Whats going on with my Nord VPN?

I have an subscription to Nord VPN. I often leave it connected but there are some sites like Wikipedia that don’t like working with a Nord server. So I disconnected it a couple of days ago.

I tried to re-connect today and I’m getting a message telling me “NordVPN background process in not running” which I have never seen before. It won’t let me connect unless I agree to let it start this process but if I click the button a window pops up that warns me this will make changes to my device, something I am wary about letting them do.

In what may be a related issue, Nord is constantly telling me I need to install upgrades. And I always decline.

So what’s going on? Is this a complete scam where somebody is pretending to be Nord and trying to get into my computer? Is it Nord trying to get into my computer in a way I shouldn’t let them do? Is there a way I can work around this and connect to Nord the way I always have in the past? Or should I just stop worrying and let in make the changes it wants to make?

What kind of computer is this?

On Windows, if you use the NordVPN software you will periodically be pushed an upgrade. Is there a reason you don’t want it?

You can also just install a generic open source client like OpenVPN and use the NordVPN config files, bypassing their software completely.

I’d also like to add that you are using a VPN for your own reasons, you are now entrusting the VPN provider with your traffic. If you question that trust, why bother?

My basic principle with “upgrades” is that things are working now. So I don’t want to make any changes.

I think my current situation demonstrates the validity of this belief. Last week, I had a VPN that worked. Somebody made a change. Now I don’t have a working VPN. I would be better off if everything had just been left alone.

I’m guessing that the VPN software wants to set up a background process to run every time Windows is restarted. It needs your permission to do that, for security reasons. I don’t see anything nefarious in that, as long as you trust the VPN software in the first place. And you gave the software permission to modify your device when you first installed it, right? So why are you balking now?

As to why you didn’t need to do this previously, I don’t know. One possibility is it started the background process when you first installed it but didn’t set it up to restart it on every reboot. The VPN would then work until the first time you restarted your computer.

When I first installed the service, I expected Nord was going to make changes. This unexpected request to make changes causes concerns that it may not actually be Nord making the request.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the concern that it’s not really Nord. As I understand the sequence, you try to run Nord, it tells you it needs to start a background process, you click OK, and a Windows message pops up asking for permisison to make changes to your computer. How could that possibly be coming from something other than Nord when it was initiated by you clicking on a message from the Nord program? Also, doesn’t the permission dialog message tell you which program is requesting access?

Bottom line, the answer to the last question in your OP is “yes”.

Does Nord easily allow you to turn the VPN on or off? I don’t see the point of using a VPN when I’m just browsing wikipedia or watching youtube.

Some people intentionally misidentify themselves online.

I’ll grant that the fact that I initiated the contact makes it less likely then if I had received a email asking for this same access. But I don’t feel there’s a zero percent chance that somebody could figure out a way to interfere with my communications with Nord by blocking my access to the real Nord and presenting themselves as the real company.

It’s easy to turn Nord off and on. But I tend to leave it on by default. And the fact that I turned it off and am now having difficulty turning it back on makes me feel that leaving it on is generally wise.

I really hate to say it but have you restarted your PC?

Are you thinking that this message is coming from over the Internet? I am almost sure that is not the case. It’s just the Nord software that you already installed on your computer asking for permission to run a program (which is also already installed) as a background process. You could unplug your modem while doing this and I bet it would act the same. Nothing should be coming from the Internet.

I use NordVPN (on a Mac). There are fairly frequent software updates (every few weeks), but they are quick and don’t require a reboot, so I don’t see any reason to reject them, especially if you’re worried about security, since some updates may be addressing security vulnerabilities.

The dialog box asking for permissions to do what it needs to do comes up afresh with each software update - but as markn+ has pointed out, this is in response to my action approving the software update, and the program asking for permissions is identified.

There is one interesting question - the notion that something nefarious could somehow pose as a software update for an existing program. It seems like a fairly obvious thing to guard against, is it plausible, and would there be any advantage for malware to do take this route?

If you’re not sure whether the “update” is legitimate, you can go to the official NordVPN site, download the latest official copy of the software and install that over your old version.

That might give you some added peace of mind that you’re dealing with a legitimate update.

I used to do this myself (with Adobe Reader, another one of those that used to show suspicious-looking upgrade prompts).

But now it’s not. They are offering you what is likely the solution and you refuse because “it was working last week.”

My dishwasher is broken. But I refuse to get it fixed because it worked last week!

DCnDC has it right. Software vendors don’t push upgrades for shits & giggles. They typically fall in to two buckets - make it better for the user or fix something that’s broken. I’m not changes don’t introduce new bugs, obviously they do. But if the vendor wants to, for example, introduce a new encryption algorithm which is more secure or better at compression, you should upgrade.

I’m assuming that the message asking for permission to make changes to my device means that the change has not yet been made and that I still have a choice of whether or not it’s made. And whatever change is being made, it’s based on a download from the internet at some point.

I have emailed Nord and asked them if this is a legitimate message from them. I am awaiting their response.

I’m not seeing it that way.

I had some software that worked. They made a change to it and now it doesn’t work.

As a result they want to make changes to the software to fix the problem. I see making changes to the software as the cause of the problems.

To be honest, I feel a lot of these upgrades are essentially done for “shits & giggles”. Half of the upgrades are useless changes that won’t improve the initial product in any meaningful way and the other half is fixing problems caused by the first half. As a customer, I’d be better off avoiding the whole process.

But I realize the software business is run by people who have a tinkerer mentality. They enjoy being able to fiddle with things and they’ve set up the business so customers have to put up with it.

There’s no other business where the company that sells you a product feels free to act like they still own the product and have the right to come into your home and play with your property.

I do agree with this characterization. The worst culprit of anything I use is the TD Ameritrade “think or swim” trading app, which goes through a long and non-optional update process every single fucking time you try to open the app. And it uses quite a lot of CPU resources, so I don’t want to just leave it running.

NordVPN honestly isn’t too bad, at least for macOS. As I say, updates are roughly every few weeks, the update takes less than a minute, and doesn’t require restart. I also think it’s solid reliable software, I have had no issues with it at all that I can remember, although I don’t use it as heavily as you. And a VPN service does strike me as something where security vulnerability is critical. Since you can’t easily figure out which updates involve security updates, I think I’d advise you in this case to just accept the updates routinely, I don’t think you’ll find it causes you problems.