In a perfect world, you won’t be arrested for taking steps to secure yourself online. However, some people see you enforcing your right to privacy as a problem. But where is the “are VPNs legal” question come up? Below, we will go through all the situations you need to look out for with illegal vs. legal usage of VPNs.
Because ts list is based on current figures from 2022, you might find that some of these locations change. It’s essential to read your local laws before using a VPN.
Why Do You Need a VPN in Less Restrictive Countries?
Even if you don’t live in countries where VPN usage is illegal, there are many reasons to get a VPN; here’s a list:
Prevention of Internet Service Provider (ISP) throttling
Access to geo-blocked streaming content to save you money
Using public WiFI with confidence
Protection from hackers who would generally have free access to your unencrypted data
Keeping up with your favorite online content from your home country
Securing your data from those who target you for programmatic advertising
Whether you live in Canada, the UK, or the United States, many reasons to have a VPN. Companies are another concern, even when you might not have to worry about government censorship.
When are VPNs Illegal To Use?
VPNs become illegal usage in one of two situations:
If you use a VPN in a country that bans them
If you use a VPN to hide illicit activity
The usage of VPNs isn’t illegal in most cases. Instead, the real question comes down to what you’re doing with VPNs.
Our dark web article goes through this in greater detail. But here’s the shortened version: some people use Tor over VPN (the most secure online browsing method) for questionably legal activities.
These activities typically include the following:
Stealing credit card information
Stealing books and movies
It is easier than ever to acquire illegal materials with anonymous currency. While there are numerous non-illegal reasons to remain hidden online, many people use these features to further illicit activities.
In this way, you can become a more significant target through regular use of services like Tor over VPN. However, being a privacy-conscious citizen aware of your rights is not probable cause.
Where are VPNs Illegal?
Despite having a right to privacy, VPNs are illegal in some countries. You could be fined or face jail time simply for having a VPN on your device in these countries.
Some of these countries will penalize you even if you travel through the country. Here’s a complete list of countries that have VPN bans:
China – Bypassing “The Great Firewall” is a bit of a legendary feat of VPNs. Because of its incredibly restrictive government, getting a VPN to work here is challenging. VPNs that can bypass China’s firewall are seen as some of the best in the world.
Brazil – As a new blocker of VPNs, Brazil has recently announced steep fines for those who hide behind encrypted services. Among the bans include the usage of the messaging service Telegram and VPNs. Penalties are up to $20 thousand for using ether service.
Russia – The Russian government has banned VPN providers in its country. Those that remain and work with Rusia have to comply by handing over user data. Most VPNs removed their Russian servers as a result.
UAE – The United Arab Emirates is unspecific on wording, but the country’s draconian laws have provided massive fines and jail time before on this usage.
Myanmar – A 2021 military coup resulted in the extreme ramping up of anti-information campaigns. Only a few whitelisted sites remain, allowing the new regime to control what ideas are spread.
Turkmenistan – citizens of Turkmenistan are stuck with a heavily hidden version of the internet known as Turkmenet. All online activities are closely monitored by the government, making it a challenging location to overcome.
Iran – A small number of VPNs are left behind in Iran, subject to meeting the demands of the Iranian government. A VPN has to restrict information and provide details on user data to operate here.
Egypt – Those using VPNs in Egypt will find that they aren’t explicitly illegal. However, accessing blocked material while using a VPN can lead to fines and jail time.
Uganda – The Ugandan government taxes internet usage at 30% (with particular attention to social media). Because of this, using VPNs can limit the government’s ability to tax you effectively, making them effectively blocked by local ISPs.
North Korea – Citizens of North Korea are given an incredibly restricted version of the internet (similar to Turkmenistan). The free flow of information and ideas is heavily restricted, making thought crimes a real offense in this country.
Oman – Citizens of Oman face a hefty fine for using VPNs without an official government permit. Only approved VPNs are allowed in Oman, with violating companies facing similar penalties.
