Is Kape's acquisition of ExpressVPN cause for concern?

Kape Technologies PLC, a company that changed its name from Crossrider to distance itself from its checkered past, has acquired the popular VPN service ExpressVPN. Express VPN is Kape's fourth acquisition in the VPN niche, as it acquired CyberGhost VPN, Zenmate, and Private Internet Access in recent years.

Our review of ExpressVPN dates back to July 2021. It was a privately held company headquartered on the British Virgin Islands that has created its own protocol Lightway that it has full control over. Most features are similar to those of other VPN services: ExpressVPN supports desktop and mobile apps, runs servers in 94 countries, does not restrict bandwidth, allows P2P, and limits logging to technical reasons.

Performance was good during tests and the unblocking of streaming services worked equally well. The two downsides of ExpressVPN were its high price and the lack of advanced features such as malware blocking capabilities or options to chain VPN connections.

ExpressVPN announced its acquisition on the official company blog.

Today, we’re making our biggest move to level-up our ability to advance digital rights yet: We’ve announced our plan to join Kape Technologies, a London Stock Exchange-listed company, to form the clear global leader in digital privacy. With their support and resources, we’ll be able to innovate faster and provide you with protection from a wider range of threats. Together, we will advance the state of privacy technology, keeping you firmly in control of your digital experience even as new threats and challenges arise.

ExpressVPN remains a separate service according to the announcement. In fact, everything will stay as it is for subscribers of the service.

ExpressVPN will only continue to improve: our award-winning speed and reliability, premium global server network and bandwidth, 24/7 live chat, BVI jurisdiction, policy of not collecting activity or connection logs, independent third-party audits, and more.

Kape Technologies paid $936 million US Dollar for ExpressVPN, making it the largest recorded deal in the VPN industry. As a comparison, Kape acquired Private Internet Access for a tenth of the sum two years ago: $95.5 million US Dollar.

TechRadar reports that the acquisition lifted the veil behind ExpressVPN's business figures. The company has over three million subscribers and generated "revenues of approximately $279.4 million in 2020, up 37% from 2019".

Kape Technologies on the other hand reported 2.52 million subscribers across its offerings with revenues of $122.2 million in 2020.

Cause for concern?

The lucrative VPN industry is in a phase of consolidation. Kape acquired its fourth VPN provider making it one of the largest, if not the largest, VPN provider with a subscription-based model.

The company has a checkered past. Previously named Crossrider, it had a bad reputation for benefitting from potentially unwanted software offers, with security companies such as Malwarebytes classifying Crossrider products as adware. Founder of the company was a former Israeli agent according to reports.

It is unclear how much influence Kape Technologies has over ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, or its other acquisitions.  All state that they are acting largely independent from the parent company.

The companies past activities are cause for concern. If you ignore that for a moment, there is still the question of whether consolidation is good for the industry and users worldwide. Larger companies have more resources and these could be used to improve standards and functionality, but they may also be used to increase pricing and dominate niches.

Now You: what is your take on the acquisition?

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Is Kape's acqusition of ExpressVPN cause for concern?
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Is Kape's acqusition of ExpressVPN cause for concern?
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Kape Technologies PLC, a company that changed its name from Crossrider to distance itself from its checkered past, has acquired the popular VPN service ExpressVPN.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. allen said on September 15, 2021 at 1:42 pm
    Reply

    You know, if one were to remove all of the buzzwords from that announcement of theirs, there’d be next to nothing left of it.

  2. Steve said on September 15, 2021 at 2:51 pm
    Reply

    For anyone looking to delete their account you need to create a support ticket.

    There is no mention of deleting accounts at all in the management page or in the help section.

  3. anonymous said on September 15, 2021 at 3:24 pm
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    Well, considering they’re buying up VPN services AND VPN review sites, and then there’s that new agreement they signed with a Hong Kong telecom (3 Hong Kong)…

    Yeah, seems like cause for concern.

    1. Iron Heart said on September 15, 2021 at 4:17 pm
      Reply

      @anonymous

      > and then there’s that new agreement they signed with a Hong Kong telecom (3 Hong Kong)…

      Unsurprising, since ExpressVPN has been Hong Kong-based all along:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yW_zBGXfiPg

      1. anonymous said on September 15, 2021 at 8:58 pm
        Reply

        Yes, I agree. The telecom agreement is for PIA, though, and was signed a couple of months ago.

  4. Paul(us) said on September 15, 2021 at 3:28 pm
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    Companies that are too big ensure that they can have legislation changed to their advantage.
    Too few companies also makes for lazier ones!

    The British Virgin Islands are a British overseas territory in the Caribbean and as you know the Britisch schare there data with the USA. So that is not a safe company.

    Think five eyes, nine eyes & 14 eyes.
    https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/all-the-vpn-terms-you-need-to-know/

  5. Iron Heart said on September 15, 2021 at 4:14 pm
    Reply

    Makes no difference to me. Before, the owner of ExpressVPN was unknown (hard pass) and now the owner is known but is revealed to have a shady past (hard pass). I would not have trusted the service before or after.

