TMCnet Feature
January 30, 2019

What Is a VPN and How Does It Relate to the Huawei New Year's iPhone Tweet?

Two Huawei (News - Alert) employees landed in hot water at the beginning of January 2019 for a Twitter blunder made on behalf of the tech giant. Apparently, this little mishap occurred due to the employees having to switch to iPhone (News - Alert) after their VPN let them down. But what is a VPN and how did it lead to Huawei’s marketing fail? Let’s explore the details.

The New Year’s tweet was supposed to be another generic company brand message, but it ended up gaining traction for the wrong reason. A “Sent from iPhone” stamp was displayed clearly at the bottom of the tweet. It didn’t take the Twitterati long to start mocking the company for their conflicting brand message.

This isn’t the first “Sent from iPhone” gaffe Huawei had to face either. In 2018, a similar thing happened when a celebrity Gal Gadot sent a promotional tweet for the company from her iPhone. She explained the situation, and it was soon forgotten. But unfortunately, things didn’t fare as well for the two Huawei employees.

No reason was given for why the employees’ VPN failed them in their time of need. However, it does add insult to injury when considering that the two employees just tried to salvage their situation with the iPhone.

For those not in the know, read on to find out more about VPNs and why one was necessary here in the first place.

What Is a VPN and Why Did the Huawei Employees Need One?

A VPN is a secure network service that people can subscribe to. This service tries to afford something that most people who use the internet today lack: privacy. In essence, a VPN allows people to surf the web anonymously and keeps all of their data secure from any curious interlopers.

How does it work?

Virtual Private Networks use encryption software that runs on a server or multiple servers that hide a user’s data and IP address. Even from their ISP and government.

A VPN service can be run on any device, and the user will then choose a server somewhere in the world to connect to. All of their traffic is then sent to the VPN server where it’s encrypted with security software that protects their data. This server then also acts as a placeholder of sorts for their actual IP address. Essentially hiding their real IP with a virtual one. They can then start browsing without fear of their data being leaked or their ISP blocking or throttling them.

This is important to know because, in the case of the Huawei employees, using a VPN was essential. China currently has some strict geo-blocking and internet censorship regulations, which block Twitter (News - Alert) as well. So the Huawei employees needed to use a VPN to get around those blocks.

As for why their VPN let them down, we may never know. There are many reasons why a VPN could stop working. It’s also likely that the server IP they were using was discovered by their ISP (which happens often in China) and it was subsequently blocked.

So here are some things we can learn from this situation that could have helped those two Huawei employees.

3 Lessons We Learned From the Huawei Marketing Mishap

1. If using a VPN is important, have a backup:

In some countries, like China, it’s essential to have a VPN handy to get anything done. Especially in a case like this one where one needs access to social media. People in China know what a VPN is and how it works. And that the country’s ISPs are constantly prowling for VPN IPs to block. It’s therefore essential to have a backup ready.

There are many VPN services out there to choose from, and they offer great features at affordable prices.

2. Try switching between different servers when using a VPN:

VPN services usually have hundreds or even thousands of servers to choose from, and some are constantly rolling new IP addresses. If one isn’t working then it’s time to switch to another. It may take some time to find one that works, but the chances of all of them being blocked are slim to none.

3. Use a browser when tweeting instead of the app:

This whole issue could have been avoided had the employees simply used a browser instead of the Twitter app. Because the browser version did away with the device stamps, but the app still displays them.

In the end, this was an expensive lesson for Huawei and their employees, but luckily we can learn from it, too.

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