractor hired by the NSA. In 2013 Snowden grew disillusioned from the massive surveillance operations the NSA and major American allies were conducting and so fled to Russia where he leaked details of the NSA’s operations to journalists across the globe. Still residing in Russia, Snowden in 2016 was elected as the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. A controversial figure, Snowden has been branded a traitor by some and a hero by others. His actions have made him one of the most important, if polarizing, figures in cybersecurity history.
Snowden took to Twitter to criticize ExpressVPN after Joseph Menn, an investigative securities Reuters journalist, noted that CIO of ExpressVPN, Daniel Gericke, is one of three former U.S. intelligence operatives who agreed not to fight charges that they illegally helped UAE hack individuals as part of Project Raven. Snowden quoted the tweet and stated that ‘If you’re an ExpressVPN customer, you shouldn’t be’. Project Raven was a team of American mercenary hackers in 2014 that were paid by the United Arab Emirates to spy on their enemies by using techniques they learned in the states which include hacking into phones and computers. The team was exposed by Reuters in 2019. Gericke and two others were slapped with a $1.4 million fine.
The company then expanded to say that it does not share the concerns about Gericke due to his expertise in cybersecurity and hacking, citing his extensive resume and noting that someone with his mindset is best suited to protecting ExpressVPNs customer base. ExpressVPN did not know any of the man’s classified operations nor about any ongoing investigation, the press release reads. Since his arrival, the company says he has been an exemplary employee and helped ExpressVPN operate to the best of its abilities. Users worried about their privacy must consider whether they wish to support a company that employs Gericke or trust that the best VPNs require the best hackers which Gericke has proven he is.