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Use of virtual private networks (VPNS) has rocketed in some of the countries hardest hit by the Covid-19 virus, according to new data from a company that supplies these services.

Atlas VPN analyzed data from its 50,000 weekly users, measuring how much traffic travelled through its servers last week (March 9-15) versus the week before (March 2-8).

While the total number of customers remained relatively the same during the two weeks, usage spiked in some of the countries suffering the most from the new coronavirus.

VPN usage in Italy increased 112% over the past week, while the figure hit 38% in Iran and 36% in Spain.

At the time of writing there were 183,000 confirmed global cases of Covid-19. Italy (28,000), Iran (15,000) and Spain (10,000) are the top three countries affected after China, where the virus originated.

The respective governments of Italy and Spain have issued “lockdown” notices that require all citizens to stay at home and bars, cafes, restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and museums to close. Home working is urged, where possible.

In Iran, where the death toll from the virus is nearly at 6%, the government has been forced to release 85,000 prisoners in an attempt to prevent serious outbreaks in the country’s jails.

Other countries where Atlas VPN noted an uptick in VPN usage included the US, where there was a 53% spike over the two-week period.

Although the infection rate there is relatively low, organizations are already ramping up home working plans as trust in the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak slips.

The vendor’s COO, Rachel Welch, said the figures could increase even further over the coming months.

“We estimate that VPN usage in the US could increase by over 150% by the end of the month,” she said. “Overall, the usage of VPNs should continue to surge if the coronavirus pandemic worsens.”

Home workers are most likely taking advantage of VPNs to secure communications with corporate networks, while closed schools mean children and parents are using them in greater numbers to circumvent geo-restrictions to view their favorite entertainment content from around the globe, Atlas VPN suggested.

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