  6. ULBoom said on September 15, 2021 at 4:25 pm
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    Just go elsewhere. Kape’s selling privacy, it will take time and lots of real reviews by those who know how to get into the weeds with VPN’s to determine if Express stays legitimate. I tried them; if you like scrolling ads in your client, which they call something like “the client that doesn’t suck as much,” fine. Express was fast but I’m paying for a secure tunnel, not snark. Untrustworthy.

    There’s a lot of easily found informantion on Kape and their billionaire owner, Teddy Sagi. If you consider Avast’s data brokering OK, then Kape’s stuff is too.

    Express’ inane press announcement is typical Express hype. Kape at least tries to sound serious if you think past their goal of dominating Privacy.

  7. annoyeduser said on September 15, 2021 at 6:59 pm
    Reply

    I currently have an ExpressVPN subscription, but I was thinking of switching. The acquisition by Vape convinced me that it was time to switch. I logged into my account and tried to turn off automatic renewal, but every time I did so, it would reset back to it being on. I chatted with support and asked them to disable automatic renewal. They gave me sentences of marketing, but they never said they’d disable automatic renewal (and it wasn’t done), in other words, they passive-aggressively ignored my request. I will have to deny payment via my credit card bank. I highly recommend that readers NOT sign up with ExpressVPN.

    1. Dondo said on September 16, 2021 at 4:05 am
      Reply

      I turned off my auto-renew also and had the same issue where it said it did it but didn’t. Then I turned off my ad-blocker and tried again. Now it shows I am no longer signed up for auto-renew.

  8. yanta said on September 16, 2021 at 3:52 am
    Reply

    I think this can be shortened a lot.
    Is there cause for concern: yes.
    Will consolidation change how the businesses operate: Of course, sooner or later.
    What should you do: Be prepared to to find an alternate provider.
    end of article.

    IIRC, Express was one of the most expensive one’s around, at least where I am.

    Personally, I think consolidation is bad. It reduces competition, results in higher prices and the orgs get so big they focus solely on profit and forget about the customers completely.
    With the direction the world it taking there are likely other motives and things going on that will not be good for customers in the long run.

  9. DirCompUser said on September 16, 2021 at 4:44 am
    Reply

    KAPE Technologies plc is incorporated in the Isle of Man and is dealt on London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. About 64% of KAPE is owned by Unikmind Holdings Limited incorporated in BVI and redomiciled in the Isle of Man. You can do your own research on who are the likely owners of Unikmind and where they are located, but one thing is plain to see: KAPE is buying up the main commercial VPN providers – after all, “competition is a sin” – although there are doubtless other (possibly more important) reasons involved.

    A soupcon of those possibilities:

    https://it.slashdot.org/story/21/09/15/2012209/expressvpn-knew-key-facts-of-executive-who-worked-for-uae-spy-unit

  10. Kindkiwi said on September 16, 2021 at 5:40 am
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    Well i am a very long term Express VPN customer (5 years) and this take over doesn’t stack well with me one bit, years ago i used HMA but i am not sure of that company is any good .I am looking for a company that i can use my stock firmware asus router and just put all the config settings into with out flashing the firmware.(ASUS AX11000).
    Doing some research on Kapes that company used to be called crossrider and made alot of malware and adware.

  11. Tom Hawack said on September 16, 2021 at 4:59 pm
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    Independently of Kape, ExpressVPN itself may not be a perfect example of probity.

    “Daniel Gericke is the Chief Information Officer for ExpressVPN[…]”

    “Between 2016 and 2019, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke provided their services to a company that ran sophisticated hacking operations for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government against various targets.”

    “The U.S. government has entered a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA)” with all three of them

    Source : https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/former-us-intel-operatives-to-pay-16m-for-hacking-for-foreign-govt/

  12. Matti said on September 16, 2021 at 5:06 pm
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    I already knew they were shady, but recently read something that brought to light how shady they actually were;
    https://uk.pcmag.com/vpn/135678/expressvpn-cio-helped-united-arab-of-emirates-hack-into-phones-computers
    Being sold to Kape kind of fits. Birds of a feather and all…

    On a positive note (though that could change in future, who knows);
    https://mullvad.net/en/blog/2021/9/16/ownership-and-future-mullvad-vpn/

  13. Jonah Emery said on September 16, 2021 at 5:48 pm
    Reply

    I am a happy user of Mullvad VPN. It’s ownership has always been public and transparent. It connects reliably and is fast. I first learned about it because the NYTimes Wirecutter chose it as the best VPN.

  14. ShintoPlasm said on September 16, 2021 at 11:13 pm
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    Mullvad is the only one worth considering.

  15. Alex said on September 17, 2021 at 12:06 am
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    The CIO of ExpressVPN worked as a hacker mercenary for the UAE and helped them spy on human rights activists and journalist’s devices.

    https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/expressvpn-cio-among-three-facing-1-6-million-doj-fine-project-raven/

  16. Anonymous said on September 18, 2021 at 2:01 am
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    not sure if id trust anything where an israeli agent has been involved first place..

    1. Tom Hawack said on September 18, 2021 at 3:01 pm
      Reply

      Especially that they’re considered to be among the best if not the best :)

  17. xiputin VPN said on September 20, 2021 at 7:46 am
    Reply

    The only VPN that could be considered is one that is run by Russia or China. :)

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