Google could be working on a built-in VPN service for use on open WiFi networks


google vpn

Android 5.1 might not have a horde of obvious changes above the surface, but there’s no doubt Google put in a lot of work under the hood. Another interesting new change has come to light — the company might be working on bringing a built-in VPN service for use on public WiFi networks.

The change was noticed when a new app — called Google Connectivity Services — was found among the list of other apps installed on the latest stock build of Android 5.1. Using an app like QuickShortCutMaker will allow you to launch the following activity within the app:

Launching said activity brings up a dialog box letting you know that you will be connected to a Google VPN to transmit your data in a secure fashion. Clicking “Got It” takes you to the standard VPN menu, though the phone fails to connect to any VPN at that point.

So is Google working on a free VPN that anyone can access? It’s possible, though there are a couple of other things to consider:

  • This could be a feature of the carrier’s upcoming MVNO service that was confirmed at Mobile World Congress. Google’s MVNO will leverage the use of both public WiFi and cellular networks for calling, messaging and data activity. Such a solution certainly could benefit from encrypted data. We expect to hear more about these efforts at Google I/O.
  • It’s possible this could eventually be offered for Android for Work users who transmit sensitive data to and from the workplace.
  • It could be a free-for-all where anyone and everyone who needs VPN access can easily get it with just a few clicks.

But without any official word from Google, it’s all just a series of guesses. The “learn more” button on the dialog box links to a generic support page so there are no answers to be had there.

We’ll be looking for answers from sources of our own, though, and will update you accordingly if we hear anything. Built-in VPN that anyone can use at any time? That would be a game changer, but let’s try not to get too excited before we know what, exactly, El Googs is planning.

[via Pocketables]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. From a networking standpoint, offering a VPN to over a billion users is a daunting task, even for the Googs. Then again, not all users are on 5.1, not all users would be connected at the same time, so there is a possibility. Still, even a few million users is a crazy idea. Then again, how many people actually use an Open WiFi network? Maybe the total amount is quite lower than I think.

    I could see them offering this as an Android at Work service to secure enterprise communications where the enterprise is not providing their own VPN. I could also see this as part of their upcoming MVNO to secure WiFi connections since we believe the MVNO will utilize WiFi where possible.

    1. Yeah, when I used a VPN, I did so sparingly. Google could probably oversell their VPN service by 500 to 1 or more depending on how they integrated its use into the ROM going forward. i.e.: Have an option to only enable the VPN when connecting to insecure WiFi, rather having it on all the time. (Still have to manually toggle this… well, maybe there’s a tasker solution)

  2. Would you really trust a VPN from Google? Not from a “they can be hacked” perspective but a “they’ll be forced by the authorities to keep and hand over logs thus negating the ‘private’ part of VPN” perspective.

    1. The point would not be to protect against the authorities, it would be to protect from the nefarious hipster who’s trying to Man-in-the-Middle attack you while you sip on your fancy coffee. If you’re only communicating on a VPN the nefarious hipster cannot capture any meaningful, unencrypted traffic, so your bank accounts, email, and cat pictures are all safe, from him at least.

  3. Running my own (Open)VPN was of the main reasons I’ve had a server for so many years. However, VPNs aren’t as necessary as they used to be for the common (non-enterprise lan) use case.

    The first reason is because the apps and sites that matter most are increasingly HTTPS by default, so nobody can sniff/MitM you. For the other plaintext sites… well, unless you’re paranoid, it doesn’t matter so much if someone can see (and potentially mess with) what article you’re reading on CNN, or the imgur link you opened after getting it via (secure) gmail.

    The final reason is that LTE allowances are large enough that you don’t really need to jump on that nasty, dirty, unreliable public WiFi much anymore. At least I don’t.

  4. Whats the link to the wallpaper in the screenshots?

  5. Would be cool if they did that. Then I could unsubscribe from my paid VPN and save money.

  6. Oh sure I’ll send all my browsing traffic through Google’s servers so you can steal even more of my data.

    Hahaha… nope.

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