Where are VPNs Banned? Illegal to Use VPNs in These Countries

Each country has a different stand when it comes to VPN usage. Because of that, VPNs are either totally banned or tightly regulated depending on the legal guidelines. It is a good practice to always check the country’s laws before using a VPN there. These are the countries where VPNs are illegal.

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A VPN, in itself, is legal in most countries. However, there are some countries who have completely banned the use of a VPN. Others may have allowed VPN use, but with some caveats in place. The punishment for using VPNs where deemed illegal can range from a small fine to losing your Internet access or even jail time.

Countries Where VPNs Are Illegal

Many more totalitarian countries seem to have an intense aversion to VPN usage. This makes sense, given that the capabilities that VPNs offer help their users prevent surveillance, the hallmark for any oppressive regime. Because of that, VPNs are either totally banned or tightly regulated in these countries:

Complete Ban

  • Russia
  • Iraq

Partially Legal

  • China
  • Belarus
  • North Korea

Tightly Regulated

  • Turkmenistan
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Oman
  • Iran

Let’s take a closer look on each of these countries.

1. Russia

The new Russia’s law, signed by President Vladimir Putin, on the Information technologies and protection (Source via Google Translate).

Russia banned VPN usage in 2017 with the express intention to prevent the spread of extremist materials and ideas. But many were convinced that this was in fact, to increase government control over the Internet. 

While this blocks VPN websites, it doesn’t block VPN traffic. Anyway, if caught using VPN, fines may be imposed for both the VPN provider and the user as well.

Status: Complete Ban

2. Iraq

The Internet usage in Iraq is heavily restricted. The government blocks access to many sites, including social media, chat apps and more. VPNs are also banned. They claim that such were part of Iraq’s defense strategy. Since 2005, there have been constitutional laws focusing on censorship.

So, this makes using a VPN in Iraq dangerous.

Status: Complete Ban

3. China

How do VPNs bypass the Great Firewall?
To get around China Great Firewall, VPN companies hide (encrypt) contents and destination of your internet connection (image source: Comparitech).

China’s ‘Great Firewall’ has blocked many popular foreign websites and applications including Google, Facebook and YouTube. Since using a VPN can help users bypass this, the country has made the use of VPNs ‘illegal’, except for government-approved service providers. 

The Chinese government is strict on this and has been rigorously cracking down on VPNs. While using a VPN in China isn’t completely illegal, there have been VPN providers who were arrested and sentenced. 

Since the Great Firewall of China evolves rapidly, it is hard to find a VPN service that works reliably there. Having said this, you can try using ExpressVPN or Surshark there. 

Status: Partially Legal

4. Belarus

Belarus has banned any technology that gives you privacy on the internet. Having said this, VPNs are not fully illegal although they are on the list of websites with restricted access though. Also, Belarus has a constitution that doesn’t allow censorship but the thing is, several laws seem to enforce this. 

So it seems that the government leverages on the trend of crying fake news as a means to an end. Even though it’s much frowned upon and users may face fines if caught, VPNs are still popularly used in the country.

Status: Partially Legal

5. North Korea

North Korea is known for its heavy censorship and its citizens only have access to ‘Kwangmyong’, a national intranet. Additionally, they do not allow its diplomats to access the internet even though overseas and all visitors to the country can only access the internet via mobile data, not via VPNs.

So far, there is no clear indication on whether VPNs are legal or not in North Korea. Some reports indicate that they are illegal, while others imply that certain VPN providers are allowed. Whilst some reports claim that only the privileged in the country are able to use VPNs for the purpose of acquiring more skills, this whole matter still remains a grey area.

Status: Partially Legal

6. Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is known to be one of the most heavily censored countries worldwide. Its government actively censors the internet and no outside media is allowed in. They have only one ISP and it’s government-owned. All domestic outlets are strictly regulated.

