Building the VPNalyzer System

Reethika Ramesh (University of Michigan), Leonid Evdokimov (Independent), Diwen Xue, Roya Ensafi (University of Michigan)

In this session, we will present VPNalyzer, a system that enables systematic, semi-automated investigation into the VPN ecosystem. We delve into the development process behind our cross-platform tool that contains a comprehensive measurement test suite of 15 measurements.

In our NDSS paper, using the VPNalyzer tool, we conduct the largest investigation into desktop VPNs on both MacOS and Windows, testing 80 VPNs including free and paid VPN providers and self-hosted VPN solutions. We will elaborate on the design decisions behind the VPNalyzer system and test suite, as well as highlight how we experiment and improve upon previous work. We explain our approach to the data collection and validation.

Speaker biographies

Reethika Ramesh is a fourth year PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan. She is the lead PhD student at VPNalyzer: an academic research project that aims to analyze the VPN ecosystem through large-scale data-driven studies. She also investigated Russia's decentralized national-level censorship system, including their throttling of Twitter in March 2021. Previously, she has worked as an associate consultant in the apps domain in Microsoft India Global Delivery.

Leonid Evdokimov is a Software Development Engineer/Consultant. Previously Data Analyst at OONI, The Tor Project; Staff Software Engineer at Yandex (YNDX). Documented Kazakhstan HTTPS MitM, data leaks of Russian Lawful Interception systems (SORM), OpenVPN blocking in Uganda, collateral damage of Russia blocking Telegram, Internet access disruption in Turkey during the coup of July 2016.

Diwen Xue is a second year PhD student at the University of Michigan. He is advised by Prof. Roya Ensafi to investigate various types of internet interference and to promote network accountability and transparency. Previously he graduated from New York University with honors where he was involved in different security-related projects.

Roya Ensafi is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her notable projects with real-world impact: founded Censored Planet observatory, documented the Kazakhstan HTTPS MitM interception, the Great Cannon of China, and large-scale study of server-side geoblocking. Received NSF CISE Research Initiation Initiative award, Consumer Reports Digital Lab Fellowship, Google Faculty Research Award, IRTF Applied Networking Research Prize, 2016 Rising Stars in EECS, and Sigma Xi Research Excellence Award.