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Are VPNs illegal, and could you get into trouble for using them?

Are VPNs illegal, and could you get into trouble for using them?


This article explains whether or not it is legal to use VPNs, but is only intended as an educational resource – it’s not legal advice.

Given how a Virtual Private Network or VPN works, it is understandable that some might think that it is illegal or unethical to use one. Many have linked this technology to illegal activities, including dark web dealings and hacking. However, the truth is that it is a perfectly reasonable tool to use while browsing the web or doing things online, and it is true for everyone. Good to know, along with some of the best VPN services of 2021, and the best free VPNs if you’re on a tight budget.

There are legitimate reasons to use a VPN, but first, you must understand how it works and why you want it.

What is a VPN really?

A VPN or Virtual Private Network hides your primary IP address using a technique called masking. When you connect to the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you are assigned an IP address, such as your actual home or residence address. This IP address acts as a label and identifier in some cases, but it’s also not very reliable – we’ll know why in a bit.

When you connect via VPN, the tool masks or disguises your original IP address by assigning you a remote address. You’re connecting to a remote server that’s somewhere, usually in a different country, and so it looks like that’s where you’re at and browsing from.

This does several things. First, it hides your IP address, thus it also hides your physical address and identity. Second, it separates any online activities from you – including your browsing history. Sure, the first thing that comes to mind is illegal or suspicious activities, but that’s not the only separate thing. Ad networks, marketers, and data farms cannot collect information about you or your family, and what they get is inaccurate. Internet censors and various parties cannot see what you do or the websites you visit. Some trackers and additional security concerns become less of this because you are essentially invisible while browsing.

Most importantly, if you choose the right VPN, your internet traffic and data will be encrypted, making it extremely difficult for snoopers to decrypt and access information.

Other issues occur with the assigned IP addresses, temporary or not. For example, a popular online tactic called Swatting – where online users call the police at your home address – is performed by looking up your IP address and indicating your physical address. Sometimes, they use other means to find your address, but looking up your IP address is one such means.

As a bonus, you can also access region-locked content by making internet apps and websites think you’re somewhere you’re not. This is because you usually have the option to choose the server or IP location that is assigned to you. So, if a movie or show isn’t available to stream on Netflix in the US, for example, you can reset your IP address to Europe or the UK to watch it.

Are VPNs illegal?

Of course, we still haven’t answered the question of whether VPNs are illegal or not, but now that you understand what they do, and what they protect, you can better understand the “why” in this case.

In most countries, including the United States, it is not illegal to install or use VPNs. Some countries have a firm stance on VPNs and thus it can be a hot topic in those regions. Countries that regulate or prohibit the use of VPNs include Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. A few additional countries have imposed laws on VPN use that dictate how and where they can be applied. It’s also worth noting that some states within the US have laws regarding VPNs.

Even in countries where the use of VPNs is legal, it all goes out the window if you use one to commit illegal acts, and this also applies within the United States. Some examples of illegal activities are:

  • Download and sell copyrighted data or information
  • Online stalking
  • Accessing or hacking networks and devices without permission
  • circumvent website or app security measures (geo-locking counts)
  • Breach of the terms of service for a site or application

Using VPNs to circumvent geo- or region-locked content and data is controversial. In some countries, it can be illegal. In other cases, this is illegal, but it could lead to you getting banned or having problems with service providers.

Is private browsing really good?

Private browsing is not only acceptable but also recommended. Do you want someone to be able to keep track of all the sites or apps you’ve used? Do you want advertisers and marketers to keep track of every product you’ve seen or purchased? You may or may not browse pornography. Do you want someone to be able to see everything you watched or watched?

No, VPNs are not meant to be used for illegal or illicit activities, but that’s not all they are used for, and they provide anonymity and privacy for ordinary people, like you. It also improves security while browsing the web, streaming and doing various online activities, from all platforms, such as mobile, desktop, game consoles, media players and beyond.

If you make an online purchase, for example, all data and traffic is encrypted — provided you choose a VPN that encrypts the traffic. This means that your identity, payment details, purchase history and everything related to this transaction are better secured and protected from prying eyes.

Here are some valid and legitimate examples of an active VPN:

  • While using public or unprotected WiFi networks with privacy and security.
  • Access content that is not available in your region.
  • Keep browsing private, family browsing and anonymous.
  • Bypass network restrictions at work, school and other locations.
  • Secure your browsing habits, purchase history, and more.
  • Better protection against ads and marketing tracking.

Why is an IP address an untrusted identifier?

It is also important to note how the primary IP address works. Remember when we said earlier that it’s not a very reliable identifier? That’s because most of the IP addresses given by your ISP are temporary. The protocol varies depending on the hardware and provider you’re using, but most of the time, you’ll get a new IP address when you update the router. Any old IP addresses that were assigned to you in the past are reset.

This means that any browsing history, including misdeeds, attributed to a particular IP address may not be from you, and may come from someone to whom an IP address has been assigned before. Furthermore, anyone who connects to your local network – your WiFi – does so under the IP address assigned to you by your ISP. Anyone in your home who does something bad, anyone who visits, or even someone who gets unauthorized access, will likely associate you with what they are doing. In other words, if your child or a roommate downloads copyrighted material, and you’re the primary account holder with your name attached to the assigned IP address, you could end up in trouble.

How do I choose a VPN?

Not all VPNs are created equal. While they generally all work the same way, there are some important distinctions in whether you are well protected or hidden behind a veil of smoke.

  • records: Some VPNs keep logs of the IP addresses that have been assigned to you, including all activity associated with them. Basically, they make VPNs and private browsing useless. Anyone can log in, refer to those logs, see which IP addresses have been assigned to you, and log all your browsing history and activities. Governments actually call VPN providers all the time, so this is fairly common. It is best for everyone not to log these logs in the first place, or to delete them immediately.
  • Encoder: Active encryption also ensures that traffic to and from the VPN is protected behind a layer of encryption. When encryption is used, the data is converted into an unbreakable sequence, referred to as the ciphertext. Even if someone snooped on the data and tried to read the message, they would see nonsense, unless they had the encryption key – the cipher. Make sure to choose a VPN that uses encryption and, best of all, end-to-end encryption.
  • Accessibility: Some VPNs are only designed to work on specific devices such as laptops and computers. This is not good if you are using additional platforms to access the internet such as mobile devices, game consoles, streaming platforms, and more. You’ll want to choose a VPN that offers compatibility with a variety of devices and platforms to fully protect your browsing.
  • the price: Although it’s not as high a priority as some of the other factors, price definitely should play a role in your decision. Shop around and find the budget you want to stick to. The perfect VPN fits that budget while still offering comprehensive protection.

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