VPNs are useful tools and they can help you to mask your identity online and protect you when you’re online. For example, if you regularly use public WiFi networks, then a VPN can protect you from potential hackers trying to hijack your internet connection. VPNs can also mask your browsing activity from your internet service provider (ISP). You can even bypass geographic restrictions which means that you can access content that is usually restricted to certain countries from anywhere. These are all minor issues compared to the matter that we will discuss here, however.
Countries Where VPN Use Is Banned
In some countries, VPNs are simply banned. This is achieved by various methods such as by blocking ports associated with VPN use, by blocking overseas internet addresses, and sometimes simply by making laws that state that VPN use is illegal. Among the countries where VPNs are banned, the methods of achieving this ban differ. In any case, banning VPNs limits the way people can use the internet in these countries which we will outline below.
Some countries haven’t banned VPNs outright but instead, have strict censorship laws. These countries include Vietnam, Bahrain, Egypt, and Cuba. This means that using a VPN in these countries may come with risks. In places such as Libya and Syria, although the government has taken steps to restrict VPN use, they haven’t been able to make this happen completely. Be aware of this if you’re considering using a VPN in one of these countries.
It is no coincidence that China’s internet censorship measures have been nicknamed “The Great Firewall of China”. China has employed strict measures to ensure that internet use is restricted. These include using techniques such as deep packet inspection to see if traffic is coming from sources such as VPNs. If this is the case, the traffic will be blocked. China also has control over all ISPs. This means that they can closely monitor traffic and prevent most VPNs. Only VPNs licensed by the Chinese government are allowed. However, some non-Chinese VPN providers use obfuscated servers which allow them to be used in China.
Belarus has a history of restricting its citizens’ internet access. Here, VPNs are completely illegal. However, it seems that citizens have their ways of bypassing this censorship.
Iran banned the use of VPNs that aren’t sanctioned by the state. These state-sanctioned VPNs are less than ideal and block access to things like social media networks and Youtube.
In response to ISIS insurgency, Iraq banned access to VPNs. This measure was meant to limit ISIS’ online presence.
North Korea does everything in its power to restrict its citizens’ access to external media. This means that citizens have to resort to measures such as accessing information about the outside world via USB sticks.
Individuals are prohibited from using VPNs in Oman. Individuals caught using a VPN are subject to a fine that amounts to about $1300. Companies can apply to use a government-approved, however. If they break this mandate and use a VPN that isn’t approved, they’re subject to a fine of around $2600.
Russia views VPNs as a tool that enables dissidents to spread disinformation. For this reason, their use is heavily restricted. They require VPN providers offering services in Russia to block certain websites. However, most providers don’t agree with this and many of them stopped offering service in Russia period. There are other laws in place that essentially mandate ISPs to track, filter, and reroute internet traffic. All of this means that VPNs are functionally banned.
Turkey started blocking VPN services and Tor in 2016. They make use of deep packet inspection, similar to China, to enforce this ban.
Turkmenistan censors information to remain a level of autocratic control. The blocking of VPN apps is quite common. However, there are no specific laws in place to prevent VPN use.
Uganda recently implemented a social media tax in 2018. In order to prevent citizens from bypassing this tax with a VPN, the use of these services was blocked. There is no legislation against VPNs currently but the fact is that they’re blocked.
It is unfortunate that VPN use is banned in these countries but it is especially important to have this information in hand if you’re planning on traveling to one of them. This will ensure that you don’t get on the wrong side of the law. It’s also important to be aware of the plight of citizens of these countries where internet use is restricted.