Belarus – As a dictatorship, Belarus has a ban on VPNs and Tor dating back to 2015. Citizens who try and overcome it are likely to face extreme penalties for accessing what could be dubbed anti-government information.
Turkey – The Turkish people cannot access most mainstream social media services and have blocked most VPN providers in the process. VPN use isn’t illegal, but you cannot use an unapproved VPN.
Iraq – The Iraq government has banned VPN usage, keeping a tight rope on any information.
Why are VPNs illegal in Some Countries?
VPNs are illegal in some countries because they want to control the flow of information or ideas. North Korea’s internet is an excellent example of this issue, as it comprises a handful of websites that do not speak out against its leadership.
The Ukraine crisis provides us with another example of this in action. Vladimir Putin has recently signed a law sharing prison sentences of up to 15 years for “knowingly false” statements against the Russian Military.
No government should have control over what you say or do. Thought crimes should not exist, as they violate human rights. Through virtual private networks, you can overcome these government blocks.
Is It Safe to Use a VPN in Restrictive Areas?
Countries like China, North Korea, and Brazil have banned VPNs entirely under the threat of jail time and significant fines. So it is never 100% safe for you to use a VPN in restrictive countries.
However, most VPNs (like The Fast VPN) use military-grade encryption. You can trust VPNs with a strong history of overcoming these restrictive locations. However, you’ll want to check if the VPN meet’s the country’s requirements.
For example, all VPNs have been banned from China, effectively meaning that you don’t have to worry about them. However, VPNs that are approved to work within restrictive countries might be working with those governments.
Is it Legal to Use a VPN to Access Blocked Content?
In cases where you live in less restrictive countries, it is legal to access most blocked content. In countries known for internet censorship, it is illegal.
However, there might also be copyright laws if you try to access geo-blocked content. In many cases, copyright laws change how you can access the content between locations.
Is Streaming With a VPN Illegal?
Streaming with a VPN is not illegal. However, some streaming services consider its terms of service violation to use a VPN while streaming online content. These services can block you permanently in some worst-case scenarios.
While streaming from alternative countries isn’t illegal for the watcher, services that do nothing can be subject to violation claims. Much of this comes from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US and similar digital copyright laws in other countries.
When streaming does nothing to prevent your attempt to spoof countries, some movie-making companies could see this as complicit. You can find examples of this available from the case of The Pirate Bay.
While The Pirate Bay offered a platform from which to download anything, companies saw it as a site full of illegal materials. Because of their unwillingness to do anything about it, legal action was taken against them, setting the president that you could target these individuals for providing a platform to acquire this material.
How are VPN Bans Enforced?
Whether it be oppressive regimes or money-loving companies, VPN bans are enforced by tracking when a VPN is activated. To do this, the concerned party would need to perform a Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
DPIs observe the packets that come through online communications. In these cases, encrypted data comes through as a garbled mess. So when you use a DPI program and find that mess, it’s relatively easy to spot some VPNs.
Other ways that VPN bans are enforced come from recognizing specific VPN protocols. For example, IKEv2/IPSec relies on UDP port 500. So when you see traffic coming through this port, you can identify particular VPN protocols.
Otherwise, VPN bans are enforced through the classic method of some authority figure wagging their finger at you. If you download from a less restrictive source (such as being outside of the country), it can be challenging to prevent the download of VPNs.
How to Bypass VPN Blocks
To overcome VPN blocks, you need to be able to fool the DPI scanners. You can do this through the obfuscation process.
Obfuscation is when you fool the DPI scanners by replacing packets with believable data. This data is meant to mimic what would generally come from a regular connection.
Those who rely on obfuscation might still run into issues with location spoofing. For example, those who want to connect to the Chinese internet but pretend to be from Europe might be blocked entirely.
Another way to bypass VPN blocks is to rely on protocols that aren’t stuck on a single set of ports. Protocols that work include OpenVPN, WireGuard, and SoftEther.
Through a combination of efforts, you can bypass some of the worst blocks. To ensure you remain secure during your online access, download The Fast VPN.