Where are VPNs Legal and Illegal?
Many countries allow the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to secure internet activity. However, there are also a host of countries such as those under authoritarian regimes where it isn’t permitted.
In this post, we’ll identify what countries have restricted the use of VPNs and where it is allowed to be used.
What is a VPN?
Before analyzing why VPNs are banned in certain countries, it’s important to understand what they are and what they can do.
A VPN is designed to keep your browsing activity private, anonymous and secure. One of the ways it does this is by changing your IP address.
By encrypting what you send and receive during your online activity, a VPN scrambles readable data and makes it incomprehensible to keep unauthorized parties from accessing any information. To make this possible, it uses a cryptographic key so that any plain text that comes from the sender can be converted into ciphertext using mathematical values.
For encryption to be effective, the process should be complex enough to make it impossible to break the ciphertext through brute force attack (or trial-and-error guessing using every possible combination) by bots or scripts. With a VPN, it makes it harder for hackers to crack passwords or decode your personal data.
Why Some Countries Ban VPNs
In the United States and other countries that allow VPNs, their use is still regulated to a certain extent. For instance, illegal streaming and downloading of copyrighted content are not allowed. It is also against the law to engage in the dark web to transact illegal products and services. Finally, promoting cyberbullying or carrying out malicious activities such as hacking is prohibited and punishable by law.
However, in some countries, VPN is not allowed or is heavily restricted for the following purposes:
- Strong censorship policies by the state government
- Absolute control over citizens through authoritarian governance
- Protection of moral standards and values based on religion
- Prevention against insurgency and terrorism
Using VPN where it is illegal in a particular country can be punishable by law in most cases. In regions where it is heavily regulated, on the other hand, there may be no direct punishments from the government but may have indirect consequences such as disconnection and warnings.
Updated List of Countries Ban or Heavily Regulates VPN
A common factor among countries that have banned the use of VPNs is that they are under authoritarian regimes. Here’s an updated list of all countries that have banned the use of a VPN:
- Belarus – declared VPNs and The Onion Router (Tor) as illegal in 2015; organized protests are illegal
- China – the country’s “Great Firewall” blocks websites such as Google and Facebook as well as VPN services to censor information; some VPN providers were prosecuted
- Iraq – declared VPNs banned as well as social media sites and messaging apps
- North Korea – has banned the internet and only allows a national intranet instead; tourists can use 3G to access but not a VPN
- Russia – has banned VPNs since 2017 to protect against politically-inclined information
Here’s an updated list of all countries that have heavily regulated use policies with regard to VPN:
- Egypt – has declared VPN use legal but is known for blocking servers and websites
- Iran – only allows citizens to use VPNs that are offered by service providers that have registered with the government; the government blocks Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube but is more concerned with acts of insurrection online
- Oman – regulates the internet heavily but allows VPN use as long as the service is permitted by the Sultanate
- Turkey – allows the use of VPNs but has imposed sanctions against VPN providers by blocking them
- Turkmenistan – officially banned VPNs in 2015; maintains only a single ISP, which is state-sponsored; reports of blocked VPN access have been reported before
- United Arab Emirates (UAE) – allows VPNs but has issued laws against their use to commit crimes or access to content that degrade the nation’s moral values
Updated List of Countries Where VPNs are Legal
Here’s an updated list of all countries where citizens are free to use VPNs:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Republic of the Congo
- Costa Rica
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Sint Maarten
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- South Korea
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
- Vatican City
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get in trouble for using a VPN?
If you live in a country where it is restricted or illegal to use VPN, you could get in trouble for using it. If planning a trip to any of these places, be sure to do your research first.
How do I know that I’m not violating any laws when using VPN?
Check if there are any active restrictions regarding certain online practices and activities before doing anything so you will not violate any terms of the service agreement.
What can you do if VPN is legal in your country?
Since there are no laws that prohibit VPN usage for encrypting your internet traffic, you can enjoy surfing online while protecting your anonymity and securing your personal information. Select a reliable VPN service.