It’s not clear whether VPNs are legal in Turkmenistan since there has been no explicit ban on VPN’s usage. Having said this, there have been reports of blocked VPN access so tread carefully when you’re there. 

Status: Tightly Regulated

7. Turkey

The Turkish government has blocked several popular social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. They heavily censor the internet. This was to give the government more control. As such, VPNs are extremely popular among its citizens. 

While using a VPN in Turkey isn’t fully illegal, the government has actively cracked down and successfully blocked some VPN providers.

Status: Tightly Regulated

8. United Arab Emirates

The UAE has laws regarding VPN usage. In 2016, a new law was passed that stated that when Internet protocols are manipulated to commit crime or fraud via a VPN, the user could be imprisoned and fined more than half a million dollars. Simply put, this law says that a VPN is only illegal if it’s used to commit a crime.

However, the ISPs in the UAE block websites that belong to VPN providers. Although there are reasons that VPN usage in the UAE could get you into trouble, the use of a VPN itself is not actually an offence. Having said this, always be careful. 

Status: Tightly Regulated

9. Oman

The government heavily censors the internet. They have even published an ‘Internet Service Manual’ on all possible criminal online activities. While it’s not actually illegal to use VPNs, those not sanctioned by the government have been blocked in Oman since 2010. Therefore, its citizens would shift to using other VPNs to bypass this and also access geo-restricted content.

Although VPN usage is a grey area in Oman, the government has explicitly stated that using any form of encryption in communications is illegal. But this would mean that all SSL websites will be blocked, which is impossible. Anyway, it is best to take precautions and not use VPN when you’re in Oman. 

Status: Tightly Regulated

10. Iran

VPNs are legal in Iran but this comes with a large caveat. Iranians can only use a VPN provider that is registered and approved by the government. People mainly use VPN to access government-blocked websites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, so using these government-approved VPNs is useless. 

For those who choose to use non-sanctioned VPNs, if caught, will carry a penalty of 91 days to one year in jail. So, it is best not to use one in Iran.

Status: Tightly Regulated

Why Do Countries Ban VPNs?

Each country has a different stand on VPNs. Depending on the country, the laws and expectations that surround VPN usage differ. So, always use a VPN within the legal guidelines provided by the country. 

Countries block VPNs for various reasons and they vary greatly between nations but censorship and information control are literally the most common ones. 

Governments block VPNs as they wish to censor the media and information. Such censorship is common in more totalitarian countries where these governments don’t want their citizens using a VPN to view just about everything.

Totalitarian regimes are known to have a tight grip on what information can make it through their borders. Controlling the information citizens can view is a direct method of exerting influence and control over the way they think and feel. 

To them, VPNs are scary as they allow citizens to take control of their digital privacy. Especially when such regimes rely on the ignorance of its people in order to maintain leadership and order, to them, knowledge for their citizens is dangerous.

Conclusion

There are many more countries that do not ban the use of VPNs as compared to those that do. A government would ban VPNs mostly due to an intention to have more control over its citizens. In reality, there is no legal reason to ban VPNs as they are merely tools.

However, there are a handful of countries who are against VPNs usage and it’s likely only a matter of time before more will follow suit. So, it is a good practice to always check the country’s laws before using a VPN there, to avoid any possible persecution.

Reliable VPNs You Can Count On

To ensure your safety, always use a VPN that truly protects your anonymity. The following VPN providers practice strict no-log policy and are based in either British Virgin Island or Panama. Both countries have no mandatory data retention laws and do not participate in the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliances.

VPN ProvidersHighlights
SurfShark
NordVPN
  • Support Onion over VPN
  • Great for Torrenting
  • Fastest connections with NordLynx
  • Panama-based, no data retention
  • Get NordVPN at $4.89/month
ExpressVPN
  • Best-in-class encryption
  • Private DNS on every server
  • Network lock kill switch & Split tunneling
  • BVI-based; strict no log policy
  • Get ExpressVPN at $6.67/month

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